Panforte di siena
Desserts HOLIDAYS

Homemade Christmas Panforte di Siena

My favorite recipe to make Panforte di Siena, the typical Christmas cake filled with a lot of candied and dried fruit. A real rustic and authentic flavor!

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In Italy, each region has a special dessert for Christmas and Holidays . 

Surely, the typical dessert for Tuscany is the Panforte of Siena. It is a very old type of sweet bread, flat and unleavened, that is – since the Middle Ages – enriched with candied and dried fruits, and spices.       

The Panforte in the history of Siena

In the past this particular dessert was typical of special occasions, it was intended only for the rich and noble or for the clergy.

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An interesting curiosity about this dessert concerns its name. In fact, Panforte derives from the Latin Panem Fortis, which literally means “sour bread“. 

Formerly, poor people prepared this recipe as a water-based cake and flour, to which they added honey and chopped fresh fruit. In this way, the fruit fermented without drying completely and gave the recipe a rather acid and ” strong” flavor.   

Later the recipe has taken on the traditional connotations that are still used today to prepare panforte.

In 1879, Enrico Righi – that was a pastry chef, owner of Panforte Parenti factory – wanted to dedicate a dessert recipe to Queen Margherita of Savoy.

To do that he used 17 ingredients, the same number of the districts where the famous Palio di Siena takes place: honey, sugar, wheat flour, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, candied melon, candied citron, candied orange, candied lemon peel, bark. cinnamon, coriander, aromatic pepper, pine nuts, cloves, water for mixing, and fire to cook.

The cake was a real triumph and even today is used to consume the Panforte Margherita over Christmas. 

Where to taste Panforte when visiting Siena

Today, there are several places to taste Panforte and other traditional confectionery products of the Siena area, such as the famous Cantucci Cookies or the Ricciarelli (soft oval-shaped biscuits made with almond paste and sugar).

Siena view
Courtesy of Makalu, Pixabay


Here my favorite 4 addresses to try Panforte and other specialties. If you are around Siena, you can’t miss them!

Bar Nannini – Conca d’Oro, Via Banchi di Sopra, 24, 53100 Siena, Italy

Antica Drogheria Manganelli – Via di Città 71-73, 53100 Siena SI, Italy

Pasticceria Buti – Viale Vittorio Emanuele II, 53, 53100 Siena SI, Italy

Panificio il Magnifico – Via dei Pellegrini, 27 – 53100, Siena

Tips to prepare an excellent Panforte

The main tip to make a great Panforte at home is to select top-quality ingredients.  

This is why my suggestion is, first of all, to use fresh almonds with the skin. Secondly, as regards honey, opt for the wildflower one. At last, about the candied fruit, choose the one that best meets your tastes, but take it of quality.

Another tip that, in my opinion, gives an extra touch to the preparation, is the addition of dried figs.

You will easily see how the honey scent and the spices smell, manage to make this Christmas Cake so unique!

pin panforte di siena

Preparation and preserve tips

During the preparation of Panforte, it is important to compact the mixture obtained well inside into the cake pan. For a better result, help yourself with your fingers and well press the dough. Try to avoid any empty spaces that would ruin the end result.

Panforte di Siena can be kept for several days under a glass bell or inside an airtight container. It can, therefore, be prepared in advance of the time you go to serve it to your guests.  

Moreover, Panforte di Siena is also an excellent idea gift, especially during the Christmas season! If you want to gift it to friends or relatives, place your Panforte in a decorated Food Christmas Box like this one.

Substitutions and Alternative Ingredients

Even if you are not a big fan of candied fruit, you can still make a great Panforte using alternative types of dried fruit.

In this case, you can opt for replacing candied fruit with a greater quantity of dried figs, dried apricots, and dried red fruit, like red berries.

Dried fruit panforte

You should also vary and add a dose of walnuts or hazelnuts to the almonds, to give a more intense and aromatic taste.

Eventually, you can add the chocolate chips to the dough too. About 40 g will be enough and you will feel what a taste!

Balance the spices according to your taste and, if you want to get a more delicate taste, add the vanilla aroma instead of cocoa powder.

The version that I propose for this recipe is made with a balanced mix of candied fruit and dried fruit, so as to have a result rich in aroma and flavor!

You will see, the Christmas Panforte di Siena recipe is it’s easier than you think, and its unmistakable flavor is so amazing that rightly make this cake one of the most famous among spices bread.

Panforte di siena

Panforte di Siena

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Here is my recipe to make Panforte, the typical cake of
Siena rich in candied fruit
and dried fruit with a rustic and authentic
flavor. A unique and unmistakable Christmas cake!

Ingredients

  • 170 g powdered sugar
  • 120 g wildflower honey
  • 70 g flour 00
  • 200 g almonds
  • 100 g hazelnuts
  • 100 g walnuts
  • 150 g of candied fruit
  • 120 g of dried figs
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of cilantro
  • 1 clove
  • 10 g black pepper
  • 40 g cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 sheet of rice paper for cake

Instructions

  1. First of all, heat the oven to 180C° (356F°) or to 160C° (320F°) if ventilated. 
  2. Line a 24 cm round cake pan with the rice paper.   
  3. Now let's prepare the dried fruit.
  4. As soon as the oven is hot, roast almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts on a baking sheet for 5 minutes. Let them cool, then chop them roughly.     
  5. Grind all the spices with a mortar until they are reduced to a powder. In a large boule l and add the flour, cocoa, and spices chopped. 
  6. Incorporate then the toasted nuts, the candied fruit and the remainder selected dried fruit.  
  7. Separately, put a saucepan on the stove with honey and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring for about 7/8 minutes or until you get a syrup.
  8. Pour the syrup into the bo u l and with the other ingredients.
  9. Mix and mix well the mixture and ingredients, using a wooden spoon!
  10. When the mixture is homogeneous take the pan that you lined at the beginning with the rice paper.
  11. Pour the previously made mixture into the pan and, if necessary, use your moistened fingers to press and compact everything to prevent holes from forming.
  12. Cover everything with a couple of tablespoons of sugar and flour.
  13. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.  
  14. As soon as this time has elapsed, take out and sprinkle with plenty of icing sugar.
  15. Let the cake cool completely before serving.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 885Total Fat: 42gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 36gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 202mgCarbohydrates: 123gFiber: 11gSugar: 88gProtein: 16g

Nutrition Data is automatically calculated and may be not accurate.

I hope you’ve loved this recipe as much as I do!

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3 Comments

  1. aimsysantics says:

    Oh this looks and sounds delicious! Will be bookmarking this to give it a go. I tried making panetone the other year, and it didn’t turn out as I wanted it to, so maybe I need to give this recipe a try instead!
    Thanks for sharing and loved hearing baout the history of it!
    Aimsy xoxo
    https://www.aimsysantics.co.uk

  2. This looks delicious! I was surprised to see cilantro as an ingredient. Fortunately, we love cilantro!

  3. spruitt8 says:

    This looks amazing! I love that you included the history of it. I love learning the origin of certain foods.

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