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Prep 30min (+2hr cooling time)Bake 40-45minMakes about 20-24 pieces
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 Baker's Tips)
Brush a shallow round 20cm (base measurement) tin with melted butter to grease and then 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 Baker's Tips).
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 or until firm to touch in the centre. 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. 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.