December 2012


It’s pretty hard to ignore that Christmas is around the corner.

Whether you are cheering or groaning, you just might need to eat a cookie anyways.

This cantuccini recipe is a perfect solution for gift giving.

Since these are baked twice (bis-cotto = twice cooked) they are dry biscuits – so if they sit around for a week before you give them away they are still perfect. Just keep them in a sealed container. I’ve made them the last three years and they give me a smug feeling (which is shockingly fleeting)  of domestic goddessness when this iconic Italian treat, is indeed, of my repertoire.

In Tuscany, these cookies are eaten after a meal soaked in a fortified wine called vin santo. But across the pond people eat biscotti dipped in coffee and yes – they are rad like that too (even if in the back of my head I’m thinking – I should be drinking carrot juice).

This recipe is from one of my favourite cookbooks: Twelve – A Tuscan Cook Book by Tessa Kiros. Tessa’s books are all awesome. But if you love simple Italian food then I think Twelve is a book worth the investment. You’ll also find in its pages my favourite Christmas recipe: roast pheasant with pancetta.

Check out my other fave Italian recipe books. For now let’s get on with baking biscotti at home. Easy. Fun.


Cantuccini – Almond Biscotti


60 grams (2.25 oz) softened butter

250 g (9 oz) caster/superfine white sugar

Grated zest of either 1 orange or lemon

2 eggs

400 grams (14 oz) flour

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

150 grams (1 cup) whole almond with the skin

3 tablespoons vin santo (fortified wine).

(recipe makes about 45 cookies)


Turn oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ Gas 4

Mix the butter and sugar till smooth with a big spoon. Add zest and the eggs and beat well. Mix in the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the almonds and the booze. The recipe calls for vin santo but unless you live in Italy you likely won’t have this on hand. I use whatever liquor I have (rum is good) but you could just substitute water or juice too.

First, line your cookie sheet with parchment. Then dust your work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Divide your dough in 3 masses and form 3 salami style rolls of cookie dough (about 1.25 inches high/2 inches wide/and shorter than the length of your tray).

Put your dough logs on your cookie sheet and leave room between them for spreading. Bake for 20 minutes till they start to turn golden. They will be a little soft.

Get them out of the oven and lift them gently onto your work surface while they are still hot.

Cut them in slices, slightly at an angle. They should be about .5 – .75 inches wide. You should gently saw the surface of the cookie with a very sharp knife to break through the surface, but then chop down straight to shear the almonds cleanly for tidy little cookies.

Rearrange the cookies on the baking sheet cut side up. They will be fragile before their second round in the oven so don’t rush that step.

This is where you should really pay attention. I’ve overcooked these poor babies at this stage and made teeth breakers. My suggestion is to re-bake them for 5-7 more minutes. I think softer is better than harder as they do dry out as the days pass. Store in an airtight container and they can go a couple weeks – but they won’t. They never do.

They are a nice Christmas gift giving tradition. I wrap mine in brown paper tied with a ribbon. You could give them on their own or with a bag of good coffee or a bottle of port or wine or Tuscan vin santo if you’re feeling flush.

Hope you love them as much as me.

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Please comment. Do these remind you of Italy? Have you made biscotti at home before?

xx Bianca