In Byron Bay on Australia’s east coast it doesn’t need to be Christmas to enjoy the delightful panforte made by talented artisan bakers Faith and Sally. I spend winter in Byron with my family and I always return to Victoria with Faith and Sally’s panforte, that they make year round, for my nan who then slices it wafer thin to make it last to go with as many cups of tea as possible.
Panforte originates in Italy and literally translates to ‘strong bread’, a specialty in the region of Siena it is also known as Siena Cake. It dates back to the thirteenth century and there are a number of stories to be found about the origins of panforte. One being that farmers for the Convent Montecellesci made panforte as a tribute to the nuns.
This Christmas I’ve experimented and made my own as gifts for friends and family. Nan tells me it is as good as Faith and Sally’s. I’m not convinced about that but I am happy with the spicy, nutty, fruity, chocolatey result!
This recipe is gluten free and was inspired by the recipe in ‘More gorgeous gluten free’ by Carole Hofflin. The recipe is very flexible, you can substitute any number of the ingredients. Carole’s recipe calls for 300g of mixed peel, I’m not a fan of mixed peel so I left it out and added dates and cranberries. Switch the walnuts for pecans. And so on.
400g whole almonds, blanched
250g walnuts, roughly chopped
250g dried figs, chopped
100g dried cranberries
100g glace ginger, chopped
150g dried dates, chopped
300g dark chocolate, chopped
100g brown rice flour
100g almond meal
3 tspns cocoa powder
2 tspns ground cinnamon
1 tspn white pepper
1 tspn ground nutmeg
1 tspn ground coriander seeds
100g raw or brown sugar
Pre-heat oven to 160C degrees.
Into a large bowl place walnuts, dried fruits, rice flour, almond meal, spices, cocoa and chocolate.
Mix all ingredients well.
Toast the almonds and while still hot add the to the mixture.
Place the water, honey, and sugar into a saucepan and gently bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves and taking care not to burn.
Pour the sugar syrup over the fruit and nut mix and stir quickly and thoroughly.
Tip mixture into a lined (bottom and sides) lamington tray.
Using the back of a wooden spoon press the mix evenly into the tray.
Bake for 35 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool completely before removing from the tray.
Cut into rectangles or triangles and store in an airtight container. It will keep for several weeks.
Optional: dust with pure icing sugar. Enjoy!