All images © Valery Rizzo
Last year I made Struffoli for New Years Eve, so this year I was planning to make my personal favorite during the holidays, Panetone, but then I found out how difficult it was to make, so instead I settled on trying my hand at baking a Panforte, which is super easy.
My father is the one who introduced me to Coluccio in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Technically called D. Coluccio & Sons and is located on 60th Street just a couple blocks away from the elevated train over New Utrecht Avenue in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn. Coluccio was my no brainer go to place for all my ingredients for my Panforte.
You believe your in Italy when your inside the Italian Specialty shop, everyone who shops there is Italian. They have a huge selection of farro, kamut, mushroom, dark wheat and other specialty pastas that I never find anywhere else. I also noticed they have all sorts of interesting flours and semolina to bake with like almond flour for example. Italian sodas, sparkling waters, cookies, chocolate, imported cheese and meats, espresso makers, I even found carob pods. I purchased my candied fruit, dried figs, dates and peeled almonds for the Panforte and then picked up all the spices at The Park Slope Food Coop, best spices around.
Panforte is a traditional Sienese cake and dates back to the 13th century, so I dedicated this holiday cake to my niece, Siena, who my sister named after the beautiful town in Italy. It is a highly spiced fruit cake and has all the warmth of winter. You can enjoy a small slice of it with tea or serve after a meal with coffee and liqueurs. It's also follows Antonio Carluccio's recipe from the book, Two Greedy Italian's Eat Italy, only I doubled the ingredients to make a slightly thicker 8 inch round cake. You could also easily make a smaller 4 or 6 inch cake using half of the ingredients.
Panforte Senese (Traditional Sienese Cake)
Rice paper, for lining
600g dried figs and dates, pitted
4 tbsp runny honey
100ml Vin Santo
1 teaspoon each of ground cloves, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg
6 tbsp plain flour (I used unbleached all purpose flour)
200g soft brown sugar
600g candied fruit (citron, lemon, orange etc.) I used citron
200g peeled almonds
icing sugar, for dusting
Makes 1 8in cake (1 inch thick)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8 inch round baking tin with edible rice paper. ( I used a round tin with a removable base and trimmed my rice paper into a circle.)
Mince the figs and dates coarsely, then put into a saucepan. Add the honey and cover with the Vin Santo. Add the spices, flour and brown sugar, and melt over gentle heat until everything comes together. Cook gently for 10 min.
Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the candied fruit and almonds. Mix well and pour everything into the lined baking tin. Bake for 40 to 45 min., then remove from the oven and leave to cool. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve cut into morsels or thin slices.