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Candied fruits. Someone hates them, someone loves them. I have always been part of the first ones, small chunks of candied orange peel or candied pumpkin have the power to keep me away from cassate, cannoli or christmas panettone.
For the same reason I was not a big fan of the senese Christmas cake, the panforte.

Panforte, litterally "strong bread", the name says a lot about its origin, a medioeval focaccia enriched with honey and fruits and, later through the years, with spices.

Nothing interesting for me until, as usually happens to me, I had to prepare it due to work reason.

I start to discovered that one of the main ingredients is the "popone candito", candied melon, a truly inusual ingredient that brought me to visit an old florentine apothecary, Bizzarri.
Here I bought my candied melon, together with a mix of spices and a sheet of rice paper.

Then I was surprised by the preparation. The cake is absolutely easy to make, better if done in advance, so ideal for Christmas period.

And the flavour... I fell in love for it.
The candied melon makes the panforte sweet and moist like jelly fruits, balanced by the crunch whole almonds and the warm spice mix.
Every bite is the quintessence of Christmas.

If you don't find candied melon, I know it can be hard, you can use different candied fruit, just make sure to use the best ones you can afford. 

You can also prepare the spice mix by yourself using 5 g. coriander powder, 3 g. macis, 1 gr cloves and 1 gr. nutmeg, but feel free to use your favorite winter spice like ginger, cinnamon etc. 

 

Ingredients for a 18 cm diameter cake

one rice sheet - 150 g. icing sugar - 150 g. honey - 350g. whole almonds - 300g. mixed candied fruits or melon, diced -  - 150 g. all purpose flour - 2 teaspoons mixed spice - extra icing sugar for dust 

Pre-heat the oven at 180° 

Cover the base of the cake tin with the rice sheet.

In a small heavy pan heat the honey and icing sugar, stir until melted.

In a bowl mix almonds, candied fruits, flour and spices. Add in the mixture of honey and icing sugar and stir with a wooden spoon.

Now it will seems hard to combine the ingredients, don't panic, scoop everything in the cake tin a press well with your wet hands.

Bake for about 23/30 minutes.

Remove the cake from the tin while it's slightly warm.

Dust with icing sugar.

 

Suggestions:

-you can mix different dried fruits (toasted hazelnuts, pistachios etc)

-I prepare my panforte 10 days before Christmas, then I store the cake wrapped in paper and I dust it with the icing sugar just before serving