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PANFORTE - A TASTE OF TUSCAN HISTORY IN EVERY BITE

by Cathi Iannone - Siena is considered the Panforte capital of the world, and Panforte literally means strong bread, referring to the spices in it. It is a confection with nuts, dried fruits, chocolate and honey. It dates all the way back to the 13th century and it was even used as a form of payment for taxes. Over the years, there have come to be a variety of panforte, but I noticed that most had black pepper in them. It is usually served with coffee for breakfast or with a dessert wine after dinner.

When I was in Tuscany for the "DaVinci Storyteller Experience", I noticed panforte everywhere, from the small boutiques and restaurant storefronts in Montalcino, to large department stores in Florence. It is most definitely symbolic of Tuscany!

It can be a bit pricey in the specialty stores here in the States, but it is inexpensive and really simple to make! And, if you want to wrap it up and present it like a real Tuscan would, go ahead and wrap it in parchment, and then tie it up with a piece of rustic twine. They make excellent gifts and your friends will be so impressed! They’ll think you bought it in Tuscany. Shhhhhh, I won't tell...

INGREDIENTS:

6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate morsels, or chunks

1 ½ cups of roasted almonds, whole

1 cup of chopped apricots

3/4 cup of all purpose flour

1/3 cup of sugar

¾ cup of honey

1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon, divided

1 teaspoon of espresso granules

1 tablespoon of cocoa powder

½ teaspoon of black pepper

½ teaspoon of sea salt

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine almonds, chopped apricots, flour, cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon. Toss thoroughly to combine all ingredients.  Coat the bottom of an 8-inch round baking dish with butter or shortening, then line with a piece of parchment paper, allowing parchment to extend over sides of pan. The butter will allow the parchment to adhere to the bottom without slipping.  

In a medium, heavy gauge saucepan, on medium heat, combine the sugar and honey and allow mixture to simmer. Add chocolate, sea salt, coffee granules, remaining teaspoon of cinnamon, and allow mixture to come to a boil.  Once the mixture comes to a light boil, turn down the heat and simmer for two minutes. 

Remove from heat, and add mixture to chocolate and nut mixture, stirring quickly with a wooden spoon, as the mixture will stiffen quickly. Spread mixture into prepared baking dish and bake for 25 minutes (you will see the top begin to blister.) 

Remove from oven, dust the top with cocoa powder and allow to cool off on a cooling rack for at least 2 hours. Pull the panforte out by the sides of the parchment paper, peel off the parchment and cut into wedges. Each bite is a delightful surprise, with the salty crunchiness from the mixed nuts, contrasted with the sweet chewiness of the apricots.

Makes 16 thin wedges

*Store tightly in plastic wrap for up to 2 months*

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