Marabissi. Proud part of panforte
It was many years ago when I had my first bite of Panforte (read about panforte here) Margherita from Marabissi. I was about to run to a meeting, but then I put that slice in my mouth and sat down. It was all there – the roasted almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, soft and plump dried fruits, and all of that covered with white powder like snow. I stopped for a while, and the meeting where thousands would be divided was somewhere far away. I did not care. I just ate panforte, the best thing that day.
It was 2017 when we went to Casale Maritimo, our first one-month vacation in a long time, and I had a plan to visit Marabissi. It never happened. After one month, tanned almost as dark as a panforte straight from the oven, we left Tuscany with only faint feeling of the way Siena looked at night. Christmas 2017 came with the reminder that I had been so close, but so stupid that I did not go, but, thank God, 2018 came. We booked the same place for the same time and visited the land of true beauty - Marabissi.
Marabissi’s story dates back to 1948 when they started to bake, no no, not panforte, but Tuscan cantucci, following signora Jole's recipe. The recipe hasn't changed since (thank God for that), because it is not overly sweet – they are more than perfect for duking into coffee, tea, or Vin Santo or eating just like that.
On that hot day, with +31 and rain glancing over my shoulder, there was a slight chance we would not see anything in the factory, except closed doors. After missing our turn from Siena to ..., the reward of 30 minutes extra driving, breaking many rules, and getting there just before the first drops of heavy rain was mesmerizing. Dressed in oversized white coats, we entered the spice room where the air was dense with all the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and other spices flying around, but that was just the beginning, because I knew that after that, there would be the real thing next door. Around the table stood people mixing the just-boiled mass of honey, sugar, nuts, fruits and spices, while others pressed them neatly into squares of paper that turned out round at the end. The nuts were everywhere, the same as in panforte, and had a touch of Christmas. They were placed nicely on the trays to undergo a second baking (the first one is boiling) to come out as the most perfect rounds of everything Christmas is about. All we could do is watch and admire the movements of those experienced hands, gently doing their magic.
But then – then came the cantucci room. The room where, taken out of the oven just minutes before, stood 400 kg of cantucci. There they were – all fresh and perfectly yellow, not too sweet, and so, so almondy, And then the best sentence a kid could hear: “You can take as much as you want.” (My daughters could not believe it and thank God they had no pockets, because Paula would have taken some to go). So we just stood there, watching how one by one, the panfortes were covered with cinnamon coating, while stuffing our cheeks with freshly baked cantucci (sometimes I get off the leash, too). It was the most magical thing to see – slowly falling cinnamon sugar as the final touch to the most dense and spice-filled panforte that I love.
Thank you Stan Dimpers for making it happen
Thank you Marabissi team for being so kind to show us the process
Story and pictures: Signe Meirane
Camera: Sony Alpha 7s