Cantuccini are Italian almond biscotti from Tuscany, or more specifically the town of Prata. They are also known as biscottini di Prato.
Biscotti, the Latin word from which the English ‘biscuit’ is derived, means “twice baked” (‘bis’ Latin for twice and “coctum’ for baked). It is a generic name for any Italian cookie. These are characteristically crisp and crunchy cookies with an elongated shape. They can be both sweet or savory. You could also go with a variety of filling options, nuts lIke almonds, pistachio or even cashewnuts. You could add lemon or orange zest to the dough. Dried cranberries or cherries work great too. I would not mind some with chocolate chips!!
Biscotti was traditionally meant to be travel food for the Roman soldiers, which meant that they had to ‘keep’ well. To achieve this, they were baked first in a log form to cook them and then cut into smaller pieces and baked again to dry out the moisture so that they could be stored for a long time without spoiling.
Surprisingly. Biscotti will keep fresh for several months, when stored in an airtight container, though it contains no preservatives.
Originally, cantuccini were made without any leavening (rising) agent. The modern recipes include baking powder, yeast or baking soda.
This was the first time I was making Biscotti and the recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s ” Baking with Julia”, is as easy as can be.
These contain almonds and cinnamon and are mildly sweet.
There is no fat in the dough (except what is there in the egg) and this makes them deliciously crunchy….. and also low in calories.
I made one-third of the recipe since my husband does not eat eggs and there is only so much I can consume :-). I do intend to try making an egg free version though.
My thoughts on the recipe:
The dough came together in less than five minutes and then all it needed was to be baked (twice!!). A word of warning though, the dough is quite wet and sticky. I followed the advise of a fellow baker and wet my hands with water and then shaped it into a log.
As the baking powder is the leavening agent, make sure it is fresh.
I used vanilla extract but you could also use almond extract (a few drops).
Though the original recipe used unblanched almonds, I blanched them. For no other reason than that I am somewhat challenged when it comes to reading and following recipes and invariably end up doing something wrong. In this case though, it was nothing that actually led to a disaster! Though I wish I could have saved myself the trouble!! (Kick, kick. And make sure you READ the recipe carefully BEFORE jumping in the next time!).
They are not very sweet, which for me makes them perfect!! However, if you prefer them sweeter, add some more sugar to the dough. You could also use brown sugar which is what I plan to do the next time.
The perfect accompaniment to biscotti is vin santo, a delicious Italian dessert wine. But they go very well dunked into a cup of tea or coffee. Or even Indian chai as evident from the picture above. As the contributing baker Nick Malgieri says, “No matter the libation, they’re meant to be dipped.”
So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and bake some right away.
Currently the Tuesdays with Dorie group is baking from “Baking with Julia” based on Julia Child’s television series of the same name.
The original recipe can be found here or on pages 313-314 of the book.
Do drop by and check out the biscotti baked by fellow members of TWD.