Category Archives: Panforte

Making Panforte

There are two kinds of panforte, “white” and “black.” White generally has more dried fruit in it, and is usually dusted with powdered sugar. The black version is generally spicier, nuttier and calls for cocoa powder (a novelty back when these cakes/candies first became popular). This panforte, quite frankly, is somewhere in between. But then why should I adhere to tradition when so few Italians do? Go to Italy and you’ll find hundreds of variations on the theme. For ideas on how to vary yours, refer to the recipe below. Begin by preheating your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and roughly chopping the dried fruits and nuts:

Combine the flour, salt and spices in a large bowl:

Whisk them together and add to the fruit mixture:

Stir all that together.

Now combine the sugar, honey and butter in a small saucepan.

Heat that mixture to 240 degrees Fahrenheit, then pour it into the fruit and nut mixture.

Stir that together and scrape it into a prepared cake pan.

Bake it for 35-45 minutes until you can see the syrup bubbling on the top.

Remove the cake to a wire rack to cool completely, six to eight hours. I should add that this preparation is not meant to be eaten right away. Ideally it should “cure” for at least a week in a cool, dry place. The refrigerator is fine for that if you don’t have a root cellar. As a caveat I’ll also say that I’m not sure panforte should be this high:

Most versions are flat like pancakes. The reason for that is that panforte, being a honey candy, flows. Not quickly mind you, but steadily. This is why most commercial versions come with a stripe of rice paper wrapped around the edge, to keep the stuff from spreading out all over. More curing and a low temperature will limit this. In fact after a few weeks in the fridge some of the sugars may well crystallize, which is a good thing in this case.

Howerver if you plan on serving this fresh for a fancy party, I recommend refrigeration — even freezing — if you want nice, sharp slices. Alternately you can use two cake pans for this and make the usual flat cakes!

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Panforte Recipe

This is a very Christmas-feeling sweetmeat, but can really be enjoyed any time of year. I’ve drastically reduced the amount of spice to make it more of an anytime treat. To give it the full-on yuletide treatment, triple the cinnamon and double the cloves. For those who like theirs spicy — and the original version of this dish were quite spicy — add a teaspoon or so or fresh ground black pepper. You can even spike it with a little cayenne if you want!

16 ounces (3 cups) blanched whole almonds
9 ounces (1 3/4 cups) whole hazelnuts, skinned or unskinned
12 ounces (2 cups) diced candied orange peel
6 ounces (1 cup) dried apricots, diced
5 ounces (1 cup) dried figs, diced
5 ounces (1 cup) bleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
16 ounces ounces (2 1/4 cups) sugar
16 ounces honey (1 1/3)
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) butter
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and position a rack in the center of your oven. Prepare a single 9″ layer cake pan for baking like so. Chop the nuts and dried fruits and combine them in a large bowl. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa and spices. Combine the two mixtures thoroughly.

Combine the honey, sugar and butter in a saucepan. Cook the mixture to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour this mixture over the fruit and flour mixture. Stir everything together and scrape into the cake pan. Bake for about 20 minutes until the panforte is bubbling. Cool the pan completely on a wire rack. De-pan the panforte and wrap it in parchment paper, then plastic wrap. Store it in a cool, dry place for up to 3 weeks. When you’re ready to serve it, dust it lightly with powdered sugar and cut it into thin slices.

Filed under:  Panforte, Pastry | 20 Comments