Tuscan Pan Forte is an ancient, and may I say a better, version of today’s fruitcake. Very delicious with lots of unique flavors, easy to make, and even easier to eat. A colleague in Italy, Judy Witts Francini, (divinacucina.com), posted a recipe that she loves. She has a wonderful blog and cooking school near Florence, Italy. She is American, went to Italy, and never looked back. We took cooking lessons from her almost 10 years ago in her apartment in Florence. We toured the Centrale Market and enjoyed her unbridled enthusiasm for all great food in Italy. I am hoping she comes to IL Fiorello to share her amazing talents. She has one of the best blogs in Italy, and great cookbooks. (Hint, her cookbooks make great Christmas gifts.)
I, of course, took the challenge of making Pan Forte, but added and subtracted a bit to suit my tastes, and what is available in California. I added crystallized ginger and lots of homemade candied lemon and orange peel. Explore Judy’s website for her original recipe at the link above. Here is my version from IL Fiorello’s Kitchen in the Grove for you. Accept the challenge, try the recipe, and add your own twist.
Merry Christmas! May you enjoy Panforte with a glass of Vin Santo.
IL Fiorello Pan Forte
1 lb. toasted nuts (equal amounts of walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, pecans)
1 lb. mixed dried fruits, cut into small pieces
(Use equal amounts of dried figs, candied lemon, candied orange peel, dried sour cherries, apricots, and candied ginger in whatever percentage you love)
1 tsp finely ground black pepper
(I use half black pepper and half long pepper for fragrance)
4 tablespoons total of the following spices ground together
Ginger, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Coriander, Cardamom seeds
(Use 2 tablespoons for the Pan Forte and reserve 2 tablespoons for the topping)
1 tablespoon bittersweet cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey, I love dark bitter Chestnut honey for this cake.
1 and ½ cups AP (All Purpose) flour
¼ cup flour
2 tbsp. of the seasoning mixture (see above ingredients)
2 tbsp. bitter sweet cocoa powder
- Toast the nuts, either in a pan on the stove, or under the broiler. Watch carefully that they do not burn
- Mix the fruit and nuts together
- Add the flour, spice mixture, pepper, and cocoa powder and mix well
- Heat the sugar and honey together until combined
- Add the sugar and honey mixture to the fruits and nuts
- Mix together
I use a marble top surface and just mix and mix and mix by hand
- Add a few drops of water until the entire mixture just comes together
- Form into logs, or press into a single layer round cake pan
- Sprinkle with the topping of cocoa, flour and spices
- Bake at 350 °F for about 15 minutes.
Serve in thin slices with a glass of Vin Santo or a cup of espresso
The completed dry mixture before forming into logs
Form the dough into logs, then sprinkle with the topping mixture before baking.