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Panforte & Siena - Part 1

Christmas is literally around the corner and in these past few days I have been busy baking sweets for family and friends. Panforte is one that is very popular in my family and a sweet that lends itself well to variations depending on what ingredients I have at home.  I like to start with a base recipe that has been fail proof over the years and have varied the dried/candied fruits, trialed different nuts and added or deleted the chocolate and spices.  There are many great recipes to follow depending on your tastes.

This year I made some Lisborn orange marmalade and decided that instead of using honey and sugar, I would substitute and use my marmalade.  I also like to add chocolate or cocoa with cinnamon and nutmeg.  If you like a jaffer taste, then this recipe is a must.

My visit to Siena inspired me to look further into the making of Panforte that is typical of this medieval town in Tuscany.

Sinatti is a well known name both in Italy and around the world.   Panforte Ricciarelli Artiginali produces many Sienese sweets and I ventured into one of their outlets to be totally overwhelmed with their selections of 'gems'. Those that top the list are cavallucci, ricciarelli and panforte.  The Sienese are proud of these local specialties and so they should be.  There is great appreciation of these sweets especially during Christmas time and one of my favourites is the Panforte.  

Entering the store, I was in awe by their varied selections of panforte and could not decide on which one to buy, so I bought a few. One in particular which I love is the combination of almonds, figs and chocolate.  Visit their website for the full range.  Hence the beginning of my fascination with trialing different ingredients. 

Panforte di Carmen


90 g hazelnuts
45 g walnuts 
45 g almonds
90 g candied peel finely chopped*
45 g cocoa
75 g all purpose flour (plain)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar*
1/3 cup honey*

*(these ingredients were substituted with 1 cup of orange marmalade)

Combine all of the ingredients except the sugar and honey (or marmalade) in a bowl.

Put the sugar and honey in a saucepan and heat slowly, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to boiling point and continue cooking until a little of the mixture dropped into cold water forms a soft ball, or thermometer reaches 115 C. 

If you are using the marmalade, you can skip this step as the mixture has already reached this point.  You can warm up the marmalade to soften it.  Add the syrup or marmalade to the other ingredients and stir to combine.

Transfer the mixture to a rectangular tray lined with baking paper. For this quantity, I used 2 trays measuring 25cm x 7cm.  Use a firm spatula or the back of a spoon to smooth and flatten the surface in the tray. 

Bake in a slow oven 150 C for 35 minutes.  Cool in the pan, then turn out and sprinkle liberally with confectioners' sugar. Using a sharp knife, cut 1 inch slices or squares for serving. 

Alternatively you can leave them as long slices and wrap them individually as they make lovely gifts.

This will be my last post for 2015, so I will leave you with some images I took of the Siena Cathedral - Saint Mary of the Assumption.  I wish you all peace, love, and contentment in all that you do.  Merry Christmas!


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