Tuscan Christmas: panforte and ricciarelli

Dec 3 2022, 08:28 | by Michela Becchi
Panforte and ricciarelli represent the traditional Tuscan Christmas treats. Both the desserts are popular throughout the country, even if their fame is inextricably linked to the city of Siena. Here is the history.

Tuscan panforte, the cake with dried fruits

Christmas in Tuscany means indulging in panforte, a sweet cake popular throughout the country, even if its fame is inextricably linked to the city of Siena. Originally, it was nothing more than a simple focaccia made with water, flour, honey and fruit, which was added to the dough while still raw and which, for this reason, if not completely dry, often gave the dough a particular sour taste. The name, in fact, derives from panis fortis, or sour bread. With the introduction of spices from the East, later, the recipe changed and cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg were added. As a matter of fact, it was the apothecaries, the pharmacists of the time, who took care of the preparation of the dessert, not within everyone's reach but intended only for the wealthiest classes. There is also a typically Siena version called panforte Margherita, created in 1879 on the occasion of the visit of the Queen of Savoy, which differed in the coating: vanilla scented icing sugar instead of black pepper.

Find out more about panforte and ricciarelli

Ricciarelli, the Tuscan biscuits

However, we must not forget the other typical sweets of the Tuscan holidays. In particular, ricciarelli, once again born in Siena, where - according to popular legend - crusader Ricciardetto della Gherardesca reproduced a recipe much appreciated in the Far East. The shape, in fact, seems to be inspired by the slippers of the Sultans that the leader met during his travels. In any case, these are soft pastries made with almond paste, flour, candied fruit and powdered sugar, a soft dough that rests for two days before baking. An even more delicious variant of these are the ricciarelli rossi ("rough"), covered with chocolate.

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