By Michael Paul

This traditional, gooey Italian sweet treat containing dried fruits, nuts and candied peel originates in Siena, Tuscany, and is synonymous with the taste of Christmas for many Italians.

Serves 8-10

Similar to a florentine but much thicker, it’s the perfect end to a meal with coffee and a glass of Vino Santo, Marsala or any sweet wine. I often wrap it in a suitable box and give it as a homemade Christmas gift. In Siena, which is regarded as the panforte capital of Italy, it is said that a proper panforte should contain 17 different ingredients – 17 being the number of Contrade (districts) within the city walls. Don’t be afraid to add the white pepper – it makes the Panforte more spicy.

Flavourless oil, for greasing Edible rice paper (optional)

150g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

150g shelled pistachios, whole

50g candied peel, chopped

200g dried fruit, chopped (we used large raisins, cherries and apricots)

100g plain flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cardamom

A pinch of white pepper

150g organic honey

150g organic golden caster sugar

2 tbsp Marsala or any fortified wine or liqueur

Icing sugar, to dust


Preheat the oven to 150°C. Grease and line the base of a 20cm springform cake tin with the edible rice paper or baking parchment. In a mixing bowl, add the nuts, candied peel and dried fruit. Sift over the flour and spices, and mix together by hand to coat the flour over everything.

Heat the honey, sugar and fortified wine (if using) in a saucepan over medium heat. Bubble for 3-4 minutes, or until the sugar has melted. If you have a sugar thermometer, heat until the temperature reaches 115°C. Pour the hot liquid over the fruit and nuts, then mix quickly as it will thicken very fast. Then scrape the mixture into the tin and use the back of a wet metal spoon to flatten.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the surface is still soft but not sticky – it will firm up as it cools. If it is still sticky to touch, it needs a bit longer – but don’t over-bake. Leave to cool in the tin for 25-30 minutes, then remove using a knife to release any sticky edges. If using baking parchment, peel it off and discard; edible rice paper can be left on.

Cool completely on a wire rack, then dust generously with icing sugar. Cut into thin wedges to serve. It will keep, wrapped in baking parchment in an airtight tin, for up to a month.


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