Although panforte translates literally from the Italian as "strong bread," this traditional holiday dessert is really a cross between a cake and a confection. Dense, chewy panforte is packed with dried fruits and nuts, and bound with a honey-based syrup. The confection is so rich that a small wedge will satisfy.
Best of all, this Christmas sweet can be made 2 or 3 weeks ahead of the holiday. Store the panforte in an airtight container at room temperature. If you have a vacuum sealer unit, by all means use it to wrap the panforte tightly.
Combine the nuts, dried fruits, flour, cocoa powder, salt, zest, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, coriander and nutmeg in a large heat-proof bowl. Make sure that the fruit pieces are tossed with the dry ingredients so they don't stick together in a clump. Use your fingers to separate the chopped fruits, if necessary.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper (don't worry if the paper creases a bit along the sides of the pan). Smooth the paper against the greased sides of the pan and then butter the paper. Set aside.
Combine the sugar, honey and butter in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low, then cook until a candy thermometer reaches 245 to 248 degrees F (firm ball stage).
Immediately pour the syrup over the fruit mixture, stirring to blend well.
Quickly transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a large spoon or offset spatula. Bake until the panforte is bubbling slightly and no longer wet on the top, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight before removing the sides of the springform pan. Peel off the parchment paper and place the panforte on a flat plate or cardboard round.
Wrap tightly and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.