For a sweet end to dinner, Biscotti di Prato (otherwise known as Cantucci), are a great choice. They are rich in flavor, light and crunchy in texture and delicately sweet. The most delicious and most famous biscotti come from Prato in Tuscany (hence the name). Prato is also the centre of the slow food movement and is located just to the northwest of Florence, is famous for its deliciously dry and crunchy, almond-studded biscotti. Although biscotti has come to refer to almost any Italian cookie, biscotti means "twice cooked" and originally referred only to cookies like these that are literally baked twice. We serve ours with Vin Santo (holy wine), a delicious Italian sweet dessert wine.
We have used the great grandfather of Italian cooking, Artusi Pelligrino’s recipe which is believed to be inspired by Antonio Mattei, a close friend of his who in 1858 opened the Biscottificio Mattei, which is still Prato's signature bakery, and is still making his biscotti today.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
• 500 g (4 1/6 cups) flour
• 220 g (about 2 cups) powdered sugar
• 1 1/8 cups whole almonds, with a few pine nuts
• 2 tablespoons butter
• A pinch of ground anise (which Antonio did not include)
• 5 eggs, plus a lightly beaten yolk
• A pinch of salt
• 3 teaspoons baking powder (my addition)
Mix four of the eggs and the remaining ingredients except the nuts to make a fairly soft dough, adding the fifth egg only if necessary. Work the nuts into the dough and divide it into four finger-high, palm wide loaves. Put them in a greased and floured pan and brush them with egg yolk.
Bake the loaves, but not too much, so you will be able to slice them, a task that will be easier the next day, because the crust softens. Return the sliced cookies to the oven to toast them on both sides, and you have your crunchy cookies.
Artusi doesn't give temperatures; bake the biscotti at 350 F (175 C) for 15-20 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Let them cool and slice them crosswise before they harden.