Sunday, December 6, 2009
Biscotti di Prato
I want to start by saying I didn't bake these. My mom did. I've been so focused on working and writing that I've hardly had time to cook, and poor Gian Luca has been living on Mortadella and Provolone sandwiches for the past week. But I can't stay away people. So even if I didn't bake these cookies, I need to tell you about them.
As I told you last time, my mom is the best chef I know. She can not only cook an amazing meal, but she can bake too. I owe all my cooking abilities and passion for baking to her.
My Nonna Lucrezia was also an excellent cook and my mother has so many stories of watching her mother in the kitchen as a child. These cookies, however, are not my grandmother's recipe, but one that my mother learned at the age of twelve when she left her small southern Italian town and moved to Prato in Tuscany for school.
My mother learned most of her culinary skills while living in Prato, Assisi, and Milano and growing up we were lucky enough to eat recipes from North and South Italy. When my mom opened up her restaurant in 1989 she fused the two regions together and created Italian food that transcends boundaries. Yet, some recipes must stay true to their origins. So when my mother was writing her cook-book, she labeled these cookies Biscotti di Prato, other wise known as Cantuccini.
Biscotti literally means "baked twice" and these cookies really exemplify their name. Smaller than the average biscotti, these little guys are hard as rocks as they are meant to be dipped in Vin Santo ( very sweet dessert wine, which, by the way, my in-laws always bring us from their hometown of Montepulciano) or at least, a rich, dark espresso.
These cookies are one of the first recipes that I tried and successfully baked on my own one winter in New York when I decided to bake Christmas cookies for everyone at work. They are so easy and delicious that they were ( and still are) perfect for a cookie tray. And, because of their durability, these cookies have a very long shelf life. They can last up to one month in an airtight container, but trust me, one bite of these and I guarantee the batch won't last a week. Just watch your teeth!
Biscotti di Prato
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups almonds ( shaved or whole roasted)
1 egg beaten
1. Sift together flour and baking powder and put on a rolling surface. Make a well in the center of the flour. Put sugar, 4 eggs and almonds into the well and mix with the flour ( starting in the center and gradually adding flour, the same way you'd make homemade pasta). Combine until dough forms.
2. Form dough into two long, skinny loaves ( about one inch in diameter). Put the loaves on a greased baking sheet. Brush the surface of the loaves with the beaten egg.
3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes
4. After taking the loaves out of the oven, cut 1/2 inch slices diagonally across each loaf. Place the cut pieces on a flat tray and bake for another five minutes, or until golden, but not too dark. Remove from oven and allow to cool.