Hailing from Siena in the Tuscan region of Italy, panforte (‘strong bread’ when translated to English) is a delectable combination of dried fruits, nuts, spices, honey and, if you are lucky, chocolate. It is believed to date back to the 13th Century and was originally a form of tax paid to a local monastery. Like many traditional recipes, there are many variations with each often being a well-guarded family recipe – however I will share this one with you!
- Melted butter, to grease
- 2 sheets confectioner’s rice paper (see Note)
- 75 g (½ cup) plain flour
- 40 g (⅓ cup) cocoa powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 70 g (½ cup) dried pitted dates, coarsely chopped
- 80 g (½ cup) prunes, coarsely chopped
- 80 g glace apricots, chopped
- 155 g (1 cup) unsalted roasted macadamias, coarsely chopped
- 160 g (1 cup) blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
- 70g (½ cup) unsalted pistachio kernels
- 100 g dark chocolate, chopped
- 1½ tbsp finely grated orange rind
- 175g (½ cup) honey
- 110 g (½ cup) caster sugar
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tsp natural vanilla essence or extract
- icing sugar or extra cocoa powder, to dust
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Cooling time 2 hours
Preheat oven to 170°C (150°C fan-forced).
Brush a shallow round 20cm (base measurement) tin with melted butter to grease and line the base with a circle of rice paper, cutting the sheets to fit. Line the sides with a strip of non-stick baking paper.
Sift the flour, cocoa and spices into a large bowl, then stir in the fruit, nuts, chocolate and orange rind. Set the bowl on a folded teatowel (see Note).
Put the honey, sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat, without boiling, until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered and without stirring, for 5 minutes. Immediately pour the hot syrup and vanilla over the fruit and nut mixture and, working quickly, stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Press mixture firmly and evenly into prepared tin.
Bake for 40-45 minutes. Cool in the pan sitting on a wire rack (this will take about 2 hours).
Remove from pan and dust liberally with icing sugar or cocoa, if desired. Serve in thin wedges.
• Confectioner’s rice paper sheets are available from Asian grocers, delicatessens and specialty food stores. Don’t confuse it with Asian rice paper, used to make rice paper rolls.
• Before adding the hot syrup to the fruit and nut mixture, place a tea towel under the bowl to stop it from slipping when mixing.
• To make individual panforte, grease eight 8cm (base diameter) loose-bottomed tart tins with oil spray or melted butter and line the bases witha circle of edible rice paper. Divide the mixture among the tins and press down firmly. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
• This panforte will keep wrapped well in plastic wrap in a cool spot for up to 1 month.
Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. For hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
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Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Sarah O’Brien. Food preparation by Kerrie Ray.