Panforte

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Desserts | Panforte

(Italian Christmas honey fruitcake)

This fruit and nut confection has been made in the Tuscan city of Siena since the Middle Ages. A traditional Christmas treat, panforte manufacturers jealously guard their recipes. This recipe for panforte Margherita, the most popular version, makes a tasty homemade Christmas treat. Panforte is best made several days ahead as its flavor improves with time

Image Creative Commons by boo_licious

6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • Flour -- 1 1/2 cups
  • Coriander -- 1 teaspoon
  • Cinnamon -- 1 teaspoon
  • Cloves -- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Nutmeg -- 1/4 teaspoon
  • Blanched hazelnuts or almonds -- 1 1/2 cups
  • Candied fruit or citrus peel, chopped -- 1 cup
  • Powdered (confectioner's) sugar -- 1 3/4 cup plus 1/4 cup
  • Honey -- 3/4 cup
  • Water -- 2 teaspoons

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 9-inch springform or cake pan and line with a round of greased parchment or waxed paper. Sprinkle the pan with powdered sugar to coat and shake out excess.
  2. Add the flour, coriander, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to a large bowl and stir to mix throughly.
  3. Spread the nuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the oven until lightly browned and aromatic, about 10 minutes. Remove immediately, reduce oven to 325°F and cool. The nuts will continue to toast for a bit after you remove them from the oven, so take care not to burn them.
  4. When cool enough, roughly chop the nuts with a knife or a food processor and stir into the flour. Stir the candied fruit or citrus peel into the flour.
  5. Add 1 3/4 cup of the powdered sugar, honey and water to a small saucepan and stir gently to mix. Bring to a boil over medium flame. Reduce heat to low and boil gently until the honey mixture reaches 350°F on a candy thermometer, around 5 minutes.
  6. Using a wooden spoon, stir the honey mixture into the flour mixture until it all comes together as a sticky dough. Using lightly greased hands, press the dough evenly into the prepared pan and out to the edges. Place in the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the edges of the panforte are lightly puffed.
  7. Remove and cool the panforte completely on a rack. Remove from the pan and gently remove the paper liner. Place on a serving platter and sprinkle liberally with the remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar through a fine-meshed sieve. Cut into wedges and serve the panforte with vin santo, a sweet dessert wine.

Panforte Variations

  • Panforte Nero: This is a chocolate version of panforte with just a touch of bitterness. Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper to the flour with the other spices. Substitute toasted pine nuts for half the hazelnuts or almonds. Afterboiling the honey mixture to the proper temperature, remove it from heat and stir in 2 ounces of chopped baking chocolate until melted. Proceed with the recipe as listed above.
  • Instead of lining your baking pan with parchment or waxed paper, you can line it with edible rice paper, available in specialty baking stores.
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