Panforte di Siena

 

Ahh… our Christmas cake… I’m not sure if we can really call it a cake, it’s more like a piece of chewy confectionery. It originates from Italy and is packed full of dried fruit, nuts and honey.

This cake is traditionally baked in a round cake tin (pan). However, I broke out of the norm this year and baked it in a loaf tin (pan). The cake was cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) pieces, making them easier to enjoy, instead of gnawing a huge slice.

The first time I made this cake, was many moons ago. At that point in time, I had no idea that it got better if you age it for 1-2 weeks. After the aging period, the cake becomes softer and chewy. If you eat it the same day or the day after, it’s pretty rock-solid. I remember trying to slice this cake the day after I made it… it was like trying to slice through stone! When we did eventually cut off a chunk, it was so hard, it nearly broke my teeth!

Over the years, I have opted to make smaller cakes – as there is only two of us, and it’s pretty rich. Oh, and I also want to eat other stuff during the holidays than panforte! If you’d like to make one 20 cm (8 inch) cake, simple multiply the recipe by two.

 

PANFORTE DI SIENA

Makes one 20 x 10 cm (8 x 4 inch) cake, which can be cut into 32 squares or two 20 cm (4 inch) round cakes

Adapted from “Ultimate Recipes – Italian”, by Paragon publishers

 

Ingredients

  • 60 g (½ c) whole almonds, lightly toasted in the oven
  • 60 g (½ c) hazelnuts, lightly toasted in the oven, skins removed and roughly chopped
  • 45 g (¼ c) chopped mixed peel
  • 4 dried unsulfured apricots, finely diced
  • 1 ring crystallized pineapple, finely diced
  • Grated zest (peel) of ½ large orange
  • 30 g (3 ¼ T) plain flour
  • 1 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 60 g (¼ c) dark muscuvado (brown) sugar
  • 85 g (¼ c) honey
  • Icing (confectioners’) sugar to dust (optional)

 

Method

1. Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F). Line one 20 x 10 cm (8 x 4 inch) loaf tin (pan) with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix almonds, hazelnuts, mixed peel, apricots, pineapple, orange zest, plain flour, cocoa and cinnamon. Set aside.

3. Gently heat dark muscuvado (brown) sugar and honey in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to a gentle boil and boil for 5 minutes. The color will darken.

4. Reduce heat to low. Quickly stir in fruit and nut mix to fully incorporate. Immediately transfer to prepared tin (pan).  Smooth off top surface with the back of a wet spoon.

5. Bake in middle of preheated oven for 20 minutes.

6. Let cool, turn out of tin (pan) leaving parchment paper intact. Once cold, wrap loosely with cling film (plastic wrap). Allow to age at room temperature for 7-10 days, before slicing, dusting with icing sugar and enjoying. Serve as a snack, with coffee or dessert wine.

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