Hailing from Siena, this is a traditional Tuscan Christmas sweet. It's a dense, fruit-heavy treat that I make every year. Panforte means 'strong bread.' This Margherita version is laden with figs, candied citrus and nuts; the Nero version includes cocoa powder, espresso, and bits of chocolate. While Panforte Nero is my favorite, I opted for Panforte Margherita this year because we had a lot of chocolate treats already.
LEARN THIS PROCESS! This is a basic panforte into which you can use whatever dried fruits and nuts you happen to have on-hand. This version includes dried figs, dried cranberries, candied citron, hazelnuts, pistachios, and almonds. BE CREATIVE...COOK FEARLESSLY!
2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 Tablespoons dried citron
1 cup whole almonds, raw
1 cup whole hazelnuts, raw
1/2 C pistachios, raw
1 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup candied ginger, diced
2 cups dried figs, destemmed and quartered
3/4 cup organic granulated sugar
2/3 cup honey (I used a local sage honey)
1 Tablespoons maple syrup
Also needed: candy thermometer, springform pan, parchment paper, butter or oil
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line springform pan with parchment paper - along the bottom and the sides. Butter or grease the paper well.
Whisk together flour and spices in a large mixing bowl, then stir in nuts and fruit.
Bring sugar, honey, and maple syrup to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then boil without stirring until thermometer registers 238 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
Immediately pour honey over fruit mixture and stir until combined; the mixture will be very thick and sticky. Spoon mixture into prepared springform pan, spreading evenly with back of spoon. Dampen your hands and press mixture firmly and evenly into pan to compact it as much as you can.
Bake until edges start to rise slightly and become dry, approximately 50 to 55 minutes. Cool panforte completely in pan, then remove the sides of pan. To serve, slice with a serrated knife into thin pieces.
While this is traditionally a Christmas dessert, everyone to whom I gave slices loved it. So I am thinking that I will make it again soon. Maybe for Valentines' Day or Easter.