As a kid, not older then 6 years, with a burning 25 cents in my hand, there were two options for me.
Either I spent it on second hand comics or on old cookies! In town there was a luxurious chocolate annex biscuit store, with most tempting products. The one best bargain to make there was to buy a paper cone filled with left over crumbled cookies. The owner, a man with an oversized moustache, knew that crumbles count in business, and he sold them to me with pleasure. The treasures hidden inside, the different flavors, textures, some even with a colorful sugar coating, were most fulfilling.
You probably remember the jar offered by your auntie or grandmother, filled with old chewy biscuits. These “rubber biscuits”, as the Blues Brothers call them, had the ability to bounce back of the wall. The question is, did you like them as a kid? Well, time can play a positive part when it comes to some foods. The lasagne from the day before, now baked in the frying pan is most likely to taste better. The same applies to cakes and biscuits. A bit of time gives the ingredients the possibility to fuse together and sing in close harmony!
Some cookies are around already for a long time, and favoured by many. The “CANTUCCI”, is definitely in my top five list. This fantastic Italian double baked cookie with almonds was made and sold by Antonio Mattei in 1858. Still a 154 years later you can buy them in the original store at Via Ricasoli numero 22, in the city of Prato, just a 20 minutes drive north from Florence center. Recipe and traditional way of dipping this hard cookie in the “Vin Santo”, or holy wine, did not change much over time. But you can also soften it in your cappuccino or Amaretto, or test the strength of your teeth with it.
CANTUCCINI RECIPE, or more precise, recipe for “BISCOTTI DI PRATO”
225 gram / 8 ounce of plain flower (sifted)
150 gram / 5.3 ounce of white sugar
pinch of salt
1,5 teaspoon backing-powder / sodium bicarbonate
125 grams / 4.4 ounce of brown almonds, peel on
2 tablespoons of pine nuts
WHAT TO DO,
Traditionally you make this on top of your counter top without a bowl, with your bare hands, don’t be afraid, just give it a go, you will like it.
First make a “pond” in your flour heap, like a donut shape
In here go the almonds and pine nuts, with the sugar, baking powder and salt
On top of these go the eggs
Start gently mixing in the flour from the sides
When the ingredients start coming together, you knead a bit firmer until you have an elastic dough
Divide the dough into 4 pieces, and roll each into an long cylinder shape, which you flatten a bit
Place the 4 cylinders on a flowered tin or paper sheet.
Bake them for 20 minutes in a preheated oven of 190 0C / 375 Fahrenheit
Take the tin with the rolls out of the oven, and cut them immediately, slightly diagonal, in the size cookies you like.
Place them back on the tin, on there freshly-cut side, and bake for 10 minutes more in the oven, or until browned to your liking.
Let them cool before eating
A bonus can be adding finely grated orange peal or lemon peal, or both
Ad seasoning to your liking, for instance, some fresh ginger root finely cut, or add cinnamon and or cardamon
Some recipes add anise seeds, some additional raisins or dades
Once you have the hang of it, you will feel like a real pro,
and while dipping it with friends they will love you for it.
Great chance that these “Cantucci”, or when a bit smaller, “Cantuccini”,
unfortunately will not get really old !
Link to a picture of the “Biscottificio Antonio Mattei,”, in the city of Prato, Italy