Panforte (all’Australiano)

6 Nov

Christmas is coming, and since this has to sit for a while before you eat it (well, ideally), I thought it best to get this recipe out there now.

Legend goes that the Sienese army use to carry this stuff around as part of their rations. It’s certainly high in protein, fruit fibre, and natural sugars from the fruit. There is a gluten free version (using nut flours) but the result is completely different. There is very little flour in this recipe and I’ve had gluten-intolerant friends able to eat it. It’s basically fruits and nuts held together using a minimum of flour and candy as glue. I like spices, so this recipe is fairly spicy (and I still tend to increase the amount of spice by about 50% on top of what’s here).

The Australian touch is that I’ve replaced half of the hazelnuts from the traditional recipe with macadamias, half the citrus peel with crystallised ginger, and half the dried figs with dates. No vegemite.. yet.




2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 to 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I like the really dark Dutch cocoa powder)


1/2 cup (60 grams) toasted and coarsely chopped hazelnuts (see below)

1/2 cup (60 grams) macadamia pieces (or coarsely chopped whole macadamias – but the pieces are cheaper and save you some work)

1 cup (120 grams) toasted and coarsely chopped almonds (see below)

Hazelnut skins are bitter, but easily removed as part of the toasting process. Here’s how I do it:  bake in a 180C (350F) oven for about 10 minutes or until fragrant and the skins begin to flake.  Remove from oven and immediately place the hot nuts in a dish towel.  Roll up the towel and let the nuts sit (steam) for a few minutes, then briskly rub the nuts in the towel to remove the skins.  Let cool before chopping and using.

To toast the almonds: bake in a 180C (350F) oven for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Turn them frequently and watch carefully as they can burn easily.  Remove from oven and let cool before chopping and using. Traditional recipes call for blanched almonds but I like the version with the skins on.


1/3 tsp ground nutmeg – I like to grate it myself, the flavour is superior (you can substitute mace but if you do so, use a bit less)

½ tsp ground coriander*

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground all spice*

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground pepper*

¼ tsp ground cloves*

* I like to start with the whole spice, increasing the volume slightly, and grind them fresh (together) with a mortar and pestle.


½  cup candied citrus peel

½ cup crystallised ginger, cut into pieces

(zest of one orange – optional)

½  cup soft dried figs, cut into pieces

½ cup dates, cut into pieces


2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated white sugar

2/3 cup (160 ml) honey


cocoa powder (you can use icing sugar, but why?)



• Preheat oven to 150C (300F, or 130C for a fan-forced oven)

• Line 9-inch / 22cm tart or cake pan with baking paper

• Whisk together flours, spices, and cocoa in a large bowl, then stir in nuts and fruit.

• Bring sugar and honey to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan (cast iron is ideal) over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then boil without stirring until a candy thermometer registers 115C (240F) – this takes about 2 minutes. I’ve done this a few times before I had a candy thermometer and it worked fine, but the thermometer allows a more precise result. The  longer/higher you cook, the harder the end result will be.

• Remove from heat and stir the sugar/honey syrup into the chopped nut and fruit mixture. The mixture will stiffen quickly so once combined, transfer to the prepared pan. With damp hands, or the back of a spoon or offset spatula, evenly spread the Panforte, smoothing the top.

• Bake 30-35 min. Cool on wire rack. Once it has completely cooled dust top with cocoa powder. Store in an airtight container.

• This is the really hard bit: ideally you should allow the panforte to age for a week before serving. This allows the flavours to blend and mellow. It’s worth the wait.



5 Responses to “Panforte (all’Australiano)”

  1. Karen November 26, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    This is evil – pure evil. My friend at work made some and brought me a slab and I had eaten the whole damn thing before 9 am! The only possible explanation is that I was possessed by the devil. And I am now addicted. Thanks for nothing. I am going to try making it myself (to keep up supply), and think I will replace candied orange peel with candied pineapple. I’ll let you know how that goes. My friend and I also had a debate about whether or not to include chocolate buttons, and I have decided ‘no’ for this first occasion. Have you ever tried that? Did I mention this stuff is evil?

    • robpensalfini November 26, 2013 at 11:59 am #

      Excellent news! Though you are supposed to eat it in small quantities. A wee wedge about the width of your thumb at the thick end is about right. Let me know how the candied pineapple goes, I like the citrus tartness of lemon/orange peel. Chocolate buttons sound like heresy – I mean do what you must, but there’s no way I’d add anything like that, it just wouldn’t be panforte anymore. The cocoa dusting is cocoa, not chocolate powder, so it’s bitter. I’d be loathe to add anything that makes it more sweet. But experiment away and let me know how it goes.

      • robpensalfini November 26, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

        PS – yes, it’s evil. Which is why I only make it once a year.

  2. Karen November 30, 2013 at 12:49 am #

    Ok – it’s just about to come out of the oven – so no news on taste for a week! Aaaarrghhhh! The Waiting! I decided ‘Yes’ to glazed pineapple (which was hard to get – ended up getting it from an online store called Cavendish House) and ‘No’ to chocolate buttons. Also – couple of tips along the way for any other gumby cooks like me – I had to look up ‘all-purpose flour’ cos I only know ‘plain’ or ‘self-raising’. (It’s ‘plain’). And. Instead of a dishcloth I used paper towels to rub off the hazelnut skins – cos then I could just chuck away the paper towels afterwards.

    Hokay …. So watch this space for the verdict. If it works, I’ll do it again for our own family Christmas – so actually – rude remarks aside – giant thanks are in order for sharing something so special and making it possible for other people to love and enjoy it too. Hugs. Karen.

  3. Karen December 21, 2013 at 6:48 am #

    Realised I need to report back for completeness. All a huge success. The glazed pineapple worked a treat as a replacement for peel (for someone who doesn’t like peel). I cut it into small pieces, and bagged it up in red cellophane as small gifts for people – and have been asked for the recipe several times (and have given due credit to you, Rob). I have made a whole another one for Christmas Day. Thanks Rob – a triumph.

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