Panpepato and Panforte to each their own spiced bread

From Christmas Eve to the Epiphany at the end of the meal comes Panpepato, a typical dessert in various regions of Italy since the late Middle Ages when honey, dried fruit and spices were used to enrich the bread. The first traces are found in a manuscript from 1205 which reported that ‘panes piperatos et melatos’ – breads made with pepper and honey – were donated by farmers to the nuns of the Montecelso Monastery, in the Siena area.
And in Tuscany, and in particular in the Sienese area, various types of breads rich in honey and spices were produced as early as 1200, to which dried fruit, candied fruit and aromas were then added, using the fruits of the apothecaries’ work. The common matrix is due to spices, primarily pepper (which was also an ingredient in almost all the recipes), so much so that the word “pepper” was used to designate spices in general.
Here “pan pepato” also means “spiced bread”.

In addition to the goodness of these breads, the beneficial and healing qualities of the spices were known. Ginger was proposed as a remedy for digestive disorders, and as an anti- inflammatory and purifying proprieties, while pepper and cumin (mixed with burnet, breadcrumbs and an egg yolk) were used to combat nausea.
The ancient and primary gingerbread recipe that we know included 15 ingredients: melon, figs, citrus fruits (especially oranges), all boiled and candied in honey, and mixed with almonds and walnuts in a container in which more honey had been mixed with flour and spices. The mixture, firm and compact, was divided into small flat and round loaves, the classic shape we know today. But its definitive transformation occurred in 1879, in honor of the visit to Siena of Queen Margherita of Savoy. The Panpepato recipe, considered too spicy, was transformed for the occasion into a more delicate dessert: Panforte Margherita, which used candied fruit no longer obtained by fermentation and using a lighter blend of spices.