Cantucci (ni?) alle Mandorle
Imagine if you can a chorus line of pretty and crunchy biscuits with almonds in them, twirling around and singing out in heavy Italian accents, hypnotising us, making us want them. Listen to them sing:
DON’T call us biscotti,
They are all biscotti,
But we are Cantucci,
And we are yummy,
Mmmmm, I love you Yummucci.
Now picture if you will, deli and cafe owners all over the world rubbing their hands with glee, and calling out in unison:
Thank you cantucci, you look so artisinal and hard to make, and you smell and taste so good. Now we can charge people whatever we like knowing that they have to have you, and that they will not realise your simplicity and make you at home. We can put one of you on a little plate next to coffee and double our prices.
Well, I am sorry deli and cafe owners of the world but I know how easy it is to bake cantucci, and mine taste better than those in many of your coffee shops, and just because I can I am going to share my secrets with the world!
Cantucci, Cantuccini, or Biscotti?
So, as I understand it… biscotti is a blanket term which either covers all biscuits, or all twice baked biscuits, depending on who you ask. Since cantucci are baked twice, they are biscotti whatever definition you choose, but so are many other cookies.
The only difference between cantucci and cantuccini is the size of the biscuits. A cantuccini should be a mouthful, anythiing bigger is a cantucci.
You will find recipes for cantucci that contain additional ingredients like saffron and fennel seeds. There is no real reason not to add them, but I love these in just their simplest form.
The quantities in the recipe are guidelines, depending on the size of your eggs you may need one more and if it is too sticky then maybe you need a little more flour. The only thing I add that may not be strictly traditional is a little bit of vanilla sugar, you can throw in a couple of teaspoons, removing an equal amount of the normal sugar from the recipe.
The most important ingredient is obviously the almonds, and the really important thing is that they should still be in their skins. Any that have very broken or missing skin you should discard (eat) before you start.
White flour – 400g
White sugar – 250g
Whole eggs – 3
Egg yolks – 3
Whole almonds (with skin) – 200g
Baking powder – 10g
Salt – Just a pinch
Vanilla sugar (optional)
BAKE ONCE …
- Put the oven on to heat up at 180°C.
- Roast the whole almonds for 5 minutes, then take them out and turn the oven up to 200°C.
- Meanwhile, put all of the ingredients except for the almonds into a bowl and mix them together well.
- When everything is well mixed add the almonds and give them another quick mix. Don’t be too vigorous or you will separate the skin from the almonds (which you really don’t want to do).
- Form it into a doughy ball and scrape it out on to a lightly floured worksurface.
- Divide the dough into four equalish parts and roll each one into a sausage shape slightly shorter than the tray you are going to bake them on.
- Put the ‘sausages’ onto a lined baking tray, taking care not to put them too close to each other or to the edges of the tray (they will expand more than you think they will), and press down on each one gently with the palm of your hand to flatten them slightly.
- Brush the tops with egg yolk and bake them for 20-25 minutes, until they are a golden brown.
- Take them out and leave them to cool for about ten minutes. While they are cooling, reduce the oven temperature to 150°C.
- Cut your logs on a slight diagonal into slices about 1cm thick.
- Transfer your cantuccini back to the baking tray with a cut side facing upwards, and bake them again until they look well toasted.
- Leave them to cool down and enjoy. With a glass of Vin Santo if you are being traditional, or with anything at all if you aren’t.
… AND BAKE TWICE.
If you keep them in an airtight container then these cantuccini will easily keep for three weeks, if not longer. I’ve never really tested it, because they never last anywhere even vaguely close to that long.