Panpepato – Medieval Christmas fruit bread from Ferrara

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Panpepato has been enjoyed in Central Italy, particularly Ferrara, since at least 1300. It is quite likely the original ancestor of English and American fruitcake and plum-pudding. The chocolate was added just 200 years ago. Its special “hot” and “sweet” flavors trace it to the medieval era. This fruit bread is a very special Christmas and New Year gift sent from Central Italy to friends far and near.

  • 1 1/2 pkg. dry yeast
  • 4 C. lukewarm water
  • 4 C. flour plus 3 T to dust the baking dish
  • 1/2 C. raisins
  • 1/2 C. walnuts, blanched
  • 1/2 C. almonds, blanched
  • 1/2 C. chocolate chips
  • 1/2 C. mixed candied fruit
  • 1/2 C. honey
  • 1/2 C. pitted dates
  • 1 1/3 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg


Dissolve the yeast in 1 C. water. Place 1 1/2 C. flour in a large bowl, add the dissolved yeast and mix until a small ball of dough is formed. Sprinkle with an additional 1/2 C. flour, cover with a cotton tea towel and put in a warm, draft free place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, soak the raisins in a small bowl with 2 C. lukewarm water for about 1 hour, drain well and reserve.

Chop the walnuts and almonds into small pieces, place in a large bowl. Add the chocolate chips, candied fruit and honey. Cut each date into 4 pieces and add to the bowl. Sprinkle 1 T. olive oil, the salt and pepper and nutmeg into the bowl. Mix well.

When the dough has doubled in size, add it to the fruit and nut mixture, along with the drained raisins. Mix with a wooden spoon until well amalgamated. Add 1 C. lukewarm water and 2 C. flour, little by little, while mixing gently for about 10 minutes.

Use the remaining 1/3 T. olive oil to grease an 8 inch springform pan, then dust with the 3 T. flour. Tap out any excess flour and place the dough into the pan. Cover with a cotton tea towel and put in a warm place to double in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 °F.

When the dough has doubled in size, place the pan in the oven and bake for about 65 minutes.

Cool on rack and remove the pan.