A very brief history of Siena's spiced panforte

Christmas in Tuscany is synonymous with panforte. This sweet delicacy has its origins in medieval Siena, when spices from the Far East gained popularity. Panforte literally means ‘strong bread’, referring to its spicy flavours. Originally made by spice merchants, the cake contained dried fruits mixed with nuts, honey, flour and spices. An exclusive treat at the time!

The original recipe remained unchanged for centuries until 1879. It's in that year that Queen Margherita of Savoy visits Siena. In her honour, the people of Siena gave her a white version of panforte, dusted in vanilla sugar instead of black pepper. It’s this more delicate panforte Margherita that’s still being sold throughout Siena and the rest of Tuscany today, especially for Christmas.

With it's cinnamon flavour and rich, sticky texture, it's a very Christmassy affair indeed. No Tuscan Christmas is complete without having had at least one slice of panforte...