Panforte – Strong Bread


I always thought panforte was called strong bread because it is such a firm mix. The name however refers to the spices, especially the white pepper and of course it isn’t really a bread at all. Another variation is panpepato which literally means ‘peppered bread’ and has an outer coating of chocolate.

Exactly when panforte was first made is not confirmed. Some say the 1600s whilst others go even further back to 1000 AD.

Regardless, these spices from the Far East were still very expensive, rare and valued for their medicinal properties. Spice merchants returning from their often dangerous journeys would make an offering of spices to the churches and monasteries to show their gratitude for their safe return.

These places of worship became the first apothecaries and often had bakeries. These ingredients were gradually incorporated into monastery recipes such as panforte and shared at Christmas to show gratitude.

In her book Celebrating Italy Carol Field has a whole Chapter titled Natale (Christmas) which goes into great detail and is a delightful visit to Italy during these times when we cannot.

Image credit: Gordon Hammond

Panforte – Strong Bread

Servings 15


  • Sugar thermometer
  • Oven
  • Trays for roasting nuts
  • Large bowl to combine all of ingredients
  • Baking tray 20 x 30cm and 5cm deep


Dried fruit and nut mix

  • 250 gms whole hazelnuts need to skin them first
  • 250 gms almonds whole, blanched
  • 100 gms whole raisins
  • 100 gms mixed peel
  • 300 gms chopped dried figs
  • 150 gms chopped pitted prunes
  • 100 gms chopped cedro

Flour, cocoa and spice mix

  • 200 gms plain flour
  • 50 gms dark cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 0.5 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 0.5 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 0.5 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • pinch ground white pepper

Sugar, honey and chocolate mix

  • 100 gms chopped dark chocolate
  • 300 gms castor sugar
  • 100 gms honey
  • 200 mls milk in a small bowl to dip your fingers when placing the panforte into a tray to stop the mixture from sticking to your fingers


  • 4 sheets rice paper
  • canola oil spray


Preparation dried fruit and nut mix

  • Preheat your oven to 110°C, no fan.
  • Place the hazelnuts and almonds on separate trays and dry roast to dry out but not colour for about 20 minutes. Test to ensure they are crunchy not chewy.
  • Once toasted, remove from the oven. Increase the temperature to 150°C.
  • While the hazelnuts are still warm, place in the centre of a clean tea towel and scrunch up the cloth around them so that a ball is formed within.Then agitate the nuts to remove the outer skins. Unwrap the towel and remove the hazelnuts to a large bowl. To these add the almonds and the chopped dried fruits.

Flour, cocoa and spice mix

  • Sieve together the flour, cocoa powder and the measured spices.
  • Toss this through the fruit and nut mix ensuring that you coat the mixture well and leave no clumps of the flour mix.

Sugar, honey and chocolate mix

  • Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pot of hot water.
  • Place the honey in a small saucepan and then add the sugar. Stir to combine and using a sugar thermometer set over a high heat until the temperature reaches 116°C. At this moment exactly remove the thermometer, add the melted chocolate and sir to combine. Immediately and pour over the dry panforte mix.
  • Start by mixing this together with a large spoon. You need to work quickly. As soon as the mix is cool enough for you to handle use your fingers dipped in milk. The mixture must be thoroughly incorporated.

Lining the tins

  • Lightly spray your baking trays with canola oil spray.
  •  Line the base and sides with the rice paper sheets.
  • Transfer the mix to your lined tin, pressing it flat to fill the whole tin and bake at 150°C for 50 minutes. Once cooked it should still be soft to touch but not sticky.
  • Once cool, remove from the tin and trim the edges.
  • Cut the slab 3cm across on the 20cm end and 5cm across the 30cm side to make 15 pieces. Save the trimmings and use to fold through ice-cream.
  • Serve panforte on its own, or as a side to blue cheese.
Course: Dessert
Season: Autumn, Christmas, Spring, Summer, Winter
Category: Sweet Things

Did you make this recipe?

Please let me know how it turned out ! Leave a comment below and tag @birdcowfish on Instagram and hashtag it #goodsimpledelicious.

Alex Herbert © Copyright 2021. All rights reserved.