Tartine Baking Project: #71 Panforte

Everything cannot be magical.  That’s a fact of life and I’m okay with that, really.  That was my mantra as I navigated the unknown waters of panforte.  It all began when it was destined to be a flop when I couldn’t find quince.  It’s a fall fruit, and even though we are now a few days into September, quince is nowhere to be found around here. Moving onward, sans quince, really didn’t ruffle my feathers.  It’s unfortunate, but not the end of the word.  Wait.  What?!  Is that a sign that I am growing and maturing as an adult human being because I wasn’t upset about not finding quince?  No.  Not really.  I was too busy being weepy about my baby being off in preschool to really care about the quince.  Some day I will catch that elusive quince.  It feels right to compare it to Moby Dick, but I’ve actually never read it (gasp! I have a degree in English literature!), so I’ll forgo the metaphor.

A huge part of this panforte is the candied zest.  This stuff is pretty delicious.  In the recipe for candying zest it suggests to enjoy it after a meal dipped in chocolate.  THAT IS WHAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF!  (See those caps?  I mean business!)  Now I know some people (my husband!) who would eat a plain ol’ uncandied slice of orange zest happily, but for me it needs to be blanched and simmered in sugar water in order to partake.

This confection was created in Italy and includes a huge range of spices and toasted nuts, which reflects the spice trade at the time.  Honey is melted with sugar – I used orange blossom honey, which was perfect for this dessert!  The word panforte means “strong bread” and after reading that, the word bread was stuck in my mind for a bit.  Just a bit, long enough to mildly freak out when I pulled it from the oven and thought, “I’ve ruined it!”  Then I realized that it’s a confection, and I was probably on the right track.  I let it cool a it before I released it from the pan…or tried to release it.  It came apart.  I smushed it back together and threw it back in the oven.  I had nothing to lose.

Confectioner’s sugar is sweetly covering nearly everything in the dining room at the moment, including the panforte.  Honestly, it’s pretty ugly before it’s dusted.  I desperately wanted to save it, thinking if it tasted terrible at least I could make it pretty to look at.  I covered it with a lace placemat before I dusted it with the sugar, thinking the pattern would be the prettiest thing ever.  When that flopped, I aggressively dusted the whole thing.  Have you ever witnessed someone aggressively dusting something with confectioner’s sugar?  I’m sure it was entertaining and hilarious.

Turns out, I lucked out.  It’s delicious.  I gave Dan a slice to enjoy with his coffee.  He said it tasted like Italy before I even told him that’s where the recipe originated.  How sweet.  The panforte is pretty strong, so a whole slice can be compared to that 82 oz. steak John Candy tackled in “The Great Outdoors”.  I heeded the warning and opted for a tiny square.  At this rate, we’ll make our way through it by Christmas.

ANOTHER TARTINE COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY!  To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment here letting me know the most interesting/weird/strange/foreign dessert or confection you’ve ever eaten, or something you’ve always wanted to try.  All comments need to be Tuesday September 18, and the winner will be announced on Wednesday.  Good luck!

UPDATE: Congratulations are in order to the winner of the Tartine cookbook!  Hooray for Melinda!

Her comment:

“This looks like the perfect thing to go with a coffee- YUM!

I think the weirdest confection I’ve had is sweet, salty dried plums from Japan. I can’t decide whether I love or loathe them!”

Email me your address so I can send this your way!!!  So excited for you!