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Panforte and Panpepato

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Adjust Servings:
300 gr Almonds Not Peeled
150 gr Candied orange
150 gr. Candied Citron
300 gr. All Purpose flour
250 gr Sugar
150 gr. Honey
25 gr. Spieces
for garnish Icing Sugar

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Panforte and Panpepato


    • 1 hour and a half
    • Serves 6
    • Medium




    Christmas’ period is approching and I like preparing some typical cakes in advance.

    I like to start from the typical ones of my territory that is Siena. There are at least three of them that I would like to prepare but I want to start from the most famous that is the “Panforte”. I will definetly add this recipe to my Christmas Cooking Classes 

    As many ancient recipes even this one is undefined, but it is said that its name comes from its medieval origin “sa di forte” that means “strong-flavored”, this is a Tuscan way to say that something has a very strong taste.

    At the very beginning, up to the X Century, Panforte was called “Panmelato”, a very easy recipe with poor ingredients like water, flour and some dried fruits and little honey . This bread was born from the early tradition of placing water in empty honey pots, then flour was added to use every last drop of the honey and thus a sweet bread was made. Pieces of fresh fruit or dried fruit was added, and because of this, the bread did not last long before becoming pungent in flavor. Thus the “forte” definition.

    During the second half of the XIII Century some new spieces like pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, came from the East and they were added to the original recipe giving it  flavor and scent.

    Pepper, cloves and cinnamon were attributed many qualities, including many medical virtues which were nonexistent. Nonetheless, they did give new flavor to foods and actually helped prolong the how long food stayed fresh.

    But spices were also very expensive and rare. Considered precious goods, they were appreciated as much as gold, or even more. They were offered to churches or monasteries by merchants coming back from risky but successful journeys to the far East. This is why it was within Abbeys that the first apothecary shops were born. They were the pharmacies of the time and since food can cure the body, the jump from medicine to food is quite short and spices were added to food.

    The resulting bread gains stronger flavor and a longer shelf life becoming Panpepato or “pepper” bread. Thus is born the king of sweets from Siena, with only its name to remind us of its humble origins. No longer “forte”, panforte is a combination of spices such as black pepper and cinnamon, honey, flour, almonds and candied (citron,orange and melon).

    There are many legends around the origins of these two delicious cakes but the only true story is the one of the “Panforte Margherita“, the most known version of Panforte without candied melon and covered with powdered sugar instead of black pepper and spices. It was created from a seller of spices because of the visit of the Queen Margherita of Savoy. The main ingredients of Margherita are honey, almonds, citron orange and spieces.

    Here you find the method to prepare the Panforte. Panpepato is slightly different. The ingredients for the dough are the same except that for Panpepato you have to add candied melon and you have to drizzle the top with pepper and spices instead of powdered sugar.

    Please note ! In the ingredients below you will find “Spieces” 25 gr. This is maybe the tricky part because you should grind the same quantity of : cinnamon,nutmeg,cloves and black sweet pepper. I have my “speziale” in Siena and he grinds spices for me … if you are very interested in preparing this particular cake I can get in contact with him.



    Toast the almonds

    Toast the almonds lightly in the oven


    Dissolve honey with sugar

    In a small pan drop the honey and stir with a wooden spoon at a medium heat.
    Then add the sugar in three steps, continuing stiring untill the mixture is well blended and add also three table spoon of water. Before it starts to boil stir well and turn off heat.


    Mix the ingredients

    In a bowl or in a planetary mixer mix flour, spices and candied . Mix a little bit and then add almonds and the mixture of honey and sugar. Mix not more then one minute.


    Give shape and bake

    Line the bottom of a mold of about 20 cm. diameter with the wafer and pour in the mixture. Press down to flat it and cover it with lot of flour that works as a weight to remove bubbles during the cooking and also to avoid burning the top.
    Bake at 160 °C for 25/30 minutes.


    After baking

    Get the Panforte out from the oven and let it cool. Unmold it and sprinkle with plenty of icing sugar.

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