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Pan

Panforte and other "secret" desserts

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I spent 35 days in Siena in 1991, 21 in 1994, and returned for a short visit in 1998. I love Siena, and I love panforte! For those of you who haven't yet had the pleasure of tasting (and chewing on) panforte, it is a dense confection of flour, powdered sugar, almonds, candied citron peel, candied melon, I believe honey, and spices. It's so dense that it's sold by the etto (centigram or .100 kilograms). I love almost every type of panforte - margherita, tipo marzapane (in which the almonds are made into a paste instead of kept whole), tipo cioccolato (to which chocolate is added). (There's another type I find less good though certainly acceptable, and I forget its name, but it's spicier [by which I don't mean it has any pepper in it!].) As some of you no doubt know, panforte is made according to a secret formula known only to artisans in Siena and their diehard allies in the wars with Florence in the 14th century, the small walled town of Monteriggioni. All panforti in existence in the world come from either Siena or Monteriggioni.

Do you like panforte? What other Italian towns produce unique desserts whose secret formulas have been closely guarded from generation to generation? Please share! :smile:


Michael aka "Pan

 

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I love Panforte, and Siena, but my preference goes to the more spicy panforte nero or pan pepato. I got hooked as a kid, since my grandmother had friends in Siena who would send her some, and the also delicious ricciarelli, every Christmas. Now whenever I'm in Siena I have to eat at least a little bit every day.

I'm not sure, since I don't have my panforte recipe at hand, but I believe there is a bit of pepper in every kind of panforte. The spice mix formula is actually what every producer keeps as his most-guarded secret.

There's quite a few desserts which recipe is or was secretely guarded. Between the middle ages and the end of the XVIII century most pastries in Southern and Central Italy where produced by nuns and, to a lesser extent, monks. Most of these recipes were only made in a single monastry and the recipe was kept secret. Once the power of the church begun to dwindle many religious institutions closed and many of the recipes for the sweets made there where sold, exclusively, to pastry makers. Quite a few Neapolitan sweets which make up the traditional Christmas dessert, like Susamielli and Divino Amore, have a similar story. Today most of these recipes are not a secret anymore but there are still a few nuns making traditional desserts with a secret recipe in a few places in Italy.

To finish a picture of a few traditional Neapolitan Christmas sweets:

i11000.jpg

from top in clockwise order: susamielli, mostaccioli, rococo', reffioli semplici, frutta di marzapane, mostaccioli morbidi, and, in the center in pink, Divino Amore.


Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.

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Those Christmas sweets look great, and I love Neapolitan pastries! But so far, I've been in Italy only in the summertime, unfortunately (not that I'm really complaining :smile:).

By the way, I love ricciarelli too, but I doubt the recipe is very secret - they're just marzipan cookies.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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What other Italian towns produce unique desserts whose secret formulas have been closely guarded from generation to generation? Please share!  :smile:

I suggest the "Bunet Astigiano" (or "Bonet"), an easy to made piedmontese pudding consisting of amaretti, egg, milk, cream, chocolate and caramel.

It's not really a secret, but I've never seen it served outside of the Piedmont. When googling, you'll find at least a dozen, sometimes quite different recipes regarding the quantities of the ingredients. Therefore I suspect some secrecy when it comes to implementation.


Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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By the way, I love ricciarelli too, but I doubt the recipe is very secret - they're just marzipan cookies.

Absoultely. It's just that in my memories panforte and ricciarell go hand in hand, so once you mentioned panforte I couldn't stop thinking of ricciarelli. I guess my stomach took over :smile: .


Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.

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There's another type I find less good though certainly acceptable, and I forget its name, but it's spicier by which I don't mean it has any pepper in it!

Pan - I think that you are thinking of either panforte nero or pan pepato, as mentioned by albiston. As you can proberly guess "pan pepato" does have a bit of pepper in it! I love panforte, my Italian in-laws are fully paid up Sienese contrada members, so we go there a few times a year. For our wedding in Australia we had my sister in law and her boss bring back two 5 kilo panforte, one margherita, one pan pepato - they were our wedding cakes.

You may get lucky and track down an original recipe from a disgruntled, down on their luck Sienese, but I doubt it. But a basic recipe is pretty easy and fun to make. Basically a soft nougat of cooked down honey and some flour which is mixed together with nuts/fruit and spices. Texture can be altered by mixing through ground almonds etc. This is then cooked in a very low oven and then allowed to cool. Keeps forever. I have two differnent types in the flat at the moment.

Tell me that you tried some Ricciarelli while in Siena? One of the worlds greatest almond/macaroon type cakes.

One of the great things about traveling in Italy is the different types of cakes that you find from town to town. "St. Lucy's eyes", "ugly, but good", "bones of St. X", "cantucci", fig pastries in Lipari, mazipan fruit for Sicily. The list is enless in terms of my ability to eat them all.

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By the way, I love ricciarelli too, but I doubt the recipe is very secret - they're just marzipan cookies.

I see that you did. The are not quite mazipan, although they share similar ingredients. One thing with making these is to let the raw "dough" rest overnight one the cakes/biscuits have been formed. Not sure why this makes a difference, maybe because it allows the almond flavour to develop (the "bitter" almond flavour develops in an aqueous setting).

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here is my panforte recipe and My ricciarelli recipe ( the foto was tweeked by my web guy, the aren't pointy!!!

Enjoy!

I adore the black pepper in the panforte..and the chocolate powder makes it dark or not..

The fabulous Droghe Toscane, used for the flavouring , are similare to pumpkin pie spice, but better..

cinnamon, mace. nutmeg, coriander and more!

There are several blends, they are also used by butchers for seasoning sausages and I use mine in my ragu... tomatoless... as in pre-Columbus !!!

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Yeah, Nannini. Love that place! They make great panforte, but I was fascinated by all the other cookies and pastries they make at their flagship shop on Banchi di Sopra in Siena.

I'm impressed that some of you have sort of reverse-engineered panforte.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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One of my instructors at cooking school had spent several years in Europe with the Canadian Armed Forces. He visited Italy on occasion, and brought back a panforte recipe; which we made for Christmas. I loved it, and made a point of copying the recipe. Plan on making it this year.


"The only questions that really matter are the ones you ask yourself."

Ursula K. Le Guin

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

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I don't know the intracacies of panforte, but I know I like them. Here is a request I got from a customer

Panforte di Siena - Margherita

The flavor is hard to describe.  It had a spice in it that was tantalizing, but I could not identify.

The crust was modestly powdered & the panforte had fruit (perhaps orange peel) & nuts (almonds for sure) in it.  I don't know if that is much help or not, but it was dense, somewhat dark, mildly sweet & delicious.  I wish I had saved the rest of  the label as I think it may have had a hint of cocoa in it.

THIS is the specific one they are wanting me to re-create.

Can anyone point me to a recipe that they trust? And does anyone have a US source for the candied melon?

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There are two similar confections : panforte ( with variations described earlier in this forum ) and also panpepato / pampepato which literally means "peppered bread" and DOES infact contain pepper. If anyone is interested I shall return to pampepato later. The last time I was in Florence they were selling panforte and its spicier, darker cousin (pampepato) side by side in patisseries.

I have not made panforte / pampepato but the following recipe is translated from an Italian book "Ricettario della cucina regionale italiana" published by Touring Club Italiano ISBN :

88-365-2420-6 ( later versions may be available now). Note that the book is written in ITALIAN.

Like many European cookery books they assume you have a family of 20 to feed (no indication of how many this serves) and details are slim :

Panforte Margherita

INGREDIENTS :

2.5 Kg sugar, 3 Kg candied citron peel ( cut into cubes ), 500g candied orange peel ( cut into cubes ), 3Kg almonds (whole, peeled and lightly roasted), 500g of sugar/almond marzipan, 500g wheat flour (Italian type 00), 50g vanilla sugar, 50g vanilla pods (v finely minced), 50g cinnamon (powdered), 30g ground nutmeg.

METHOD :

Make a very dense syrup by dissolving the sugar in some water until it reaches the thread stage. Then add flour and mixed peels, the almonds and all spices. Knead lightly and put into a prepared metal ring on a large rice wafer. It should be at least 2cm thick, and as much as 4-6cm thick. Sprinkle with icing sugar. Bake at 160C for 20-45 mins depending on the size of the round. After baking and cooling, re-sprinkle with icing sugar containing vanilla sugar. Pack the panforte carefully as it is hygroscopic (absorbs water from the environment). If hermetically sealed keeps well for several months.

SO. This version doesn't contain melon (popone candito) nor cocoa. Because I've not tried the recipe and because the ingredients are so expensive I suggest a small trial one first.

There are many panforte recipes on the Net in Italian. With the aid of Google translation you can get other recipes and compare the proportions - I usually do this myself to get a feel for what's going to work.

Good luck and please tell us all how it went and share any useful tips. Thx. Paola

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