Blind Taste Test
Chef Laurent Tourondel  Blindfolds Chef Philippe Givre
Put to the Test
Chef Laurent Tourondel
Blindfolds Chef Philippe Givre
On a rainy day in the middle of fall, a chef — tall, French, and distinguished — slips through the doors of New York’s Kimpton Eventi Hotel with a small box tucked under his arm. He’s looking for someone he worked with almost three decades ago.
Chef Philippe Givre is executive pastry chef of L’École du Grand Chocolat de Valrhona and coordinator of the four centers it owns in Tain L’Hermitage, Paris-Versailles, Tokyo, and Brooklyn. He joined the company in 2003, bringing with him a rich knowledge of pastry previously acquired at such outstanding establishments as Fauchon and the three-Michelin-starred restaurant La Maison Troisgros, where he first met Laurent Tourondel.

At the time, Tourondel was working on the savory side while Givre was on the pastry side. The two became friends and kept in touch, as most do in this tight-knit community that culinary folk call their family.

For the blind taste test, Chef Tourondel tasted a variety of chocolates. It got down to the nitty-gritty on dark chocolate percentages of an organic chocolate from Peru.
organic chocolate ingredients
Chef Tourondel: 70 percent?
Chef Givre: No.
Chef Tourondel: OK, 65 percent?
Chef Givre: No. So close: It’s 60 percent.

The final product Chef Tourondel tested was a gluten-free chocolate cake. “Heaven on a plate!” he exclaimed.

organic chocolate prepared on the plate
Italian fruitcake from Siena
When it came to blindfolding Chef Givre, Chef Tourondel brought out a tray of ingredients from a very special dessert for his friend to taste. As Tourondel later explained to Givre, panforte is an Italian fruitcake from Siena, in the heart of Tuscany, Italy.
Chef Givre blindfolded for taste test
Chef Givre did extremely well, guessing the ingredients of the panforte — in particular, the candied lemon skin, chili powder, cocoa powder, and, of course, flour. When it came to the chocolate, he did not specify it was from Madagascar!

Chef Tourondel: So, what is the finished dessert?
Can you tell?

Chef Givre: A sweet pizza?
Chef Tourondel: No
Chef Givre: A nougat?
Chef Tourondel: Close. It is a panforte!

Chef Givre and Chef Tourondel talking about ingredients
For the blind taste test, Chef Tourondel tasted a variety of chocolates. It got down to the nitty-gritty on dark chocolate percentages of an organic chocolate from Peru.
organic chocolate ingredients
Chef Tourondel: 70 percent?
Chef Givre: No.
Chef Tourondel: OK, 65 percent?
Chef Givre: No. So close: It’s 60 percent.

The final product Chef Tourondel tested was a gluten-free chocolate cake. “Heaven on a plate!” he exclaimed.

organic chocolate prepared on the plate
Italian fruitcake from Siena
When it came to blindfolding Chef Givre, Chef Tourondel brought out a tray of ingredients from a very special dessert for his friend to taste. As Tourondel later explained to Givre, panforte is an Italian fruitcake from Siena, in the heart of Tuscany, Italy.
Chef Givre blindfolded for taste test
Chef Givre did extremely well, guessing the ingredients of the panforte — in particular, the candied lemon skin, chili powder, cocoa powder, and, of course, flour. When it came to the chocolate, he did not specify it was from Madagascar!

Chef Tourondel: So, what is the finished dessert?
Can you tell?

Chef Givre: A sweet pizza?
Chef Tourondel: No
Chef Givre: A nougat?
Chef Tourondel: Close. It is a panforte!

Chef Givre and Chef Tourondel talking about ingredients
For the blind taste test, Chef Tourondel tasted a variety of chocolates. It got down to the nitty-gritty on dark chocolate percentages of an organic chocolate from Peru.
organic chocolate ingredients
Chef Tourondel: 70 percent?
Chef Givre: No.
Chef Tourondel: OK, 65 percent?
Chef Givre: No. So close: It’s 60 percent.

The final product Chef Tourondel tested was a gluten-free chocolate cake. “Heaven on a plate!” he exclaimed.

organic chocolate prepared on the plate
Italian fruitcake from Siena
When it came to blindfolding Chef Givre, Chef Tourondel brought out a tray of ingredients from a very special dessert for his friend to taste. As Tourondel later explained to Givre, panforte is an Italian fruitcake from Siena, in the heart of Tuscany, Italy.
Chef Givre blindfolded for taste test
Chef Givre did extremely well, guessing the ingredients of the panforte — in particular, the candied lemon skin, chili powder, cocoa powder, and, of course, flour. When it came to the chocolate, he did not specify it was from Madagascar!

Chef Tourondel: So, what is the finished dessert?
Can you tell?

Chef Givre: A sweet pizza?
Chef Tourondel: No
Chef Givre: A nougat?
Chef Tourondel: Close. It is a panforte!

Chef Givre and Chef Tourondel talking about ingredients
panforte shown on white plate
panforte being sliced by chef

PANFORTE

Serves about 16

Cocoa powder for dusting the pan
5 tbs (40g) unsweetened Dutch-process or natural cocoa powder
2 1/2 cup (325g) nuts — any mix of walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts, toasted
3/4 cup (110g) flour
1 cup (200g) chopped candied citron or other candied citrus
1 tbs ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Pinch grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp red chili powder
3 oz (85g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup (200g) sugar
3/4 cup (210g) honey
Powdered sugar for dusting the panforte

Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Spray a 9- to 10-inch (22–23 cm) springform pan with nonstick spray. Dust the inside with cocoa powder, making sure to get it up the sides. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, nuts, flour, candied citrus, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, and red chili powder. Use your fingers to make sure all ingredients are separate.

Melt the chocolate in a small bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside.

In a pan fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the sugar and honey until the temperature reads 240°F (115°C).

Pour the hot honey syrup over the nut mixture, add the melted chocolate, and stir well. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Start by using a spatula and as the mixture cools, once it’s cool enough to touch, use a dampened hand to get it flat.

Bake the panforte for 30 to 35 minutes. Do not overcook or it will be too firm once cooled. To test, center should feel soft, like just-baked custard — if you touch it, your finger will come away clean when it’s done.

Let the panforte cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan. Remove the springform carefully (sticky edges might tear, so keep an eye out), and then let cool completely.

Once cool, remove the bottom of the springform pan and peel away the parchment paper. Sprinkle the panforte with powdered sugar, and rub it in with your hands.

STORAGE: Panforte can be kept for several months well wrapped at room temperature.

HOW TO SKIN HAZELNUTS: Toast nuts in a 350°F (180°C) oven for about 10 minutes. Rub still-warm nuts in a tea towel to get as much of the skins off as possible.