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Panforte Di Siena (pahn-For-teh) is an Italian confection that is a cross
between fruitcake, candy, and honey cakes called Lebkuchen (lasting cakes). It is a
wonderful confection and so easy to make.
I usually make Italian cake for the Christmas season,
but it is wonderful any time of the year. It is best eaten, sliced into very thin slices,
served after dinner with an good port wine or a dessert wine, tea or coffee. The name panforte, "strong
bread," is due to its strongly spicy flavor. In Italy it's also called Siena cake.
Originally a Christmas pastry, panforte is now enjoyed year round by Italian cuisine
History: This cake is a specialty of Siena, Italy that
dates back to the 13th century. The first documents, found among Siena's historic papers,
are various testimonies from February 7, 1205 that are written on parchment paper and
conserved in the archives of the state of Siena.
The parchment paper was found around the
second half of the 1800's in the archives of the hospital of Siena. It had come from the
estate of the Castle of Montisi, which belonged to the Cacciaconti family. It is written
that, on that date the servant and inhabitants of the monastery of Montecellesi (today
Montecelso) were obliged to bring the nuns a good number of Panes pepatos et melatos
(bread with pepper and honey) as a form of tax.
The idea of adding spices to the original
recipe of "Pan Melato" was said to have been Nicolò dé Salimbeni's, also
called "Muscia". In the archives of Genoa, it was recorded that Panforte was one
of the most famous sweets in Italy. Panforte's success soon crossed the boundaries of
Siena and many documents record its presence on the "menus" of the feast of rich
noble men in every part of Italy.
Check out more of Linda's wonderful
Panforte Di Siena Recipe - Italian Siena Cake Recipe:
Yields: 16 servings
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 30 min
Bread Crumb Lining (see recipe below)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons
cake flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup candied citron or candied melon, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup candied orange peel, cut into small pieces
1 cup almonds or hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped*
Powdered (confectioner's sugar) sugar
* To toast nuts, preheat oven to 350° F. Place nuts in a single layer
in an ungreased shallow pan or rimmed baking sheet. Bake 5 to 10 minutes, stirring once or
twice during toasting to aid in even browning, or until they are golden brown. Remove from
oven and remove from pan; let cool. If using hazelnuts, Remove from pan; place
hazelnuts in a clean terry-cloth towel and wrap it closed. Let the nuts steam for 4 to 5 minutes then rub vigorously for 1
to 3 minutes on a hard surface to remove skins; discard skins.
Preheat oven to 300° F and adjust oven rack to center position.
Prepare Bread Crumb Lining and line the baking pan; set aside.
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup cake flour,
1 teaspoon cinnamon, coriander, cloves, and nutmeg; set aside.
In another small bowl,
combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of cake flour and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; set mixture aside and save for the top.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine
honey and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until mixture comes to
a full boil; remove from heat. Stir in candied fruit and almonds or hazelnuts. Sift in
flour mixture; stir until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Smooth top with the
slightly wet palm of your hand. Sift reserved cinnamon-flour mixture over the top.
cake in center of middle oven rack. Bake 30 minute or until panforte just starts to simmer
around edge of pan. Remove from oven; cool completely on a wire rack.
Loosen from pan by running a small knife
around perimeter (if using a Springform Pan, remove sides of springform pan). Invert onto
a wire rack, letting excess cinnamon flour fall away. Use knife to peel away parchment or
rice paper. Invert panforte again and transfer onto a wire rack. Dust top with powdered sugar.
When cool, it can be wrapped in several
layers of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil and stored in an airtight container
for several weeks, or frozen for up to six months. Serve at room temperature. Before
serving, dust lightly with additional powered sugar. Cut into small wedges to serve.
Makes 16 servings.
Bread Crumb Lining:
1 tablespoon fine
2 tablespoons ground almonds or hazelnuts (your choice)
Brush an 8-inch cake pan or an 8-inch Springform Pan with butter. Cut a dish of parchment paper, or rice paper* to fit pan bottom. Brush paper with butter and fit into pan bottom.
In a small bowl, combine cake flour, bread crumbs, and almonds or
hazelnuts; evenly scatter over sides and bottom. Pat gently into place.
NOTE: If using Asian-style rice paper, wet the paper to make it easier to cut, then trim it to the correct size with scissors.
Panforte Variation Ideas:
Chocolate Panforte - Follow recipe for Panforte Di Siena, making the following
changes: Add 4 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate to honey and sugar mixture after
it is removed from the heat. Cover and let stand 2 minutes or until chocolate melts. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt to the flour and spices.
Date Panforte - Follow recipe for
Panforte Di Siena. Substitute 1/2 cup chopped dates for 1/2 cup candied citron or melon.
Dried Fruit Panforte -
Follow recipe for Panforte Di Siena, making the following changes: reduce candied citron
and orange peel from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup each. Add 1/4 cup each of stemmed and finely
diced dried figs and dried apricots. Also check out my
Fig and Walnut Panforte recipe.