A slightly different Make & Do post here, and I’m going to my love of baking, and Italian heritage here for some traditional Tuscan Cantuccini, which are ideal wedding favours and evening snacks for your guests. Who is getting caught up in The Great British Bake Off fever on this side of the pond? It was recently Biscuit Week on GBBO, and one of the contestants made traditional Cantuccini, which is a Tuscan Biscotti. For anyone who doesn’t know what that is, biscotti is an Italian biscuit which is baked twice.
These Italian biscuits make great favours and gifts for your guests as they can be packaged beautifully, will keep for days and go great with coffee or wine, preferably a dessert wine – so a perfect snack for you and your guests when looking for a break from the dance floor. The fact that they keep for days is great, as you can make them a several days before the wedding, and they can even be frozen. Bake?? I hear you say, in the throws of wedding preparation??!! YES! Baking can be very therapeutic, and a great opportunity to spend time with as many female relations as you can fit in your kitchen! If you are from an Italian, Greek or Middle Eastern family you will know exactly what I mean! There’s a reason why men stay away from the kitchen in these cultures, and it’s nothing to do with the food, but everything to do with the amount of women and estrogen in the kitchen, there’s usually a lot of “baking banter” aka “shouting” involved too. I have fond memories of all, yes all, of my Italian aunts, great aunts and grandma cooking the evening meal scurrying between kitchens, due to the numbers they were cooking for, at 11am, while all the men sat outside playing cards and the children ran around playing. Such good memories!
Almonds feature in this recipe, of course. And almonds are hugely synonymous with weddings and celebrations, which I’ll talk more about in my next post. So, without further adieu, here is my favourite Cantuccini recipe, which takes just 1 hour of prep time. You can do endless variations of this recipe using hazelnuts, chocolate (white, dark, milk), brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, cranberries….Google is your friend here.
400 g / 14 oz of chopped or halved almonds (shelled and skinned, or not…whatever you prefer)
500 g / 17¾oz of flour
250 g / 8¾oz of sugar
8 g / approx. 2 tsp of vanilla sugar (vanilla sugar = a jar of sugar with a couple of vanilla pods in it, alternatively use 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Extract not essence!)
7.5 g / a bit less than 2 tsp of baking powder
1 tbsp of grated orange or lemon zest
(milk, as needed)
Preheat the oven at 190°C/375°F.
Roast the almonds for a few minutes either in the oven or toss in a pan. Let them cool off and then chop/halve them.
Mix the flour with the baking powder in a bowl. Add all the other ingredients, including the almonds, except the milk. If the mixture is a bit too dry, only then, add a little milk. Just enough to form a dough.
Shape the dough in long thin rolls (about 5cm/2 inches wide, 2,5cm/1 inch high) and bake for about 20-25 min until golden. Take them out of the oven, let them cool off a little until you feel comfortable touching them. Then cut them into slices (about 2cm/¾ inches wide).
Put them back on the baking sheet with the cut side up. Bake them again for approx. 5min. flipping sides half way through. If they still don’t look golden enough, leave them in for 2 or 3 min. longer. But make sure not to bake them for too long, or you will risk losing a tooth as they tend to get hard quickly!
Once they are completely cooled, you can decorate them if you wish, or for a more rustic, boho-chic look, leave them as they are and package, preferably with linen, burlap and lace!