Cantuccini with Vin Santo (Biscotti di Prato)


These cookies are mostly known as cantucci or cantuccini, but officially they are called biscotti di Prato. The combination of cantuccini with vin santo is one of the most famous and most delicious desserts from Tuscany.

Biscotto means twice (bis) cooked (cotto), same as biscuits (cuit = French for “cooked”). Biscotti di Prato are named after the city of Prato (near Florence) because the oldest records of cantuccini are kept there, and a pastry baker of Prato won prizes with them in the 19th century. The word “cantuccini” refers to the shape of the biscotti and means “little angles”.

Vin Santo is a dessert wine from dried malvasia and trebbiano grapes from Tuscany that is aged for three years or longer in wooden barrels. Since the barrels are not topped up when wine evaporates (the “angel share”), the wines have an oxidized style. Vin Santo is sweet, but not very sweet. Cantuccini and Vin Santo are served as a dessert together: one dips the cantuccini in the vin santo. They do not only taste great together, but this also helps to make the cantuccini easier to eat. One of the great advantages of making your own cantuccini is that they won’t be as tooth-breakingly hard as most store-bought cantuccini.

Cantuccini are a great dessert for the host of a dinner party, since you can make them well in advance (even weeks if you keep them in an airtight container) and the only thing you have to do when it is time for dessert is open up a bottle of vin santo and serve with the cantuccini.

There is one thing I don’t like about baking and that is working with sticky dough. It has gotten even worse now that I want to take photos of every important step for this blog — try taking a photo when your fingers are completely covered in sticky dough that won’t come off! Luckily I have developed a trick for limiting the amount of handling the sticky dough by hand to a minimum for this recipe, ending up with smooth cantuccini anyway.

The recipe is for 500 grams (3 cups) flour. That makes over 50 cantuccini, more than can fit on a single baking sheet in my oven for the second bake. So I do the second bake in two batches, but you could also reduce the recipe to 300 grams if your oven has the same size (approximately 40 x 35 cm, 16 x 14 inch). You’ll probably regret making less as soon as you taste the cantuccini though…

Traditional cantuccini are made with flour, almonds, sugar, butter, and eggs. For variations you can replace part of the almonds with pistacchios or pine nuts, and you can add ground spices like aniseed or grated lemon zest.

Ingredients

500 grams (3 cups) flour (preferably 00)

300 grams (2/3 pound) almonds with the brown skins still on

300 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar (preferably vanilla-scented, by keeping vanilla beans in the sugar jar)

100 grams (7 Tbsp) butter

5 eggs

pinch of salt

1 tsp (4 grams) baking powder

optional: grated lemon zest, ground aniseed, ground coriander, seeds from a vanilla bean

Preparation


Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out the almonds in a single layer. Toast for 4 minutes and let cool.


Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat and let it cool.


Combine sugar, 4 eggs + 1 egg yolk, and a pinch of salt in the mixer. Reserve the remaining egg white for brusing the dough later on.


Mix for some minutes until nice and fluffy.


Add the melted butter (which should be less than 50C/120F to prevent cooking the eggs) and mix to incorporate.


Transfer the egg mixture to a bowl. Sieve flour and baking powder into the bowl.


Mix with a wooden spoon, working from bottom to top.


The dough is ready when you don’t see any flour anymore.


Stir in the almonds.


Now comes the sticky bit. Take out the dough on a floured work surface, and divide into three pieces.


Put the three pieces onto the baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and shape into three logs about 5 cm (2″) wide. Don’t worry if they don’t look smooth. Thankfully the sticky part ends here.


Lightly beat the reserved egg white.


Brush the logs with the egg white. While you are brushing, you can also brush the logs into shape. The logs tend to spread out too much which will lead to cantuccini that are too long. So brush firmly along the edges to make them narrower.


Bake for 20-30 minutes at 190C/375F until golden. Let cool on a rack for a few minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 175C/350F.


As soon as the logs are cold enough to handle, cut diagonally into cantuccini about 1 cm (1/2 “) wide with a sharp serrated knife.


Put the cantuccini back on the baking sheet with one of the cut sides down. Bake for 12 minutes at 175C/350F. Turn the cantuccini around and bake for another 8 minutes.


Let the cantuccini cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container as soon as they are at room temperature.

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15 thoughts on “Cantuccini with Vin Santo (Biscotti di Prato)

  1. They look excellent Stefan. They must be beautiful with the wine. Making anything sweet ‘in advance’ just does not work in this house. Sweet things disappear.
    Best,
    Conor

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  2. Not cheap but here is the thought for your photo taking while cooking: buy some powder free latex gloves (or other material if you are allergic to latex). In and out quickly.
    The thing I love about cantucci is the little butter in them – they make me feel better about eating huge amounts.

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  3. I just tasted Stefan’s cantuccini. I normally don’t particularly like them as I find them too dry. Beside romans normally prefare a roman equivalent, “ciambelline al vino”. But stefan’s cantuccini were not too dry at all … I might soon trade my affection for ciambelline, with cantuccini’s …

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  7. what tool is it that you use to beat the eggs? It looks like a automatic whisk (?) or is it part of a larger mixer I can’t see in the picture.

    The cantuccini look great, but they also look much larger than the cantuccini I have had in the with Vin Santo.

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    • The tool is a stand mixer with a whisk attached.
      The cantuccini did turn out a bit large. That happens because the dough spreads quite a bit. By making the logs more narrow, they will end up smaller.

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