It is not only a change in season and temperature that one feels around October each year, but also a change in focus from my wonderful friend Cate. Each year around October she starts to casually (or not so casually ) drop into our conversations the subject of panfortes and have I started my preparations for making them this year? Her concern is not one of unease for the burden this might place on me, but more out of will she be receiving hers again this year and when might that event occur?
You see, Cate loves her panforte and devours it wholeheartedly and avariciously each year at Christmas……..and for this I love her dearly! A cook can not ask for any better compliment than seeing the sheer joy on the face of a good and trusted friend, as a cellophane wrapped round of panforte is presented to her.
So, my beautiful Cate, this post is dedicated to you and your love affair with Panforte. Its a love affair that has lasted at least 17 years…….May you always be in my life so that I can continue to experience the joy that this small gesture of a gift provides you.
As an aside, Cate gave birth to another Panforte lover 7 years ago….the legend will continue to the next generation with our beautiful Bella. I can see myself making these damn cakes at 80!
I have provided the recipe on my recipes page and realise that this may be a little late for some readers to make for Christmas and or gifts. However Panforte is made and available in Italy all year round, I just happen to make it at Christmas so that I can limit the amount that Cate consumes in a year, and it does make for a lovely gift. I have no issues in doubling the recipe and making two at a time. The results are generally good. If you are going to be making several panfortes then I would recommend buying your glace fruit and nuts in bulk from a warehouse. My Hunter friends should head to Bibina in Warners Bay. Sydney friends head to the treasure troves found in the Greek warehouses and wholesalers in Marrickville. Perhaps readers have other suggestions? Panforte is delicious served in thin wedges with a strong espresso or a cup of tea. You can dust your finished cake with icing sugar for a lovely effect.
For our historians, I consulted the food techys Larousse Gastronomique and found that Panforte di Siena was created around the 13th Century in Tuscany. Its earliest forms included pepper, and some panforte recipes still have this listed as a traditional ingredient. I prefer the non pepper variety (and I suspect Cate does too) and opt for more cinnamon type spices. Again as I am not a lover of mixed peel I eliminate it from the recipe and add more glace fruit. I have provided the original recipe, but feel free to experiment.
The term panforte literally means ‘strong bread’ and relates to the spices used in the recipe. It is also a durable bread or cake, and history notes its use in the crusades and quests of the era. The sugar and honey provide a “preservative function” for the cake, so that it can last for several weeks without spoiling. I doubt that Cate’s panfortes have ever been put to this test!
Enjoy! TBH xx