Panforte

Like me, I’m sure you’ve had panforte before, but do you know its history?

Here’s a little background courtesy of Wikipedia for some context while you munch. Hedy’s version pictured here is part of her confections plate today. Local honey and sugar are dissolved to form a softball (candy-making term) and then mixed into a heavy mass with dried cherries, flour, cinnamon, allspice, clove, cocoa powder, pistachios, hazelnuts, and almonds.  The dough is then pressed into a pan lined with rice paper and baked for 15 minutes at 325 degrees in her convection oven.

Panforte [literally “strong bread”] is a traditional Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts, and resembling fruitcake or Lebkuchen. It may date back to 13th century Siena, Tuscany. Documents from 1205 show that panforte was paid to the monks and nuns of a local monastery as a tax or tithe which was due on the seventh of February that year.  The original name of panforte was “panpepato” (peppered bread), due to the strong pepper used in the cake. There are references to the Crusaders carrying panforte, a durable confection, with them on their quests, and to the use of panforte in surviving sieges.

Currently there are many shops in Italy producing panforte, each recipe being their jealously guarded interpretation of the original confection and packaged in distinctive wrapping. Usually a small wedge is served with coffee or a dessert wine after a meal, though some enjoy it with their coffee at breakfast.

In Siena — which is regarded by many, not least most inhabitants of that city, as the panforte capital of Italy — it is sometimes said that panforte should properly contain seventeen different ingredients, seventeen being the number of Contrade within the city walls.

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