Panforte di Siena comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and the original recipe can be traced back to the early 13th century (probably in Siena, Italy), which explains the numerous subtle variations.
One of the many things that every version of Panforte di Siena has in common however, is that it’s bloody expensive to buy. Yes, the ingredients are quite costly but you don’t use very much of anything and just a thin slice of this spicily aromatic cake is all you’ll need, perhaps with a little espresso or dessert wine at the end of a meal.
Panforte is also surprisingly easy to make which is why I’m sharing it here. It can be made with any variety of unsalted nuts and candied fruits and I used the ones I had available. The amount of black pepper may seem a little odd initially but pepper (along with some minced crystallized ginger) creates a lovely, lingering warmth.
The key is to let the cake rest for 2-3 days before serving it, as the spices may seem a little overwhelming at first but they mellow into a wonderful ‘oneness’ that is quite irresistible.
If you love dried fruit, nuts and spices, then you’ll be delighted with this – and as it’s a rather showy-offy kind of cake, you’ll also delight whoever you choose to share it with.
Note – I buy edible rice paper online from Amazon.com. You’ll also need a shallow 10 inch (25cm) round, or an 8 inch (20cm) square cake pan.
PANFORTE DI SIENA
8.5 oz (240g) of dried figs, stalks snipped off (use pitted dates if you don’t like figs)
1.75 oz (50g ) of clear honey
3.5 oz (100g ) of soft brown sugar
1/2 a teaspoon of each of the following –
- ground cinnamon
- ground cardamom
- ground cloves
- freshly-ground nutmeg
- freshly-ground black pepper
8.8 oz (250g) of candied fruit, such as crystallized ginger, citron, orange or lemon peel – or any combination thereof
1.75 oz (50g) of whole blanched almonds (or walnuts, Brazil nuts, unsalted pistachios, etc)
1.75 oz (50g) of pine nuts
1.75 oz (50g) of toasted hazelnuts with most of the skins rubbed off
3-4 tablespoons of plain flour, sifted (use gluten-free if you prefer)
1.75 oz (50g) of dessert wine such as Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise
Icing sugar to serve
Preheat the oven to 300F / 150C
Line the cake pan with rice paper (lining a square pan will be easier).
Put the dried figs in a food processor and pulse until finely minced, then transfer them to a pan with just enough water to cover the fruit. Add the honey, brown sugar and all of the spices.
Simmer gently for about 10-14 minutes until you have a soft, sticky mess that’s not at all runny. Transfer to a bowl then fold in the candied fruit and nuts and mix everything thoroughly.
Fold in the flour followed by the dessert wine and mix well. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top evenly.
Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely in the pan.
Carefully lift it out of the pan onto a plate and allow it to sit for a couple of days at room temperature, covered, enabling the flavors to fully develop.
To serve, dust the cake with icing sugar and cut it into thin wedges.
Panforte will keep for several days in an airtight container at room temperature.