Panforte, is a delicious Italian sweet made with fruits and nuts, originating in 13th century Siena. Then known as panpepato due to the strength of pepper and spicing, it was a compulsory gift or ‘tax’ presented to the nuns of the city. In the 19th century it was refined to honour Queen Margherita of Savoy on a visit to the city, adding melon to the mix and tempering down the black pepper with vanilla sugar. From then on it became the sweet of aristocrats, its spicing particularly associated with Christmas, and more like the panforte we know today: soft, sweet and unxious with candied fruit, nuts and only a hint of spice.
Although the list of ingredients is long, the process of making panforte is very simple. Honey, nuts, fruits and spices mixed together with flour and baked in a shallow pan, we use oven proof pans rather than cake tins, so whatever you have to hand. It is dairy free and, if you use gram flour which works perfectly well in this recipe, gluten-free.
Traditionally served with coffee at the end of a meal, eaten as a snack or wrapped as a homemade gift for family and friends at Christmas, once tried this simple recipe will become a festive staple.
Makes 30 pieces
- 100 g blanched almonds, roasted
- 100 g blanched hazelnuts, roasted
- 100 g pistachios, shelled & peeled
- 200 g candied peel
- 75 g plain flour or chickpea (gram flour) - to make recipe gluten free
- 175 g dried figs, blitzed in food processor
- 150g caster sugar
- 100 ml Vin Santo or sherry
- 6 tbsp of runny honey
- 6 cardamom pods, deseeded and seeds crushed
- half tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch of ground cloves
- good grating of fresh nutmeg
- icing sugar for dusting
- Line a round 12 inch cake tin with parchment paper.
- Pre heat oven to 150ºC.
- Place the toasted nuts, candied peel and the flour into a large mixing bowl, set to one side.
- Place the figs, caster sugar, half of the Vin Santo, honey, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg & cinnamon into a heady bottom pan.
- Over a high heat bring the mixture to boil then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Now pour the wet mixture over the nuts, flour and peel mixture, add the rest of the Vin Santo and stir well.
- Then transfer the mixture to the cake tin and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, place another piece of parchment paper on top and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool fully before cutting.
- Once cooled cut into approximately 30 square pieces, dust with icing sugar and store the Panforte in airtight containers or jars until ready to serve.