Cantucci, biscotti, or biscotti di Prato?
Cantucci are probably the best-known Italian biscuits abroad. Outside Italy they are often referred to simply as biscotti, which is a shortening of their alternative name, biscotti di Prato. However, if you went into an Italian shop or bar and asked for a biscotto you’d be presented with an extremely wide range of confection. Biscotto for Italians is the equivalent of biscuit or cookie: and there are many types.
As the alternative name suggests, cantucci are considered to be from Tuscany, from the city of Prato to be precise. However, they only achieved the designation di Prato in the 19th Century. Before that they were considered to be a product of Pisa where we know that they were being made in the 1500s. Similar kinds of biscuit are found in Umbria, Lazio, and Le Marche under the name of tozzetti.
So how are they made?
They are called biscotti because they are bis (twice) cotti (baked). Literally. First the ingredients are made into a long log shape which is baked. Then the log is cut into slices which are baked a second time to dry out the middle. In the original recipe the only addition to the dough is almonds. However, I’ve created this naughty double chocolate version, especially for you. Well, it is almost Christmas, isn’t it?
And how are they served?
Traditionally cantucci are served as a dessert and are dipped in vin santo before eating them. However, this chocolate version pairs very well with coffee, tea, or even hot chocolate. You could even leave one or two out for Santa this year if you want him to leave you an extra special present in return.
140g (1 cup) almonds
2 large eggs
175g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
325g (2 5/8 cups) plain flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
5g (1 teaspoon) baking powder
25g (1 1/2 teaspoons) unsalted butter, melted
50g (1/4 cup) chocolate chips
1. Heat the oven to 180° C (355° F). Place the almonds on a baking tray and toast for about 10 minutes. Leave to cool completely.
2. Put the eggs, sugar, and salt into a bowl and whisk until the begin to turn white.
3. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and butter to the bowl and mix until combined.
4. Add the almonds and chocolate chips and continue to stir until they are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
5. Turn the mixture onto a floured board, and form into a long log shape. Transfer to a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.
6. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Allow to cool.
7. Cut the log into slices about 1 1/2 cm (2/3 inch) thick.
8. Place on a baking tray and then put them back in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Turn them over and cook for a further 5–7 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.