Another Christmas favorite of mine is Panforte di Siena. Panforte is an Italian cake that originated in Siena, Italy, sometime during the Middle Ages. It’s packed with candied fruit, nuts, spices, and honey. It sounds like the makings of a fruitcake, but it has a much different flavor and texture. In Italian, panforte means strong bread. The cake is dense, sweet, and chewy; it’s eaten in small slices. It lasts about as long as a fruitcake, too.
I first had panforte in an airport in Rome. I bought it as a gift to share with my co-workers. The plane was delayed, so I pinched off a small piece and snacked. I found the savory nuts mixed with the candied fruit and honey to be addictive. Not much of the panforte was left when I arrived in New Jersey. Shameless, but I love it!
How to make Panforte di Siena? It’s easy.
Notes on Making Panforte di Siena
Ensure you line the springform pan with parchment paper and then spray it with baking spray. If you don’t, it will be difficult to remove the panforte from the bottom of the pan. The honey syrup will seal the cake to the bottom of the pan. You can also use a regular 9-inch cake pan, but I find it’s easy to remove the sides of the springform pan by unlocking the sides and exposing the bottom.
Once you remove the parchment paper (it will be peeled off), you must dust the top heavily, flip it over, and dust the bottom of the panforte with the confectioner’s sugar. If you don’t, the cake will stick to the container. The cake should be white with confectioner’s sugar.
Don’t over-toast the nuts. It only takes a few minutes to brown them on all sides. The nuts can burn quickly once they start to turn brown.
Work quickly once the honey syrup is ready to pour over the dry ingredients. The syrup will stiffen and make it difficult to mix the ingredients. You’ll need to use the back of a heavy spoon or spatula to smooth the top of the mixture before baking.
Panforte di Siena Ingredients
Buy the candied peel already diced. Dicing the candied peel is difficult—it sticks to the knife. I bought individual containers of candied orange, lemon, and pineapple. I mixed the three together. Some panforte recipes use only the candied orange and lemon peel. The pineapple adds a nice flavor to the mix.
Panforte di Siena
- 1 9-inch spring form pan
- parchment paper
- 1 cup skinned hazelnuts
- 1 cup blanched almonds
- 3 cups diced candy peel mixture of orange, lemon, and pineapple
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- pinch of white pepper
- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ cup honey
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsb unsalted butter
- confectioner's sugar
- baking spray
- Preheat oven to 300 °F
- Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper with baking spray.
- Arrange the nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Toast the almonds and hazelnuts in a 350 °F oven for 5 minutes. Stir, and roast for 3-5 minutes, or until lightly brown. Set aside to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss together nuts, candied fruit peel, spices, salt, and flour.
- Combine the sugar, honey, and butter in a saucepan. Cook until mixture reaches the softball stage on a candy thermometer (25o°F) or when the hot mixture forms a soft ball when dropped in a small glass of cold water.
- Pour the hot syrup over the dry ingredients and mix quickly before it sets. Pour into pan and smooth the top with the back of a large spoon until even.
- Bake 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit until it firms up enough to remove from pan. Remove parchment paper. Heavily dust the top and bottom of panforte with confectioner’s sugar.
- Store in a tightly sealed tin at room temperature up to two months.
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