It seems that everyone is so used to referring to these double backed treats as biscotti, but they really go by Cantuccini, as all cookies are biscotti in Italian. So what? Exactly. They’re so good, who cares anyway…?
Noticing quite a few cantuccini recipes over the last months, I somehow never managed to try them for myself. Until recently, when I stumbled upon an Amazon recommendation (“The customers who bought this book also bought..yada yada” hypnotically attracted my click happy finger) and gave it a shot – despite the book’s title being “Biscotti” as opposed to “Cantuccini”. Aren’t we gracious **cough** ? What sold the book, however, was Amazon’s “Search inside”-functionality, which revealed gorgeous illustrations from the book – rarely used in today’s cookbooks.
Our last major food shopping spree included a monster-sized bag of pine nuts and the only way to escape a death by pesto was to quickly find alternative recipes using these nuts. Luckily the Pinoli Cantuccini recipe caught my attention and seemed to have temporarily saved us from severe pesto overdose. The combination with lemon was new to me, but a real taste surprise. So was the whole process, surprisingly simply: they’re prepared in an instant and as soon as your guests/friends realize that the Cantuccini are not store bought but home baked – ONLY FOR THEM (well and some for me, too… ;) – they start to feel even more special.
The Pinoli Cantuccini go well with coffee, tea and – my favorite – ice-cold chocolate milk, but I already have the next recipes lined up, Cantuccini Gianduia (chocolate/nuts/coffee flavored) and Caramel Walnut (Kahlua/walnuts)…
However, before we can have a next batch, some unfinished business needs to be resolved. O. and I couldn’t come to a mutual agreement with regard to the Cantuccini’s texture. While I was relieved to find our first set turning out perfectly crisp, yet light enough to not have to drown them in tea for half a minute to make them chewable or, worse, putting ones perfectly fine teeth at risk, O. would have favored them “rock hard”. But as long as I’m in charge of the bakery dept, it’ll be my way or the highway (as O’s aunt from Huntington Beach uses to say)!
Preheat oven to 170°C (325°F). Toast pine nuts in a shallow pan over medium heat for about 6 minutes or until nuts are fragrant and (lightly) browned. Then set aside to cool.
In a bowl beat soft butter and sugar until light and creamy, then add eggs, lemon zest and juice. Stir well.
In a separate bowl combine flour, salt and baking powder, then add to the first bowl and mix until well blended. Finally fold in the toasted nuts.
Divide the dough into two equal parts, form thin loafs and place on a cookie sheet (lined with parchment paper). Make sure they are neither too close to each other nor to the sides of the sheet. My dough was a little sticky, but when I dusted the board and my hands with flour, it worked fine.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack, allow to cool for a few minutes.
Place on a cutting board and carefully slice slantwise into 1/2 – 3/4 inch slices. Lay slices flat on the baking sheet and return to the oven for an additional 20 minutes (same temperature), turning them once after 10 minutes. Then remove from oven and let cool on the wire rack. Store at room temperature in an airtight tin or container.
Note: The original recipe suggested only another 10 minutes (step 6) for the second time in the oven (after turning once), and even with the exact temperature, I wasn’t quiet satisfied with the Cantuccini’s color. Doubling the amount of time (20 minutes) gave them the golden color I had anticipated in the first place.
Recipe source: Biscotti, Lou Seibert Pappas, p.18
Prep time: 15min., baking: 40-50min.
Ingredients (yield: ~30 pieces):
90g pine nuts
2 tbsp lemon juice
zest of one lemon
300g all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt