Posted on September 6 2012

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!

  1. Megan says:

    I tried Turkish Delight in 5th grade and it was so crazy! Like a sweet gelatin little square of redonk. ha

  2. gail says:

    i love mochi ice cream

  3. Erin says:

    Definitely the enormous, fluorescent cookies the little guys always talk me into at the taqueria. They are oddly sour and slightly off-putting every time. But, we continue to buy them…

  4. Charlotte says:

    I was going to say Turkish Delight also… then I saw Megan’s comment!

    But even still, it was the strangest dessert I have ever tried. The pistachio was ok… but the rose tasted exactly like a flower– which I do not enjoy!

    I think it must have been chocolate flavored in Narnia!

  5. Justine Navarro says:

    I made an interesting Indian dessert once, where you soak rice and then blend it with coconut milk and cardamom and fry it like a giant pancake! It was wonderful with a hot cup of Chai!

  6. Melinda says:

    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!

  7. Sue says:

    Strangest, “not normal” dessert I’ve ever tried that I can THINK of, (sorry, the memory is fading!) is something I had at a tea for one of my daughter’s bridal showers…lavender cookies! I think they tasted like black pepper, not a BAD thing, but not a good thing for a cookie! Thankfully, there was tea to wash it down quickly! :D

  8. Betharoo says:

    Bah. Really iPhone?!
    I went to a birthday party for a lovely lady from India and she has a lavender bday cake. It was amazing. So fragrant and PURPLE! never in a million years did I think I would like it but it was so delicate and yummy.
    My family (I’m the first born in america from the Netherlands) makes a bunch of crazy desserts with almond paste. It’s gross. I don’t like almond paste and I am constantly ridiculed for it!

  9. anne says:

    THE GREAT OUTDOORS! I love that you gave a shout out to The Great Outdoors on your fancy blog!

  10. Stephanie says:

    The most interesting foreign dessert that I’ve had was with some clients from Hong Kong who served us a warm sweet soup that had tapioca balls and chunks of different coloured yams in it. I’ve had the black bean dessert soup that comes with many Chinese meals but never with tapioca and yams.

    I liked it, mostly because I’m used to getting sweet black bean soup for dessert but my dad was unpleasantly surprised. I think he was expecting ice cream.

  11. Katherine says:

    Rocket Science Ice Cream — it’s a little food truck in Nappanee IN where they make ice cream with fresh cream, flavored syrup and mix-ins, then flash freeze it with liquid nitrogen! It tastes delicious and I suppose ice cream is pretty common, but the process is unusual and pretty neat.

  12. Sarah says:

    I think the strangest dessert I’ve had is chocolate mayonnaise cake….ew. I mean, it was fine, but the thought of it in my cake was not pleasant.

  13. Rachel Laug says:

    In Asia they have a scrummy dessert called Chendol. It’s essentially shaved ice doused in palm sugar syrup and coconut milk, all topped off with bright green rice flour worms and kidney beans (of all things)! It sounds utterly bizarre but I assure you that it was heavenly on a hot day!
    Pictorial evidence of said strange dessert: http://www.bumbu.com.sg/images/IceChendol2.jpg

  14. Alisha says:

    Pumpernickel Bread Pudding – sounds like it could be really amazing, but instead was a dry mess of bread.

  15. Kat says:

    Come to Australia to experience one of our national delicacies, the infamous ‘Tim Tam Slam’, nibble opposite corners of the biscuit and submerge slightly into your hot tea, coffee or Milo- to truly enrich the Down Under experienc. Having said that, I’m not even a fan of tim tams and having said THAT, the most weirdest food I’d like to try is a Tootsie roll!! shhh!

  16. Marilyn says:

    This is quite ironic because I’ve always wanted to try panforte…but in Italy. If not the American version, fruitcake. This post has inspired me to make some sort of fruitcake, if not this same panforte :)

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