Bartolomeo Scappi strikes again!
I recently queried you all on Facebook about your favorite traditional holiday cookies and sweets. One of the most intriguing of those suggestions was for “Panforte”, an Italian confection that struck me as super medieval in origin. And for the first time in a long while, I summoned the oomph to do a modern and historical recipe comparison. I didn’t find an exact corollary, but I found a recipe in Scappi that looked to have similar ingredients, and tried that.
While the list of ingredients is similar, the two dishes are quite different. The panforte, which I’ll admit I’ve never had before, is really dense, packed with all sorts of nuts and preserved fruits. It’s an ideal superfood for long travel, as it stays pretty much the same after baking.
The historical recipe? ZOMG. It’s like a proto-mince pie in flavor, with more texture than the usual smooth consistency added by the almonds. My husband is a consummate Anglophile, and he thinks he likes it even better than mince. When warm, the filling is gooey, slowly oozing out of the crust, and it might just be my new favorite winter recipe…
Where in Westeros?
I could definitely see this being made in King’s Landing, and exported to different regions of Westeros, as the various ingredients would be easier to come by in the big trading hub city. It would likely be a special dish, perhaps connected to a holiday from the Faith of the Seven.
The recipe likely originally came from across the Narrow Sea, and traveled with traders. I expect it’s a new dish in King’s Landing, but one that will take the city by storm.
Cinnamon Tourte Recipe, 1577
“To prepare a cinnamon tourte, or some other sort. Get a pound of milanese almonds and grind them with a pound of sugar, two ounces of Neapolitan mostaccioli, three ounces of pinenut paste, one ounce of cinnamon, four ounces of clarified honey, two ounces of dried peaches that have steeped, and two ounces of candied orange peel. When everything has been ground up in a mortar, add in a beaker of rosewater to make the mixture thinner. Then have a tourte pan ready, lined with a rather thick sheet of dough make of fine flour, salt, oil, pinenut milk and sugar; put the filling into it. That tourte should not be too deep. Cover it over with another sheet of dough worked in any of a variety of ways. Bake it with a low heat, giving it a glazing of sugar and rosewater. Serve it hot or cold as you like. In the same way you can make a marzipaned tourte made of ground almonds, sugar and rosewater; or else marzipan paste. You can also make a tourte that same way with various candied fruits mixed with the marzipan paste and pinenut paste ground up with them. And for a tourte that you want to have a slightly roasted flavor, put in orange juice or verjuice.” -The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi, 1577
Ingredients for dough:
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4-1/2 cup almond milk
Ingredients for filling:
- 1 1/2 cups sliced or slivered almonds
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cookie crumbs
- 1 Tbs. cinnamon
- 1/4 cup dried peaches, or apricots, diced
- 1/4 cup candied orange peel, diced
- 1/2 cup warmed honey
- dash each rosewater and orange juice
Begin by making the dough – combine the flour and sugar, then work in the olive oil, followed by as much almond milk as it takes to bring the mixture together into a cohesive, workable dough. Form into two discs, then wrap in plastic and set aside.
To make the filling, combine the almonds, sugar, cookie crumbs, and cinnamon in a food processor. Blitz everything until you have a nice even mixture of coarse nuts and sugar. Add in the diced fruit, then stir in the warmed honey. Add a dash each of rosewater and orange juice.
Preheat the oven to 325F. Roll out half of the dough and lay in a pie pan. Scoop the filling into the pan, then roll out the other half of dough and lay over top. Trim off any excess, then crimp the edges closed. Bake for around 45 minutes, or until the dough seems cooked through. Allow to cool somewhat before slicing, as the filling is is quite runny when hot.
Modern Panforte Recipe
- Butter for greasing the pan
- 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. each ground ginger and coriander
- 1/4 tsp. each ground mace and cloves
- 1 cup almonds
- 1/2 cup each toasted hazelnuts and walnuts
- 1/2 cup each dried apricots, dried figs, golden raisins, dark raisins
- 3/4 cup dried cherries
- 1/4 cup candied orange peel
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup white wine (brandy?)
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 300F, then butter a round 8″ pan (springform will make this the easiest) and line the bottom with a disc of parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper as well, and set aside.
Roughly chop all the nuts and move them to a large bowl. Add in the dry ingredients and toss until evenly mixed. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, honey, water, and wine over medium heat, stirring until dissolved. Add the dried fruit and allow to cook for around 10 minutes, until the fruit has absorbed some of the liquid. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir vigorously, until the entire batter is mixed evenly.
Carefully pour the mix into the prepared pan, pressing down to make sure there are no gaps. Bake for about an hour, until the panforte is browned and a little puffy.
Either serve warm, or allow to sit for a few days for the flavors to develop. Cut into thin slices, and serve with tea or coffee. It should keep, wrapped, in a cool area for up to a month. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.