First morning up, first time in Italy we spotted a small bakery (or should I say smelled it) below our apartment. Hungry and tired, we walked in only to have our eyes pop out of our heads as we gazed at the amazing pastry cases filled with variety after variety of untold goodness. Being a novice, we figured out how to order café latte, but when it came to ordering food my eyes focused on something familiar looking; the half-moon, toasted cookies we Americans famously refer to as “biscotti”. I pointed and asked for, “cinque biscotti” only to be looked at like I was crazy. Maybe I had said “five” wrong because surely I could say “biscotti” correctly? Finally through the “point, nod, hold hand up with five-fingers showing” method I got what I wanted and only later figured out what I had said wrong. “Biscotti” just means cookies in Italian, so the lady waiting on me was like, “ok, which cookie do you want??” The crunchy, half-moon cookies I wanted are called cantucci. Classically, cantucci is made “all’ mandorle e vaniglia” with almonds and vanilla and served dipped in espresso or Vin Santo, which is a sweet Italian dessert wine.
This recipe for cantucci allows for endless possibilities and flavors and luckily I have found many bookstores around Florence where I can buy cookbooks featuring local and regional recipes. The following recipe is an adaption from a small 78 page book I found called, A Taste of Tuscany. This recipe is remarkably simple and makes about 24 cookies depending on how thick you slice them. Many times I will make a double batch, split the dough and make two different flavors (chocolate chip/pecan, apricot/almond). Cantucci store perfectly in the freezer in an airtight container and make for incredible little gifts when packaged in a clear sleeve with a slip of ribbon.
|Cantucci with Almonds & Dried Cranberries|
- 8 tablespoons salted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup whole almonds
- 1 cup dried cranberries (I use Ocean Spray Craisins)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line a half-sheet pan with parchment or lightly spray with cooking spray.
- With a mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamed throughly then add eggs, one at a time until the mixture is fluffy.
- Sift together flour and baking powder.
- Add almond and vanilla extracts to the batter with mixer on low, then slowly add the flour mixture. Blend until it comes together.
- Add whole almonds and cranberries stirring just until they are blended in.
- Divide dough into 2 sections and form long, slightly flat, logs of the dough, side by side on the baking pan.
- If dough is slightly sticky, flour your hands to help shape the dough.
- Bake about 30 minutes.
- Take the logs out of the oven and with a sharp chef’s knife place the point of the knife at the edge of the log and rock the blade through the log forming the individual cookies.
- Turn cookies on their sides and place back in oven for about 6 minutes, then turn cookies for another 6 minutes or until they are lightly golden.
- Cool and enjoy!!