Christmas has invaded our cities with lights and decorations, and soon even our houses and we of Opera in The Kitchen are dedicating ourselves in looking for and cooking Christmas dishes for our events.
A typical product for Tuscany is Panforte of Siena or Panpepato, a particular type of sweet bread with an ancient history.
The scent of honey and the strong smell of spices make this Christmas cake unique: the secret to preparing an excellent panforte at home is the selection of ingredients, which must be strictly quality, from fresh and crunchy almonds to candied fruit, up to millefiori honey.
Panforte di Siena, or Panpepato, has very ancient origins: the first written testimonies seem to date back to the Middle Ages.
The story of the dessert begins inside the monasteries, which could afford the ingredients of panforte, very expensive for the time, such as almonds, sugar, candied fruit (orange and melon) and various spices. This particular dessert was served on special occasions, it was exclusively intended for noble classes and members of the clergy.
The origin of the name of this dessert dates back to the Latin panem fortis, literally ‘sour bread’, as the less well-off classes used to prepare a focaccia made with water and flour, to which honey and pieces of fruit were added. The result of the recipe was a product with a rather sour taste, due to the fact that the fruit was added fresh and did not dry completely, causing the fermentation of the same.
The Panforte recipe has remained unchanged over time until 1879, the year when Queen Margherita decided to go and visit Siena. For this important visit, they decided to pay homage to the queen by varying the preparation of the dessert: eliminating the melon and using the vanilla sugar as a cover. The dessert born in this circumstance was called Panforte Margherita, one of the best known versions of Panpepato.
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