Those who love the Tuscan cooking have never tried to make these typical almond biscuits? Furthermore considering they are really easy … well, the answer is definitely: a few, very few.
Cantuccini cookies are very easy to make, yet when we prepare them we’re often unhappy with the result: hard we can hammer a nail, or limp, almost chewy, too sweet, not sweet, burnt, undercooked, too dry, for instance. You can follow the most famous recipe, your grandmother’s one, your aunt’s one. Summing up: there is always something to take for granted, something that escapes. How to check the right texture, for instance? Cantuccini: weak sides
Therefore, a few days ago I decided to try some different recipes to prepare these cookies. Above all I chose those ones that I prefer, then I revisited the critical steps by my way. In conclusion, Cantuccini tasted delicious, the right texture and very quick to disappear!
I marked all the steps, not to miss anything to pass on to you from this recipe so that your cookies are able really perfect. Furthermore, just because they’re a very old cookie…I’m going to pass you some historical too.
My Granny way
However my grandmother made Cantuccini on the pastry board: put the flour, made a hole in the middle, added the eggs and gradually all the other ingredients. Therefore this is the traditional way to prepare them, then if you have a wood oven, well, it’s even better.
But since in modern homes missing more and more space to set up a laboratory for “pasta”, and since almost everyone has a mixer or at least a hand blender, then I describe step by step how to make almond biscuits with these tools. Furthermore, my friends, I assure you that the result is the same … except for the wood-burning oven.
This one makes a difference, lucky who’s got it.
Cantuccini: the Origins
As written by the Cantuccini Association “the origin of this cookie dates back at least to the sixteenth century, and the name seems to derive from “Canto”, (in Italian: part of a set) or “cantellus”, in Latin “piece or slice of bread,” a savory biscuit that Roman soldiers already ate during military campaigns”.
Not everyone knows that originally the biscuits were not sweet.
Actually, we’ll know the cookie as “sweet” first in England and then in Tuscany and also in the rest of Europe, from the fourteenth century, after what historicals call: “sugar boom”, following the spread of the cultivation of sugar cane in North Africa and Southern Europe.
From the second half of the ‘500, “cantuccini” cookies did their appearance at the Medici court, although they did not include almonds. They were inspired by the already known “biscotto” from Pisa and the relative “Genoese” cookie.
The ‘700 was characterized by the spread of “cantuccini” cookies in different ways, however, only from the ‘900 the biscuits with almonds began to be produced in the whole of Tuscany increasingly large scale. Furthermore, the presence in their recipe of butter and leavening agents made them as a product with a long shelf particularly suitable for mass distribution and export.
In the nineteenth century, Antonio Mattei, pastry chef of Prato, developed the recipe now considered classic, awarded in 1867 with a special mention of the universal exhibition in Paris.
Even today, in Prato you can find the Mattei Pastry shop where you can buy cantuccini in the famous blue envelope. However, if you like to prepare them by yourself, they’ll be surely more tasteful, and I assure you they’re very easy anyway if handmade or using a mixer.
How to taste them
Here in Tuscany, we soak them in Vin Santo, a typically sweet wine made with withered grapes.
Anyway, they’re exceptional soaked in Zabaione! CLICK HERE for ZABAIONE Recipe
Cantuccini, cookies from Tuscany
Author: Erika Elia
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
- 1 lb all-purpose flour
- 13 oz sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 oz baking powder
- 1 grated lemon zest
- 7 oz whole almonds
- 7 oz no salt butter
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tbsp limoncello (optional)
- Cut coarsely almonds (no need toasting)
- mix the flour with the baking powder and set aside
- whip the egg whites until stiff and set aside
- mount the egg yolks with the sugar until they are pale yellow
- pour in the melted butter and continue to mix
- add almonds and liqueur
- add the flour, baking powder, and grated lemon rind
- incorporate the egg whites, stirring gently from bottom to top
- make small loaves with this mixture, about 10cm wide and about 3cm thick, long as you prefer
- lay them on a baking tray
- brush with egg yolk mixed with honey
- bake at 375 °F (180 °C) until golden
- wait for warm (about 10 minutes)
- cut the loaves obliquely into slices of about 2cm
- place these “cantuccini” on to the baking tray again at 375 °F (180 °C) for about 10 minutes so that they become more crunchy
- store in a tin box with baking paper
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