food for thought

by michelle

panforte

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Panforte translated means ‘strong bread’ and comes from the region of Siena in Tuscany, Italy. It was originally known as Panpepato or ‘peppered bread’ due to it’s spicy flavour. It dates back to the 13th century when it was used to pay taxes and is believed to have been carried on quests by Crusaders. My friends Mary, Caroline and I made 2 versions which have been very popular throughout the holiday season. One was spicy fruit and nut….

panforte-fruit-and-spice

….and the other was chocolate with orange peel and black pepper.

panforte-chocolate

Preheat your oven to 160ºC (325ºF). Line a 9″ (23cm) spring-form cake tin for each panforte. For the fruit and spice panforte chop up 400g (14 oz) of dried fruit of your choice (we used prunes, pears, sultanas, figs, mixed peel and apricots), and 500g (17½ oz) of mixed nuts (we used almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios. In a bowl combine these with 175g (6 oz) of sifted plain flour, 1 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and mixed spice and mix well. In a small saucepan dissolve the 200g (7 oz) each of honey and sugar and bring the mixture to soft ball stage or 115ºC (240ºF). Immediately add to the fruit and nuts and mix well using a wooden spoon. Transfer into the tin and press down to distribute evenly, using moistened hands. For the chocolate, orange peel and pepper panforte chop 200g (7 oz) of candied orange peel and 325g (11½ oz) of mixed walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts. In a bowl combine these with 115g (4 oz) of sifted plain flour, 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of ground ginger, 1½ teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper, ½ a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg and 5 tablespoons of good quality cocoa powder. Melt 85g (3 oz) of bittersweet chocolate and set aside. In a small saucepan dissolve the 200g (7 oz) each of honey and sugar and bring the mixture to soft ball stage or 115ºC (240ºF). Immediately add to the fruit and nuts with the melted chocolate and mix well using a wooden spoon. Transfer into the tin and press down to distribute evenly, using moistened hands. Bake the panfortes for 30 – 40 minutes. Allow to cool before removing from the tins. Store in air-tight containers. Dust with icing sugar and slice into thin wedges to serve.

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