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Cantuccini – my grandmother’s secret recipe

by Paola Fiocchi Van den Brande
Tuscany, land of great culinary traditions, so many recipes to learn and try in your home kitchens, much better after having visited our beautiful region. When speaking about Tuscan typical desserts, the first coming to your mind is “Cantuccini con Vinsanto”, for sure. These twice-baked almond cookies are usually offered in restaurants at the end of lunch or dinner, together with a small glass of Vinsanto, a dessert wine with a strong personality. You will never forget their rustic but really gorgeous flavour, their balanced mixture between sweet and salty which combines perfectly with Vinsanto “bitter sweetness”. History The origins of the cantuccini date back to  the 16th century and their name seems to come from “canto”, part of a set or from “cantellus”, Latin for “piece or slice of bread”, a salted cracker which Roman soldiers ate on their military campaigns. Biscuits in their “sweet” version made their way in Europe starting from the 14th century as a consequence of  the so called “sugar boom”, followed by the widespread cultivation of sugar cane in North Africa and Southern Europe. Starting from the second half of the 16th century, the cantuccini made their appearance at the Medici court, even if, as researches carried out on the recipes of the time show, they still did not contain any almonds, being very similar to the already well-known biscuits from Pisa and the related “Genoese biscuit”. The 18th century was characterised by the spreading of the cantuccini in various forms but it was only from the 20th century that production of cantuccini with almonds started all over Tuscany. The use of butter and leavening agents in their recipe rendered them long-life products. My recipe comes from my grandmother’s little book where I always find traditional inspiration for my dishes. The secret ingredient which elevates the taste is just a splash of Vinsanto in the dough, it really makes the difference!


Difficulty: Intermediate –  Cooking time: 50 min  –  Preparation time: 30 min Ingredients – serves 6-8: – Unpeeled almonds – 250 gr – Butter 100 gr – Plain wheat flour- 500 gr – Eggs: 4 whole + 1 yolk – Caster sugar – 300 gr – Salt – a pinch – Baking powder – 5 gr Roast almonds in the oven at 190° for 3-4 minutes and let them cool down. Melt butter and let it cool. In a big bowl whisk 4 whole eggs and 1 yolk together with sugar and a pinch of salt until the mix becomes soft. Add melted butter and sifted flour with baking powder and stir until it becomes crumby and soft. Chop up the almonds and add them to the dough. Form 2 or 3 small rolls (depending on the wished cookies dimension) directly on a baking tray covered with baking paper and cook them in the oven for about 20 minutes at 190°C. Remove the baking tray from the oven and let the rolls cool down for some minutes, then cut them crosswise in the wished thickness in order to form the cantuccini. Put the cookies on the baking tray again and cook them in the oven for further 20-25 minutes at 170°, turning them after 10 minutes. Let them cool down and taste cantucci by dipping them in a little glass of Vinsanto wine. They can be stored in a tin box for several days without losing their flavour. By Gianna Strambi, your personal chef near Bolgheri, Livorno, Etruscan Coast – Tuscany

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