Panforte di Siena

This Italian recipe dates back to the 13th century and originated in Siena. I have eaten this desert, but never made until I asked Gillian Riley for a quote  for an article I was writing on Italian desserts. I decided to develop this recipe around the ingredients in Gillian’s book, The Oxford Companion to ITALIAN FOODS. This is my version. 

Photos Francine Zaslow

Breadcrumbs for pan:

         1 tablespoon cake flour 

         1 tablespoon fine bread crumbs

         2 tablespoons ground almonds 

Preheat oven to 300° F and adjust oven rack to center position. Brush an 8-inch spring form pan with butter. Cut a dish of parchment paper, or rice paper* to fit pan bottom. Brush paper with butter and fit into pan bottom. In a small bowl, combine cake flour, breadcrumbs, and almonds; evenly scatter over sides and bottom. 

* If using Asian-style rice paper wet the paper to make it easier to cut, then trim it to the correct size with scissors.

For the cake: 

         1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour, divided 

         1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided 

         1/4 teaspoon ground coriander 

         1/8 teaspoon ground clove 

         1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 

         ¼ teaspoon allspice

         1/8 teaspoon black pepper

         ¼ teaspoon cardamom 

         NOTE: Any spices may be used, If you do not like a particular spice, take it out

         1/2 cup honey 

         1/2 cup granulated sugar 

         1/2 cup candied citron, cut into small pieces 

         1/2 cup candied orange peel, cut into small pieces 

         1 cup almonds toasted and coarsely chopped**      

         Powdered (confectioner’s sugar) sugar 

** To toast nuts, preheat oven to 350° F.  Place nuts in a single layer in an ungreased shallow pan or rimmed baking sheet. Bake 5 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice during toasting to aid in even browning, or until they are golden brown. Remove from oven and remove from pan; let cool. In a small bowl, combine ½- cup cake flour, 1-teaspoon cinnamon, coriander, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, black pepper and cardamom set aside. In another small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of cake four and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon sugar; set mixture aside and save for the top.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine honey and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until mixture comes to a full boil: remove from heat. Stir in candied fruit and almonds or hazelnuts. Sift in flour mixture; stir until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Smooth top slightly with wet fingers. Sift reserved cinnamon-flour sugar mixture over the top. Place cake in center of middle oven rack. Bake 30 minute or until panforte just starts to simmer around edge of pan. Remove from oven; cool completely on a wire rack.

Loosen from pan by running a small knife around perimeter (if using a Spring form Pan, remove sides of spring form pan). Invert onto a wire rack, letting excess cinnamon flour fall away. Use knife to peel away parchment or rice paper. Invert panforte again and transfer onto a wire rack. Dust top with powdered sugar.

When cool, it can be wrapped in several layers of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil and stored in an airtight container for several weeks, or frozen for up to six months. Serve at room temperature. Before serving, dust lightly with additional powered sugar. Cut into small wedges to serve. Makes 16 servings. 

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