Friday, December 02, 2005

Panforte – Christmas Bread of Siena

Panforte (as described by the official site of the city of Siena): Between history and legend. The most famous producers of Panforte carry the names of ancient herbalists and pharmacists that jealously guarded their special recipe. Legend has it that this delicacy dates back to Middle Ages, when Sister Berta became concerned about the well being and health of the weakened Sienese people following a siege of the city and began preparing a high energy dessert made from a mixture of honey, dried fruit, almonds and spicy pepper. The result of Sister Berta’s worry was Panpepato, the first Panforte.

At one time, it was believed that this dessert had aphrodisiac qualities and that, according to the elderly, helped in keeping families together and husbands and wives from fighting.

On the occasion of Queen Margaret of Savoy’s visit to Siena, the master of ceremonies, believing that the Panpepato might be unpleasing to the royal palate, asked his pastry chefs to lighten the taste of Panpepato by adding pumpkin to the recipe and by substituting vanilla for black pepper. The result of the modified recipe is the more delicate and sweet Panforte Margaret.


150 grams of chopped Walnuts
150 grams of chopped Almonds
200 grams of diced Candied Fruit
100 grams (2/3 cup) of Flour
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Water
a pinch of Nutmeg
150 grams Powdered Sugar
150 grams of Honey
20 large Communion Wafers


Mix the walnuts, almonds, candied fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Prepare a baking pan, placing 10 large communion wafers closely together.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

In a medium pan, dissolve over low heat the powdered sugar, honey and water. Mix with the dry ingredients and pour over the wafers in the baking pan. Smooth and level the mix and place the remaining 10 wafers on top of the mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. Before serving, dust with powdered sugar.


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