Antonella’s panforte

Antonella’s panforte

Panforte di Antonella

By
From
Tuscany
Serves
10-12
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

Panforte (meaning ‘strong bread’) is found in all Sienese patisserie shops. It is a firm, chewy cake packed with nuts and spices. It is thought to date back to the 13th century as documents show it was given by traders to monks and nuns as a form of tax. Spice, although hugely expensive and exotic, was traded in Siena at the time through connections with the Middle East. It has taken Stefano Borella (a chef at our cookery school) and me years to be able to make a panforte that we are happy with, so a massive thank you to Antonella Secciani for sharing her precious recipe with us.

In 1879, Queen Margherita of Savoy paid a visit to Siena and a local spice seller made a version of the panforte cake with a white layer of vanilla-flavoured sugar on top in her honour, instead of black pepper; this is still available today. There are also darker versions with cocoa powder, others with walnuts, dried figs and many more. Every panforte-maker has their own secret blend of panforte spices and they never give away their recipes. Antonella’s recipe is simple, but you can experiment by adding pinches of ground black pepper, nutmeg, coriander, cloves and ginger. The spice rub is not essential but I rather like the hint of peppery heat that it gives.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
100g ‘00’ flour, plus extra for tin and jar
150g almonds, skin on
125g caster sugar
3 tablespoons mild honey
150g mixture of candied cedro
150g candied orange peel, finely diced
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the spice rub

Quantity Ingredient
1 teaspoon icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch finely grated nutmeg

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 20 cm cake tin with baking parchment and sprinkle a little flour over it. Put a little extra flour on a small plate and set aside.
  2. Get a heavy-bottomed glass jar ready. Put the almonds on a baking tray and roast them for 5 minutes until they start to darken in colour and the skins start to crack. Remove from the oven and set aside. Leave the oven on.
  3. Put the sugar, 2 tablespoons of water and honey into a saucepan and place over a medium–high heat for 5–7 minutes until the mixture reaches 105°C on a sugar thermometer, or until the mixture is gently bubbling. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan, including the toasted almonds, and stir for 3 minutes. It will be tough to stir but it is important to warm up the flour, so keep stirring until the time is up. Spoon the mixture into the lined tin.
  4. Dip the bottom of the glass jar into the flour on the plate and use it to bash the mixture down and flatten it into the tin. Do this quickly before it sets. Transfer the panforte to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then remove and set aside to cool.
  5. When cool, remove the panforte from the tin and peel off the baking parchment. Combine the ingredients for the spice rub in a bowl. Scatter it over the panforte to coat it evenly on both sides. It will keep if dry and covered at room temperature for a couple of weeks. Serve in small slices as it is very rich.
Tags:
Italy
Italian
Caldesi
Tuscany
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