As part of the run up to Christmas I thought I Would get a head of my baking. A perennial favourite of ours is Cantucci biscuits, dry Italian nut biscuits which are eaten with sweet wine as a dessert, though I prefer mine with an espresso coffee. Making Cantucci is very frugal as they can currently be bought online for up to £5.75 for 300g plus postage and packaging! Unless you actually reduce the ingredients to carbon you have to be ahead of the deal, fortunately this is pretty difficult to do as making Cantucci biscuits is pretty easy.
Cantucci biscuits originated from Prato in Italy and are twice baked biscuits, traditionally using almonds though I make mine with hazelnuts.
My recipe is easy and makes approximately a kilo of biscuits, you can substitute the hazelnuts for almonds (which is more traditional), walnuts or even pine nuts if you are feeling rich enough.
To make Cantucci you need
500g plain flour
250 g caster sugar
2 tbsp of baking powder (a modern addition but does help to keep an open structure to the biscuits)
! vanilla pod, seeds scraped
A good knob of butter
350g whole hazelnuts
2 tbsp Amaretto
Before I get in to the method a quick word about Vanilla pods. Vanilla pods are expensive, but not as expensive as supermarkets would have you believe. That tearing sound that you hear when you buy Vanilla pods from a supermarket is the sound of you being ripped off. A better way of buying vanilla pods is from ebay, I’ve just looked and I can buy 20 pods including post and packaging for less than £4, that’s 20p each, not so expensive now!
Well on to the method
Preheat your oven to 180C /gas mark 4.
Pop the nuts onto a baking tray and roast for 15 mins, then rub the skins off in an old tea towel while warm, don’t worry if not all the skins come off. Leave to cool then roughly chop.
Mix the flour with the baking powder, sugar and vanilla seeds . Separately beat the eggs and add the Amaretto (do use Amaretto or some similar liqueur as it really adds to the flavour). pour the egg mixture into the flour and mix until you get a soft dough, add the nuts.
Form the dough into two logs about 25cm long. Line a baking tray with baking paper and smear liberally with butter. Place the logs on the paper and bake for 25 mins.
Remove and cool. When cool enough to handle slice the logs into 1.5cm slices with a bread knife., lay the pieces flat back onto to the baking parchment and bake again for another 15 mins, they are done when they are lightly browned.
Cool and store in an air tight container.
That’s it, they are really nice and make an impressively casual dessert with friends and family for the minimum of faffing about in the kitchen. Let me know if you give them ago.