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Ieri sera abbiamo preparato i cantucci or cantuccini. There are two variations: i cantucci di Siena (with butter, more crumbly) e quelli di Prato (vicino a Firenze).
I cantucci di Prato are also known as biscotti di Prato, or in the US simply as biscotti.
Biscotti means "cooked twice": bis is the prefix from latin for twice (at the end of a concert we usually shout bis!!! instead of encore) and cotti (cooked).
I cantucci are indeed baked twice. However, in Italia usiamo the word biscotti for any sorts of cookies, including those that bake only once, like chocolate chip cookies.
The recipe below is adapted from una ricetta di mia zia Mariolina.
Ingredienti (this amount is for a couple of baking sheets of cantucci):
- 680 g =1 1/2 lb di farina bianca
- 1 cucchiaio di lievito istantaneo (baking powder)
- 680 g =1 1/2 lbs di miele (honey)
[if you do not like honey, you can instead add 2 eggs OR some melted butter OR extra virgin olive oil AND 100g, about 1/2 cup of sugar. You would only need a little butter or oil- just enough to keep to dough together]
- 4 (quattro) uova
- 100 g di zucchero
- 680 g =1 1/2 lbs di mandorle intere (whole almonds, with skin)
[you can substitute le mandorle with chopped dark chocolate or uvetta, raisins or make a mix of the three. You may also try to use nocciole, hazelnuts]
- la buccia grattuggiata di un'arancia (grated zest of one orange -- you can use lemon as well)
- Optional: you can add some spices, such as vanilla, or fennel seeds, cinnamon, a little nutmeg...
1- Preheat il forno (oven) at 180 C ~350 F. Cover the baking sheet (teglia) with parchment paper (carta da forno).
2- In a very large ciotola (bowl), place the flour mixed with the baking powder.
3- Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the honey, using a spatula or your fingers (le tue dita) to gently mix as you pour.
4- In a small ciotola, briefly mix the eggs and the sugar with a whisk. Add the orange zest.
5- Again, make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour into it the egg-and-sugar mixture. Mescola con le mani (with your hands) or with a rubber spatula for a few minutes.
6- Aggiungi the almonds and mescola for a few more minutes. The dough will be soft, rough, and sticky.
7- Take some of the dough in your hands and place it sulla teglia. Press the dough to form a log the length of the baking sheet, 1-1.5 cm (~1/2") thick and 5 cm (~2") wide. Ideally, you should try to shape it such that the center is a little bit thicker. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly brown.
8- Remove the logs from the baking sheets and place them on a cutting board. Cut each log in 0.5 cm (~1/4") pieces. If you want you can cut them on a slight diagonal.
9- Place these pieces back on the baking sheets leaning one of the cut sections against the bottom of the sheet. Bake for approximately 10 more minutes per side.
10- Remove from the oven. The cantuccini will become harder when they cool down.
We usually eat them dipped in a glass of Vin Santo (lit. holy wine, a sweet dessert wine)...but you can dip them in milk ;)
Note: once the cantucci are cooled, you can place them in tin cans and keep them for a long time. You can also freeze them.
During the Spring 2012 I taught one of many interdisciplinary undergraduate seminars in the Experimental Study Group at MIT. Each class is based on the preparation of a simple delicious dish and on the bite-sized acquisition of parts of the Italian language and culture.