A Famous Italian Dessert: Panforte, A Traditional Sweet of Honey, Nuts And Spices

Panforte is a delicacy from Tuscany. 

What Are the Origins of this Delicious Italian Sweet?

This famous Italian dessert has a long history which dates back to the Middle Ages, symbol of traditional gastronomy from Siena. As legend has it, servants and pilgrims originally brought it as a gift to the nuns of the Montecelso Abbey. This delicious confection, made with spices and pricey ingredients, was destined for the elite and royalty. Only later it would reach Rome and the rest of Italy as a widespread confectionery treat. Ugo Foscolo, the famous Italian poet, loved it so much that  he wrote of it in his letters. Panforte is a dessert typical of the Christmas festivities, but you can find it all year in the best sweets shops. It is the perfect foodie gift, alongside panettone, home-made liquors and of course, some artisan-made Lavolio chocolates gift box.

A Protected Dessert

Originally Panforte resembled a honey-based focaccia, and because of this it was called pan mielato, “honeyed bread”. Afterwards it was enriched with fruits, which would start fermenting due to the heat; because of this the dessert acquired a more acidule flavour and the name changed to panforte, “strong bread”. The ingredients changed over time to avoid the fermentation of the fresh fruits; the sweet bread was prepared only during the colder months, and it became typical of the winter period. Today there are many variations of this Tuscan pudding; however, the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) “Panforte di Siena” is reserved uniquely to a dessert which responds to very particular requirements and specifications, set by the Italian government and the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies. 

famous handmade Italian sweet treat
Candied Fruits, Nuts, Honey and Spices: Panforte Ingredients

Panforte’s batter consists of flour, candied fruits, nuts, a mixture of sugars, honey and spices. It can be of two different varieties: bianco, “white” variety, if the glaze is powdered sugar-based; nero, “black” variety, if the glaze is spices-based. The flavour of this famous Italian confectionery is sweet with the lingering taste of candied fruits and almonds. The fragrance of spices is quite light in the white version and very intense in the black version.

Almonds have to be whole sweet almonds, without peels, not constituting any less than 18% of the batter; at Lavolio we know a thing or two about this fantastic nut. In our Italian sweets we only use certified almonds from Toritto, in southern Italy. They are exceptionally tasty and also have great nutritional benefits.

Candied fruits must include candied cedar -imagine the lovely freshness of our Fruit Garden’s Citrus Fruit sweets- and candied orange, just like the wonderful hearts of candied orange inside Decadent Spiced’ Orange and Saffron sweets.  In the black version, it’s obligatory to also add to this mixture candied melon, the famous popone as it’s called in the Tuscan dialect, and sweet black pepper.

It must contain honey, and specifically miele millefiori also known as “thousand flowers” honey. This name is given to a delicate, amber coloured honey, produced from varied types and quantities of different flowers. Miele millefiori is one of the most beloved, high-energy and well-rounded honeys in terms of flavour.

While the protected denomination dessert must have specific ingredients and amounts, each and every Italian family has their own beloved recipe. However you decide to make it, you are sure to love this famous Italian dessert and its rich and sweet fragrance.