Cantuccini, or biscotti, are biscuits found all over Italy. They vary immensely from region to region in terms of what might be found inside. What is consistent is the sweet mouthful and extreme crunch, from the twice-baking from which their names derives. They contain no fat and it is this, combined with the fact that they are baked until they are dry and crisp, means that they keep extremely well in an airtight container. Although, admittedly they don’t hang around long in my house.
They go beautifully with coffee, dunked in until they soften a little. Traditionally in Italy, as a fantastic way to end a meal, they are served with Vin Santo into which they are soused liberally.
They are incredibly adaptable. The ones above have almonds, dried cranberries, mixed peel and pumpkin seeds, but that is only because that was what I had in the cupboard today. They work well with chocolate, hazelnuts, dried apricots, pistachios and dates. One of the joys of biscotti is the delicious variety you can get with each bite. However, you can easily omit all these things if you prefer for a purer biscuit. You will be missing out though.
Makes about 30
250g plain flour, sifted
250g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 medium eggs, beaten
Optional ingredients could be
50g dried cranberries
100g shelled almonds
3 tbs mixed peel
50g pumpkin seeds
Zest & juice of a lemon
Heat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4 and line two baking trays with baking parchment. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Beat the eggs and pour half into the dry ingredients. Mix carefully, the dough will get too wet vey quickly.
Add the eggs until you have a dough which comes together and feels slightly sticky, you may not need to use all the eggs.
Dust the worktop with flour and divide the dough into six. Roll each section out into a rough sausage shape, about 3cm wide, using a bit of flour if they stick. Lay on the lined baking trays, leaving a good 3
4 cm apart as they spread when they cook.
Pop in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, until they are a light golden brown. Take out and leave to cool for 10 minutes.
Slice each section on a diagonal using a serrated blade and lay back on the baking trays. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes but do watch them as they catch quite easily. They make be pliable when hot, but it is imperative that they are cooked through, as this is what gives you a fantastic crunch.
Cool on wire racks and store in airtight containers.
Best served with coffee, Vin Santo or ice-cold Limoncello.