Makes one 5-1/2-inch cake: Serves 12 to 14
The Sienese have been making panforte since medieval times. Laced with spices, nuts, candied fruits, sugar, and a touch of white pepper, it plays the same role at Christmas in Tuscany that fruitcake does in the United States. If you should go to Siena, look for panforte's most respected purveyor, the venerable Nannini, with two shops in the city center.
Because of its richness and intense flavor—it is almost like a candy—panforte should be cut into small wedges for serving. A glass of Asti Spumante, usually dry for the men and sweet for the women, traditionally is offered with the cake.
Unsalted butter for cake pan
1-1/2 cups whole raw hazelnuts; roughly chopped
2/3 cup whole raw almonds; roughly chopped
1-3/4 cups diced mixed candied fruits
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch-round cake pan with butter. Cut out a round of parchment paper to fit the pan bottom precisely and slip the paper into the pan. Set aside.
Spread the hazelnuts and almonds in a shallow baking pan and place them in the preheated oven until they are lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the candied fruits, all of the spices, and the flour and stir together with a wooden spoon. Add the cooled nuts and stir to coat thoroughly with the flour mixture. Set aside.
In a small, heavy saucepan, stir together the granulated sugar and honey and then bring to a boil. Cook the mixture until it registers 250 degrees F. on a candy thermometer (hard-ball stage) or a small bit forms a hard ball when pressed between fingertips in ice water. Immediately pour the sugar syrup into the dry ingredients and stir until all the ingredients are well coated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Lightly dampen your hands and press the mixture evenly and firmly into the pan. The cake should be about 1 inch thick. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour. The cake will seem underdone at this point, but it will harden as it cools. Cool completely in the pan and then invert onto a platter. Sieve the powdered sugar over the top just before serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
The Il Fornaio Baking Book
Sweet and Savory Recipes
from the Italian Kitchen
By Franco Galli
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created November 2001
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