Panforte, a traditional medieval Tuscan confection and a specialty of Siena, is beginning to be seen on market shelves throughout the neighborhood. The best description of this classic Italian confection may be that it is like a cross between a fruitcake and candy. Although translated as “strong bread” it is not bread at all but rather a spicy, chewy flat sweet cake full of candied fruits and nuts slow-baked with honey and flavored with medieval spices of cloves, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg and white pepper. It has a rich, complex flavor, a delicately perfumed scent and a pleasant moist and chewy texture.

Sources conflict about the origin of the name. “Pan” or bread could reflect the pizza like shape and “forte” may be derived from old recipes when the candied fruit was fermented in honey syrup or in some hot seasons the topping would sour or “forte” in the jargon of the times.

The classic lighter colored variety, Panforte Margherita, is dusted in powdered sugar, while other varieties may be covered in dark chocolate or white marzipan. The base of the cake is baked-on edible paper.

Panforte makes a unique hostess present or a special treat to have on hand when holiday visitors stop by. Serve this dense cake cut into thin wedges with your afternoon café or after dinner with a sweet dessert wine such as a Tuscan “Vin Santo.”

Available at:
Dairy Fresh Candies
57 Salem St
Boston, MA 02113
Tel (617) 742-2639

Salumeria Italiana
151 Richmond St.
Boston, MA
Tel (617) 523-8743

Polcari’s Coffee
105 Salem St.
Boston, MA
Tel (617) 227-0786

Modern Pastry
257 Hanover St.
Boston, MA 02113
Tel (617) 523-3783