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Cantucci di Prato/Almond biscotti

 

 
The first time I stopped in a Starbucks in the US I was quite surprise to find Cantucci di Prato wrapped in plastic and sold at the cash register. The name Almond Biscotti was quite funny too. I wasn't expecting such a traditional and local cookie from Prato in a big american coffee chain. 
The word 'biscotti', as Sturbucks like to use, is quite right since in Italian means 'cookie' in general but also 'twice-baked'. This twice baked process allows to dry them so they will be preserved for long time. Exept in my house where they last maximum one day. I have never tasted though the Starbucks version but I will definitely need to try them once.
During one of the cooking classes that I organized here in Eugene I had people asking why Cantucci are so hard.
The explanation is hidden the name. Cantuccio means the part of bread near the crust, that it's crunchy and naturally quite hard. They are so firm because they are supposed to be dipped in Vin Santo, a sweet wine. Cantucci and Vin Santo is a very common way to end a meal in Tuscany if you like to finish with something sweet. Mangiamo due cantucci con un goccio di Vin Santo- 'Let's eat two cantucci with a drop of Vin Santo' it's one of the most pronounced phrases in Tuscany.
I always had a bag of these in my suitcase going back to work in France after a few days in Florence, along with olive oil and dried porcini mushroom, way less expensive in Italy then in France. It was my provision for when I had a sweet thooth after a meal or as a snack dipped in tea or coffee. 
I only had once the pleasure to taste the famous Cantucci from the cookie factory Antonio Mattei in Prato, holder of the original recipe, because my sister bought them for me and when I saw the iconic blue bag I was pretty excited. I'll defintely go there next time I go to Florence.
You can use use this recipe as a base and then get creative with it. I like to use a combination of walnuts and pine nuts or pistachios  and dark or white chocolate instead of almonds and sometimes I enjoy using spelt or whole wheat flour instead of all purpose. 
You can serve it in the traditional Tuscan way after a meal with a small glass of Vin Santo on any other sweet wine you have in your pantry as dessert or as I usually do, dipped in black coffee or tea after lunch or as a snack.
(scroll down for the vegan version)
Ingredients :

3 eggs

220 gr/ 8 oz of sugar

280 gr/ 10 oz of all purpose flour

5g/ 1 teaspoon of baking powder

30 gr/ 2 table spoons of unsalted butter

Zest of one organic unwaxed orange or lemon

A pinch of salt

130 g/ 6 oz of unpeeled almonds

Instructions :

Heat the oven to the maximum temperature, or to 480°F. Crack two whole eggs and an egg yolk into a bowl. Keep the extra egg white to the side, you will need this later on. Whisk, using a mixer or an electric whisk, the eggs with the sugar until you have a light and fluffy mixture.

 Then add the melted butter, flour,  baking powder and salt before adding the grated orange rind. Lastly, add the almonds and mix together until it is all combined.

Divide your dough in two parts. Take half of the dough and place it on a cutting board dusted with flour. Shape it into a baguette. It should be two fingers wide and two fingers thick. Place the loaf/baguette on a baking tray covered with parchment paper. Repeat for the other half of your dough.

Beat the egg white with a fork until it becomes foamy, then brush it over the loaves.

 Turn the oven down to 360°F and bake the loaves. The initial high temperature ensures that the loaves won’t lose their shape too much when they start to bake.  Bake the loaves for around 20-25 minutes, until they are golden outside, but still slightly soft inside. Leave the loaves to cool down for around 5 minutes, then cut them diagonally 1/2 an inch wide on a chopping board, with a sharp knife.  Lay the biscotti out on the baking tray cut side down and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until they have browned. Leave them to cool completely on a cooling rack, then keep them in a biscuit jar or a tin. They should keep for weeks. In my house it lasts maximum two days :)

Ingredients for a vegan version : 

 250 gr/ 9 oz all purpose flour
2 table spoons corn starch
1 t spoon baking powder
150 gr / 5 oz  almonds (I advise to chop roughly the almonds otherwise they will be too hard to cut once cooked without crumbling the dough)
75 ml / 1/4 cup + 2 table spoons almond milk or any other non-dairy milk.
100gr sugar/ 3.5 oz
50 ml / 1/4 cup canola oil (or any other light vegetable oil)
zest of one lemon or orange
Instructions :
Heat the oven to the maximum temperature, or to 480°F. In a bowl mix flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and almonds.
In another bowl add  milk, sugar, oil, lemon or orange zest and whisk. Then add the mixture to the dry ingredients and combine with a wooden spoon. Knead until you have a smooth dough. 
Divide your dough in two parts. Take half of the dough and place it on a cutting board dusted with flour. Shape it into a baguette. It should be two fingers wide and two fingers thick. Place the loaf/baguette on a baking tray covered with parchment paper. Repeat for the other half of your dough.
Turn the oven down to 360°F and bake the loaves. The initial high temperature ensures that the loaves won’t lose their shape too much when they start to bake.  Bake the loaves for around 20-25 minutes, until they are golden outside, but still slightly soft inside. Leave the loaves to cool down for around 5 minutes, then cut them diagonally 1/2 an inch wide on a chopping board, with a sharp knife.  Lay the biscotti out on the baking tray cut side down and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until they have browned. Leave them to cool completely on a cooling rack, then keep them in a biscuit jar or a tin. They should keep for weeks. In my house it lasts maximum two days :)

 

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About this document

Created: October 10, 2018

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