Panforte is an Italian treat that hails from Siena, in the Tuscany region of Italy. It is a cross somewhere between a fruitcake and a chewy caramel confection. This version is called "panforte nero" as it includes cocoa in the mixture.
Panforte is shipped from Siena all over the world, including Japan and Mexico.
I have been intrigued by panforte for years, but when in Siena, I sampled it a few times but it didn’t quite suit my expectations. (There are many outlets for panforte in Siena, so trying to find the best example of panforte in a city that I didn’t have the insider “foodie” scoop on, was probably a doomed undertaking.) I look forward to discovering the ultimate panforte in Siena some day, but in the mean time, this version totally satisfies my yearning for a tasty toothsome treat. Perhaps like most things, nothing matches something made by your own loving hands and shared with your treasured family and friends.
I can tell you personally that panforte goes perfectly with coffee in the morning, provides a wonderful lift during the day, and partners very satisfactorily with a glass of sherry or Grand Marnier in the evening.
Cook’s note: Do be careful not to over bake your panforte as it can turn from a moist chewy Italian sensation into a typical Canadian hockey puck in a manner of minutes. Once it is bubbling and looks done around the edges, it’s time to pull it out of the oven… it does not need to bubble all the way into the centre of the disk.
This recipe is based on the Hazelnut Panforte recipe from the December 2005 issue of Bon Appétit. It called for a 9 inch springform pan to make one large panforte but here I have made 6 - 4 inch panfortes using tart rings on parchment paper. These smaller panfortes can then be taken along as a hostess gift or could easily be wrapped and mailed around the world as a festive gift, just like a good Sienese citizen would do!
- 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped
- 3/4 cup pitted Medjool dates, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped candied orange peel (If you are up for it I highly recommend candying your own peel. It's a little time consuming but a simple process. Click here to find how-to instructions for making your own candied orange peel.
- 1/2 cup dried tart cherries or cranberries
- 1/2 cup all purpose white unbleached flour
- 1/4 cup stemmed dried Mission figs, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped dried unsulphered apricots
- 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch or raw unprocessed)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- A few grinds of black pepper
- 3/4 cup honey
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter -salted or unsalted
Preheat your over to 300°F making sure that the oven rack is in the centre.
Butter well 6 - 4 inch tart rings and set them on a large heavy baking sheet that has been lined with non-stick or buttered parchment paper.
Put all the ingredients except the honey, sugar and butter into a large bowl and toss gently ensuring everything has been nicely distributed and all the ingredients have a little coating of spices, flour and cocoa.
Next, put the honey, sugar, and butter in a small stainless steel saucepan and bring to a low boil while slowly stirring. Reduce heat to medium-low.
Place candy thermometer into the mixture and cook until thermometer registers 242°F to 246°F or 117°C to 119°C, stirring occasionally. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to 8 or 9 minutes depending on the intensity of your heat. Do be careful to closely monitor, as you do not want to go over the maximum temperature or your panforte will be too hard.
Quickly pour syrup the hot syrup over the nut and dried fruit mixture then stir to coat all ingredients.
Immediately transfer mixture to prepared rings evenly dividing the mixture evenly.
Wet hands lightly and push the mixture down to create a nice smooth top.
Bake until bubbling slightly at edges and top appears slightly dull. Mine took about 22 minutes.
Cool panfortes but while still a little warm, very carefully remove the tart rings, as this is easier done warm than when fully cooled.
Store panfortes in an airtight container at room temperature with parchment paper separating them so that they do not stick to each other.
Dust liberally with cocoa before serving and garnish with some candied orange peel.
Panforte can be made ahead and stored for many weeks if wrapped well, but I doubt yours will last that long!