Panforte, literally “strong bread” in Italian, originated in Sienna in the middle ages as a sort of tribute paid to the monks and nuns, or so the story goes. In any case, it’s now a rich, fruit and nut cake made for the holidays and enjoyed all over Italy and a good many other places as well. High end stores sell panforte at steep prices, but you can easily make it at home. This maple syrup-sweetened version goes together quickly and bakes in only about 35 minutes. Serve with coffee or tea.
(recipe adapted from the Esalen Cookbook)
preheat oven to 350˚ F/ serves 12-16
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/4 cups raisins, lightly packed
1 cup chopped dried apples and pears
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
1. Measure the first nine ingredients, including the apples and pears, into a large sauce pan and heat just until everything comes to boil. Turn off the heat and let it sit a few minutes.
2. Meanwhile, measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda and almonds into a medium mixing bowl. Stir together well to combine.
3. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet, and stir together to thoroughly combine.
4. Pour into an oiled, preferably round, 10″ cake or tart pan. Spread, and smooth to make it even.
5. Bake in a preheated 350˚F oven 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
6. Cool on a wire rack before attempting to cut.
7. While I usually don’t use refined sugar in any form, because it is traditional for this cake and because I was making this for a New Year’s party, I dusted it with a little bit of powdered sugar.