Traditional Tuscan Biscuits


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Cantucci biscuits and vin santo

Cantucci biscuits and Vin Santo by paPisc on Flickr

One of the most popular Tuscan desserts is the delicious cantucci biscuit, or to use its Italian name: Cantucci di Prato. They originate from Prato, which is the second largest city in Tuscany, and is home to many culinary specialities. So, what makes these biscuits so special, and more importantly, how do you make them?

The cantucci di Prato are often referred to simply as ‘biscotti’. The word biscotti comes from Medieval Latin and means ‘twice baked’- referring to the cooking process. The recipe goes back a very long time, and the first ever recipe is said to be centuries old. The Romans were fans of these sweet delights, and they were often popular amongst Roman legions, due to the fact that they could be stored for a long time. As they are baked twice, these simple almond flavoured biscuits take on a crunchy quality.

The cantucci recipe, which is one of the most famous Italian pasty recipes, is made by first combining approximately 220g of flour with a teaspoon of baking powder, half a teaspoon of baking soda and a little salt. Separately, beat 4 eggs, 150g of sugar, orange zest and about a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then add in your dry flour mixture and 100g of chopped, toasted almonds. Shape the mixture into ‘logs’ on a greased baking tray, before baking for about half an hour at around 160°C. Remove from the oven, and carefully cut the logs into half inch slices. Finally, put them back in the oven for their ‘second’ cooking, which makes them nice and crunchy! Reduce the heat and cook for further 20 minutes or so. Then leave to cool, and either enjoy there and then, or store in an air tight container for a week.

Nowadays, people tend to add other ingredients to these biscotti to create different flavours, with popular choices being olive oil, anise seeds, chocolate, pistachio, seeds and spices. While many tend to enjoy them with a cup of tea or coffee, the original Tuscan way of eating cantucci is to dip them into a sweet dessert wine, such as Vin Santo, which is an amber coloured wine.

So, do you fancy having a go at making these yummy Tuscan biscuits? If so, why not join our Best of Italian Pastry Cooking Class, and see how it’s done! During these one day cooking classes in Florence, Italy, you are shown how to make different sweet treats including cantucci and cannoli, before being treated to a delicious lunch. If you have a sweet tooth, this tour is for you!

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