At our Farmers' Market, there's a stand that's about 15 feet long selling more dried fruits than I ever thought existed. Every time I walk by, I get the urge to make my pan forte. I was happy with the recipe from my other cookbook until I went to Siena, where the pan forte is more peppery and spicy, apropos of the translation: "strong bread." More candylike than breadlike, this chewy, intense confection makes the perfect gift for holidays. Follow the Italian tradition by making the pan forte in small 4-inch discs. Wrap it in wax paper and then a sheet of brown butcher paper, tied with string and sealed with embossed sealing wax. My favorite combination has a balance of pale, orange and dark-fleshed fruits. White figs and raisins make a good contrast to the darker fruits such as prunes, raisins and apricots. Always use soft and supple fruits. Hard fruit will give you a beautiful pan forte that's too hard to chew.
- 1 1/4 cups (6 ounces) whole unblanched almonds
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) whole unblanched hazelnuts
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
- 1 1/4 pounds dried fruits, preferably organic - any combination of black currants, white or black raisins, black mission figs, white figs, sour cherries, plums, prunes, pears, peaches, nectarines, or cranberries and apricots and candied ginger
- 2/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
- 1 cup granulated sugar
Place a ring or mold over a sheet of rice paper on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Spread the nuts on a baking sheet in two separate piles, and toast in the oven until lightly browned, about 10-15 minutes. Shake the pans halfway through to ensure that the nuts toast evenly. Allow to cool a few minutes. Gather the hazelnuts into kitchen towel and rub them together to remove the skins. Turn the oven down to 300 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine the nuts with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, pepper, flour and cocoa powder. Cut the fruit into 1/2-inch pieces and toss with with nut mixture.
In a small saucepan, stir together the honey and sugar. Over high heat, bring to a boil without stirring. Using a pastry brush dipped in water, brush the sides of the pan to remove any undissolved sugar granules. Cook until the sugar reaches 224-240 degrees F (soft ball stage) on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and pour into the fruit mixture. Stir to combine as well as possible. The mixture will be very thick and sticky.
Dip your hands in water and press the fruit mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 1 hour, until the top is slightly puffed and the surface is matte. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the pan. Trim the rice paper around the edge of the mold. Store at room temperature, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap for several weeks.
Photography courtesy of Weldon Owen Publishing.
Serving size = 1 slice
Recipe reprinted by permission of Villard Books. All rights reserved.
nutrition information per serving
302 calories; 10g total fat; 0mg cholesterol; 5mg sodium; 53g carbohydrates; 4g fiber; 5g protein
These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.