Panforte: Siena Fruit Cake
Ask anyone who really knows me and they will tell you that I am nuts about PANFORTE.
Panforte is an Italian Christmas fruit cake, very dense and flat in shape, meant to be sliced thin and eaten with your hands.
It is the traditional Christmas cake from Siena, in Tuscany. It is always made with high quality dried fruits and different kinds of nuts. I have had it every way. Nero, dusted with cocoa, or Traditional Margherita, dusted with confectioners sugar.
It is usually imported to the states right before Christmas and I always buy it.
I have tried EVERY brand, and find the best is Marabissi brand from Siena, which I have found at Dean & Deluca Gourmet stores in NYC and even on line at amazon.com.
However, it is getting to be an expensive habit. At $25. a pop, I have decided to try and make it myself.
I chose Nick Malgieri's recipe because his was simpler than most, and Nick is my favorite baker of all time. His books are truly the best for Italian desserts.
You are going to think I am nuts, but I decided to make my own candied orange peel for the recipe. I made this a few days prior to making the panforte, since this took some time, and you need to dry the orange peel 3-4 hours.
Next time I buy the candied orange peel!!!
Panforte di Siena
"This medieval fruitcake is the ancestor of our modern ones. Sweet and chewy, panforte is best enjoyed in small wedges with coffee or sweet wine", Nick Malgieri
Makes one 8-inch (20-cm) cake.
About 20 small servings
2/3 cup honey
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup finely diced candied orange peel (click on link if you dare to make your own)
* 1 1/2 cups blanched almonds, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Flour, for dusting
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
(* I used a mixture of chopped almonds, pignoli nuts and walnuts).
Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 300°F (150°C). Line the bottom and sides of an 8 inch (20 cm) diameter pan 2 inches (5 cm) deep, with buttered foil.
Combine the honey and sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir well to mix, then place on low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a full boil, then remove from heat.
Stir in the candied fruit and almonds. Stir together the flour and spices, add them to the batter, then stir until smooth.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sift a couple of tablespoons of the flour into the top of the panforte so it doesn’t crust while baking, this will be removed later. Bake until the panforte is firm and gently simmering just around the edges, about 20-25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack.
When the panforte is completely cool, invert it to remove the flour from the top, use a dry brush to get it all off. Carefully peel away the foil and stand the panforte right-side-up. Wrap in plastic or foil and keep at room temperature, it keeps almost indefinitely.
To serve, sift a thin layer of the confectioners’ sugar over the top. Serve small wedges, they are eaten out of hand, not with a fork.
This is more like a confection or candy than it is a cake. It is dense, very hard to cut and you can only have a small bite.
This recipe came out FANTASTICO!!!! Better even than the real deal from Siena that uses nuts and fruits grown in the Tuscan sun!
Made in a little kitchen in New Jersey, go figure!