Panforte dates back to the year 1000 and is the traditional Christmas dolce of Siena, one of the first cities in Italy to use sugar and rare spices.
This rich, chewy, cake-like confection is loaded with hazelnuts, almonds and candied citrus peels and is spiced with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, coriander and white pepper. One cannot visit Siena without tasting this local specialty. On a chilly winter morning, after strolling through the famous piazza, Campo, and needing to warm up, my husband, Jack and I ducked into a bar for cappuccini. It was there we enjoyed our first taste of this rich confection.
I have seen packages of panforte in specialty markets in the states but, this dolci, like so may other Italian products, has fallen victim to industrialization and often contains inferior ingredients. This recipe is not difficult to make but, does require a candy thermometer. So, go ahead and give it a try. It will keep for weeks and when the holidays are long gone, you can indulge in a sliver of this northern Italian treat.
- 1 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup whole almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped
- 2 ounces dried figs, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup candied orange peel, chopped
- 1 cup candied citron, chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Pinch white pepper
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Confectioners’ sugar
- Candy Thermometer
- Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring-form pan and then line (bottom and sides) with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper. Set aside.
- Using a large bowl, mix together the nuts, figs, orange peel, citron and lemon zest.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and spices and then add to the nut and fruit mixture. Stir until thoroughly combined.
- Using a heavy saucepan, heat the granulated sugar, honey and butter. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly until the syrup reaches 242*-248* on the candy thermometer (if you drop a dab of mixture into a cup of cold water, it will form a ball). Immediately pour the syrup over the nut mixture and stir quickly until it’s completely combined. Quickly transfer to the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
- Bake in a 350* oven 30-40 minutes. It won’t seem very firm but, don’t worry, it will harden as it cools.
- Once it’s completely cool, generously dust with powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container (I keep mine in a cake tin with the parchment).
- To serve, cut into small slices along with espresso or hot coffee.