Sunday, January 6, 2013

Delicious Dippers: Cantucci (or Cantuccini, or Biscotti)

Biscotti derives from the Latin  "bis coctus", or "twice baked". Cantucci (or cantuccini) is a"dry" type, first documented in Prato, Italy in the 13th century as "biscotti di Prato" These cookies were made for dipping - originally in vin santo (sweet wine) but I think they taste good dipped into just about any beverage but not so easy to eat alone - you could chip a tooth on these things if you don't dip 'em. They taste wonderful when dipped and I'm serious about not waiting until you get your hands on some vin santo - dip them with whatever's at hand.

My hair stylist brought these in (along with a selection of other delicious cookies) when I went in for a pre-Christmas appointment. With no vin santo in sight, I dipped my cookie into herbal mint tea and kind of fell in love and my stylist very kindly sent me the recipe, which I adapted slightly.

There are endless combinations - next batch is going to be dried sour cherry and hazelnut.
One of the two logs, after kneading.
The only liquid besides sugar - which in baked goods world is considered a wet ingredient - are the two eggs and the dough looks impossibly dry and crumbly. When you knead it, it just barely holds together.

Slightly flattened, before the first bake.

After the first bake.

After the first bake, when you cut the logs into 1/2" slices, there are some end pieces left over, a.k.a. "the cook's treats".

You stand them up to bake the second time and they're done when they're just a little soft in the middle.
After the 2nd bake, let them cool completely.

Makes: Approximately 2 dozen
Equipment: baking sheet, parchment or silicone baking mat, wire cooling rack, microplane grater.

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 lemon (you will only be using the zest)
  • 1 3/4 cups (7 3/4 ounces) all-purpose white unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole almonds, toasted (toasting method at the bottom of the recipe)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoons almond extract (or vanilla extract)
  • Pre-heat the oven to 375F, rack in the middle.
  • Add the sugar to a large mixing bowl. Using a microplane grater, grate the lemon zest directly into the bowl. Using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar. If you're not weighing your flour, stir it with a fork to fluff it up. Spoon the flour into your measuring cup (overfilling it) and level it using the straight edge of a dinner knife and add the measured flour to the mixing bowl.
  • Place the almonds in a food processor and pulse for about 10 times or until the nuts are very coarsely chopped. Stir the nuts into the flour mixture.
  • In a small bowl, combine the eggs and almond extract stirring to an homogeneous mixture - the egg shouldn't be streaky.
  • Combine the egg mixture with the dry ingredients stirring with a wooden spoon. It's going to be very stiff and crumbly. I used my (impeccably clean) hands.
  • Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly 7 or 8 times to bring the dough together. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Shape each portion into a 6-inch long roll. Place the rolls 6 inches apart on a parchment-covered baking sheet (or one lined with a silicone baking mat). Pat the rolls down to 1" in height. Bake at 375F for25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack.
  • Cut each roll crosswise into 12 one-half inch slices. Stand the slices up on the baking sheet. Bake 14 minutes or until the cookies are just slightly soft in the middle. Remove the slices to the wire rack and cool completely. Once cooled, these should keep for a week in an airtight container.


Morten Munchenberg said...

Mmmhh delicious :)

I like these with a glass of Metaxa (greek brandy type) and some strong mokka - but that's just me :D

My Chinchilla loves them too.

Say hi to Lynn/Ossa

Kind regards from Denmark

Ankolsen - President of Neptueg Atav

Morten Munchenberg said...

Delicious :)

I personnaly like these with a glass of Metaxa and some strong mocca...

My chinchilla loves them too because of almonds :)

Kind regards from Denmark

Say hi to Ossa

Ankolsen - President of Neptueg Atav