For today’s Regional Italian recipe, I want to take you back to Tuscany. After sharing two savoury dishes (Pollo alla Cacciatora and Tuscan Cabbage Soup) from this beautiful region, today I want to show you how to make Cantucci, also known as Biscotti di Prato (cookies from the town of Prato). The term biscotto (biscotti is the plural), literally means “twice cooked/baked” and it refers to the fact that these cookies are baked twice, as you will see in the recipe below. However, nowadays biscotto means “cookie” in Italian, any cookie even the ones that are not cooked twice are biscotti! The only real biscotti as in “cooked twice cookies” are what we call Cantucci! Easy right?? 😉 Anyhow, whatever their name is these cookies are delicious. They are among my all time favourite, as I am a big fan of crunchy cookies. They are full of almonds and they are usually eaten with a sweet wine called Vin Santo, in the sense that you are supposed to actually dip them in the wine! They soak up the sweet wine and become softer… mmmm delicious! If you cannot find Vin Santo, a Muscat will work fine too. Try them after dinner and let me know!! Enjoy!
500 gms – 2 cups flour
300 gms – 10.5 oz. sugar
150 gms – 5.25 oz. butter, melted
300 gms – 10.5 oz. almonds, with the skin on
3 eggs + 1 egg for brushing
1 sachet vanillina or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
Start by toasting the almonds. Put them on a baking sheet and bake them in a pre heated oven at 190°C – 375°F for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool down.
Put the 3 eggs and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (1). Whisk well until pale and fluffy (2). Add the melted butter and stir (3-4). Mix the baking powder in the flour and sift it into the egg mixture (5). Whisk well until incorporated (6). Now add the vanillina/vanilla extract and toasted almonds (7). Transfer the dough on a floured surface and knead for a minute to make it into a ball (8).
Now divide the dough in 2 balls (or 3 for smaller Cantucci) and roll them into two 30 cm – 12 inch long strips. They have to be thin (approximately 3 cm – 1.2 inches) as they will expand while cooking. Put them on a baking tray covered with baking paper and brush them with the remaining beaten egg (you may do this with milk or with a mix of egg and milk).
Bake them in a pre heated oven at 190°C – 375°F for about 20 minutes. Now remove them from the oven and let them cool down for a few minutes. Slice them diagonally with a sharp knife. You need to obtain cookies that are 1 to 1.5 cm (0.4 to 0.6 inches) thick.
Put the cookies back onto a baking sheet covered with baking paper and bake them in a pre heated oven at 170°C – 340°F for about 10 to 15 minutes.
When ready, let the Cantucci cool down completely.
Serve them with some sweet wine like Vin Santo or Muscat.