Panforte (pahn-FOR-teh) – An Italian confection (a round, flat cake) that is a cross between fruitcake, candy, and honey cakes. It contains a tiny amount of flour (just enough to hold the fruits and nuts together).
The name panforte, “strong bread”, is due to its strongly spicy flavor. In Italy it is also called Siena cake. Originally a Christmas pastry, panforte is now enjoyed year round by Italian cuisine enthusiasts.
Panforte 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 NicoldSalimbeni’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 Linda’s favorite Panforte de Siena recipe.