My Sugar Series (December 2008) is made up of desserts that I’ve enjoyed recently. Because the holidays spell sweet excess, impress the people you love with any of the following desserts. They’re guaranteed to make an impression on them as they did on me.
Other desserts in this series:
Ann Puno’s Choc-Nut cake
“Nutter” About Peanut Butter
Pleasure for Plaisir
San Lo’s Famous…
My 2 Favorite Cakes This Christmas
Hazelnuts and Lemons
Delicious as Only DÃ¨lize Does It
NOTE: This series ends on Friday, Dec. 19, 2008.
I abhor fruitcake but I think I’ve finally found one that I’ve fallen in love with.
This fruitcake is a panforte, a Christmas specialty from Siena, Italy. I’m in Pia y Damaso standing stock-still in front of the display case getting glassy-eyed from staring at all the desserts. “Do you want to try the panforte?” Chef-owner Bambi Sy-Gobio asks me. “It’s my new baby along with the Diablo.” Her eagerness is so palpable that I nod, although anything “fruit-cakey” inspires anxiety in me.
Panforte literally means “strong bread,” and this is what the baker has to be since the resulting batter of flour, spices, fruits, and nuts hardens with the addition of the honey syrup drizzled into it. I imagine the baker struggling with the batter, a battle between his elbow or the wooden spoon he’s using giving out first.
But a baker’s labor results in a dessert lover’s joy. Fruity and nutty with overtones of spice, Pia y Damaso’s panforte is a fruitcake but better. Its chewy, almost candy-like texture is the web on which the various ingredients are spun. A bite reveals a nut half peeking out; other times, it’s a burst of yellow from a lemon peel or a mysterious glazed fruit (cherry? apricot? cranberry?) cloaked in the batter’s darkness. This particular panforte has added depth from cocoa powder, an optional ingredient. Irresistible, even for anti-fruitcake me. Thank goodness it stores well. I fully intend to buy an entire round and keep it in my pantry to nibble on throughout the season.
I’m not wild about soufflés either, but Diablo is just that, albeit an undercooked version says Bambi. Its collapsed center shines in the sunlight, an indicator of its moistness. Paired with the cinnamon crÃ¨me anglaise and fig compote, it tastes like a regular chocolate pudding cake.
… I feel a lingering heat rise at the back of my tongue and course down my throat. So that’s why it’s called ‘Diablo’. “The difference between adding one more siling labuyo or not is huge,” Bambi tells me. I have no doubt. By itself, the cake is already impressive, but the chili addition pushes it over the top and into memorable. The heat emanating from this dessert and onto my throat is sexy, not unpleasant. Hoo-ah! May all my Christmases smolder.
Pia y Damaso
2/L Greenbelt 5,
Ayala Center, Makati