Panforte, (literally “strong bread”) is a renowned cake from the city of Siena, in Tuscany.Panforte, together with Panettone, Torrone, and Pandoro, enjoys wide popularity throughout Italy as a Christmas treat.
The origins of Panforte are ancient and can be traced back to the honey-fruit cakes prepared in the middle ages. It is made by combining nuts, honey, and a lot of spices together. In those times, the nunneries and later the chemists assumed the preparation of the Panforte, and some of the most famous brands today still have the names of those old pharmacists’ families.
The oldest recipes for Panforte (called Panpepato) contained a larger quantity of pepper. Today the most widely known is Panforte “Margherita,” named in the early 1800’s in honor of Queen Margherita, and based on a recipe with a more delicate taste.
Serve the Panforte with “Vin Santo,” a sweet wine also from Tuscany.
3/4 cup (125 g) almonds
1/2 cup (75 g) hazelnuts
1 1/4 cups (235 g) mixed candied citrus peel, chopped
1/3 cup (60 g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup (185 g) honey
1/4 cup (60 g) sugar
powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven 375 F (190 C).
Toast the almond and hazelnuts separately on a baking sheet for about 5 - 6 minutes. Place the hazelnuts into a kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove the skin.
Chop coarsely the almond and hazelnuts together.
Butter an 8 inch (20 cm) diameter cake pan. Cover the bottom with a round parchment paper.
Combine the chopped nuts, chopped candied peel, flour, and the spices in a bowl.
Place the sugar and honey in a small saucepan. Turn the heat to medium, and stir until the sugar melts completely.
Stir the melted honey-sugar into the bowl with the nut mixture until well combined.
Transfer this compound into the cake pan. Wet your hands and push the mixture evenly in the pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven, place inverted on a rack. and peel off the parchment paper when cool. Dust with confectioner sugar. The cake will keep for a long time in a dry airtight box.