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|Place of origin||Italy|
|Region or state||Tuscany|
|Main ingredients||Nuts, honey, sugar, fruits, spices|
Panforte is a traditional chewy Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts. It is similar to a florentine but much thicker, or a little like a lebkuchen. Its origins date back to the crusaders who discovered it in Turkey. The soldiers used this staple on their long marches as it kept well due its excessive honey based content. Honey was abundant in Turkey and in the Middle East and formed part of the Turkish delight and other desserts. There are references to the Crusaders carrying panforte, a durable confection, with them on their quests, and to the use of panforte in surviving sieges. They, in turn brought it back on their long voyage back home. In Italy's Tuscany region, particularly Siena, today claims to have been the origin of this dessert.
Given that honey was such a prized and scarce commodity from the Holy Land, documents from 1205 show that panforte was paid to the monks and nuns of a local monastery as a tax or tithe which was due on the seventh of February that year. Literally, panforte means "strong bread" which refers to the spicy flavour. Originally the Sienese called it "panpepato" (peppered bread), due to the strong pepper used. Other Arab influences in Northern Italian cuisine include the Schiaccia briaca and Alchermes. The latter, though prized as a Tuscan specialty, actually comes from Persia where it is considered an elixir for longevity. The name comes from the Arabic and Persian words that describe the liqueur's striking scarlet-pink colour, originally made from cochineal insects.
The process of making panforte is fairly simple. Sugar is dissolved in honey and various nuts, fruits and spices are mixed together with flour. The entire mixture is baked in a shallow pan. The finished disc is dusted with icing sugar. Commercially produced panforte often have a band of rice-paper around the edge.
Currently there are many shops in Italy producing panforte, each recipe being their jealously guarded interpretation of the original confection and packaged in distinctive wrapping. Usually a small wedge is served with coffee or a dessert wine after a meal, though some enjoy it with their coffee at breakfast.
In Siena—which is regarded by many, if not most inhabitants of that city, as the panforte capital of Italy—it is sometimes said that panforte should properly contain seventeen different ingredients, seventeen being the number of Contrade within the city walls.
Panforte at a shop in San Gimignano
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- Panforte Di Siena—history
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