Italian Christmas Delicacy: Panforte di Siena from Tuscany

Panforte from Siena
Panforte from Siena

Panforte is a typical dessert originally from Siena, Toscana region. It’s a type of spiced bread that can be enjoyed all year long, but especially during the Christmas holidays. The ancient origins of this delicious dessert date back to the Middle Ages, product of the renowned Sienese tradition. There are two versions of it: one is Panforte Margherita, created in honor of Queen Margherita of Savoy who visited Siena in 1879 and the other is Panpepato, a spiced version enriched with cocoa powder, candied melon and pepper.

Ingredients:

4 teaspoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder plus additional for dusting 2/3 cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup whole almonds, toasted 1 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted and loose skins rubbed off with a kitchen towel 1 cup soft pitted prunes (dried plums; 8 oz), quartered 1 cup soft dried figs (preferably Mission; 8 oz), each cut into 6 pieces 1 cup soft raisins (8 oz) 3/4 cup sugar 2/3 cup honey Special equipment: a 9-inch springform pan; parchment paper; a candy thermometer .

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line springform pan with parchment, using a round for bottom and a strip for side. Butter paper well and dust with cocoa powder, knocking out excess. Whisk together flour, spices, salt, and 4 teaspoons cocoa in a large bowl, then stir in nuts and fruit. Bring sugar and honey to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then boil without stirring until thermometer registers 238 to 240°F, about 2 minutes. Immediately pour honey over fruit mixture and quickly stir until combined (mixture will be very thick and sticky). Quickly spoon mixture into springform pan, spreading evenly with back of spoon. Dampen your hands and press mixture firmly and evenly into pan to compact as much as possible. Bake in middle of oven until edges start to rise slightly and become matte, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool panforte completely in pan on a rack, then remove side of pan and invert, peeling off paper. If making ahead, wrap panforte (see cooks' note, below). To serve, cut with a serrated knife into small pieces.

 

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