I can still remember the very first time I had a Cantuccini, or Biscotti as they are also known. I was probably in my early 30's. My ex and I were enjoying a weekend on our own at my ex Sister in Law's condo in Toronto . . . down on Young Street . . . in the midst of what was happening in Toronto. You know you are living in a nice complex when you have an Italian Coffee Shop on the first floor filled with foreign Italian delights and . . . what was really new to me . . . Barista Coffee!
Always the foodie . . . I remember seeing a glass jar on the counter filled with these long, crisp biscuits and I so wanted to taste one. They were very expensive as I recall . . . so it was a real treat when my husband bought one for me. I sat there and savoured every last crumb . . . crisp and filled with nuts, I thought it was quite wonderful. That started a lifelong love affair for me with these crisp Italian Biscuits!
When my ex boss and her husband went on their yearly trips to Rome . . . they always brought back Italian Cantuccini and Amaretti, Torcetti and Baci . . . I do confess, I would sneak one just so that I could savour an Italian treat. Naughty me. It is my dream that one day I will be able to visit Italy and savour all it's flavours, but in the meantime, I try to recreate some of them here at home.
I have a whole Board on Pinterest dedicated to Biscotti! Biscotti and Cantuccini are pretty much the same thing. Biscotti (Twice Cooked in English) Cantuccini (Coffee Bread in English) They are crisp dry biscuits, with lovely flavours that are perfect for serving with hot drinks or sweet wines. There are tons of different recipes out there to choose from . . . but I think the ones with almonds are my favourite.
I found this recipe on a German Food Blog called Lykkelig. Her photograph was very beguiling . . . and I loved the combination of spices used in the dough . . . warm baking spices . . . cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, cloves . . . I think a bit of orange zest would not go amiss. Next time I will add some.
It was a bit of a risk using a recipe from a foreign language, but the pictures on the blog looked okay and between Todd who really speaks quite a lot in German and Google Translate, I was able to make heads and tails of the recipe. They turned out perfect!
Not to mention they smelled just like what I would imagine Heaven to smell like while they were baking! I think I have made a bit of a pig of myself since they came out of the oven and will have to ask Todd to lock them up for the rest of the evening!
*Spiced Cantuccini with Almonds*Makes about 3 dozen
250g of plain flour (1 3/4 cup plus 1 3/4 tsp)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 pinches each ground cardamom and ground cloves
1 pinch each ground nutmeg and ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
30g of butter, softened (2 TBS plus 1/4 tsp)
180g caster sugar (15 TBS)
2 medium free range eggs
70g of blanched toasted almonds (scant half cup)
Cream the sugar and butter together until well blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift together the flour, spices, salt and baking powder. Stir this into the creamed mixture, mixing well with a wooden spoon. Knead in the almonds, then shape into a flat rectangle, about 1 inch thick. Cover with cling film and chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Cut the dough rectangle into 4 equal strips. Shape into rounded flat loaves and place onto the baking tray, leaving plenty of space in between for spreading. Bake in the heated oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Cut into slices with a sharp knife, about 1/2 inch in thickness. Place the slices back onto the baking sheet, cut side down and bake for further 10 to 12 minutes until crisp.