The 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. Made by spice merchants, the original cake contained dried fruits mixed with nuts, honey, flour and spices. This recipe remains unchanged for centuries until 1879, when Queen Margherita of Savoy visits Siena. In her honour, the people of Siena give 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.