This recipe for Cantucci is adapted from one that I learned to make while attending a cooking school in Tuscany, Toscana Saporita.
Unlike other regions that make a similar biscotti (cookie) that uses some sort of fat, the Tuscan version does not. With the absence of a fat, the cookie never gets stale and can be kept for long periods of time. I store mine in a tin so they stay crisp.
This also makes for a much harder cookie. You must dunk it! Try a hot beverage like coffee, hot chocolate or the traditional Vin Santo. While we were dining in Florence, cantucci was served after dinner with a small glass of Vin Santo for dunking.
Vin Santo is a pale golden Tuscan dessert wine that is full bodied, sweet, with nutty overtones. Just like any wine, the resulting taste varies depending on the season/weather. I’ve found it difficult to find in the United States. When I was able to find it, the price tag was high – $30+ for a small bottle. That’s understandable because the process is long and laborious, plus the fact that it’s imported. It’s worth the price and it can be kept for a long time.
This recipe makes five 7-8 inch logs. I’ve adapted it from the cooking school recipe, which makes even more! It’s a fairly long process, so set aside a couple of hours and have some fun.
Prep time: 3 hours
Makes: approx. 70 cookies
- 7 large eggs
- 2 3/4 cup sugar
- 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tablespoon of baking powder
- 1/4 tablespoon vanilla or almond extract
- 1 cup of sliced almonds
- 3/4 tablespoon orange zest, optional
- 1 egg (for egg wash), raw sugar
- GARNISH with egg wash (1 egg and either a bit of water or milk to thin) and raw, crystal sugar just before baking
Preheat oven to 365 degrees F and line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place flour and baking powder in a large bowl and combine.
Put eggs, sugar, vanilla and zest in a stand mixer and blend. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and combine well. These steps can be done by hand if you don’t have a stand mixer.
THE DOUGH WILL BE STICKY; THIS IS THE WAY YOU WANT IT.
Transfer dough to a floured surface. Using floured hands, add the almonds.
Shape dough into several logs. Since the dough is sticky, you can use parchment paper to shape them.
Place the logs 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar crystals.
Bake at 365 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
Take them out of the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes. Then use a serrated knife and cut logs diagonally into 1 to 1-1/2 inch thick cookies.
Place each slice on its side and rebake until all moisture is gone and until lightly golden and crisp. (approx. 20 minutes, but longer if cookies still feel soft.)
TIP: Sandra from Toscana Saporita said her grandmother would make these, turn off the oven leaving the door ajar, and let them dry out overnight.
Serve Cantucci the authentic Tuscan way with chilled Vin Santo!