8.16.2014

Singing for Supper (or Dessert)

Cantuccini. Italian. Cookie. It must have its root in the word cantare - to sing, I thought. They must mean "little songs," I said aloud to no one in particular...

Well, guess what? It doesn't. I was so disappointed to find out that it has nothing to do with singing, music, or anything remotely interesting

I read all about the history of cantuccini this morning and honestly can't even remember one thing about the etymology. How sorry is that? Markopedia says the origin of the name is speculative, and is variously traced to “canto” for a part of a whole (like the cantos that comprise an epic poem), or for a slice of bread taken from a loaf. Ho hum; either seems good enough for me. I do remember that they originated in Prato (in Tuscany).

While I can't remember most of what I read this morning, I can remember the first cantuccini we had.

We were in Montalcino, Tuscany, in the summer of 1998. We had rented the villa "I Cappuccini" at the end of a mile-long drive through an ancient oak wood.

We arranged for a special group lunch at Castello Banfi - a multi-course extravaganza - that ended with cantuccini and the wonderful, amber-colored dessert wine called Vin Santo.

Cantuccini are a traditional after-dinner cookie - the original biscotti. (By the way, for all you baristas out there with biscotti at your counter. Please, please offer your clientele one biscotto or two biscotti. Yes, the singular sounds wrong, but it is correct. Don't get me started...)

Cantuccini are smaller than what we Americans know as biscotti, and they are much harder - best eaten, as noted, dunked in Vin Santo.

I recently mentioned, in my post for poached pears, that I believe every meal needs closure with something sweet. One or two cantuccini dunked in Vin Santo does the trick. Even Mark agrees to that.

I made these for several Italian-themed dinner parties we were giving over a short period of time. After a rich and festive meal, they are just the right finishing touch.

Everyone has room for at least one little cookie, right?

~ David

Cantuccini
Adapted from Tuscany, The Beautiful Cookbook

2 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
3 whole eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup coarsest chopped almonds
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk


Preheat oven to 350°F


In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.


Add eggs and beat with a wooden spoon to distribute the egg. Add the almonds and continue mixing with your hands until you have a stiff dough and almonds are evenly distributed.


Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Roll each piece into a rope about 1 inch in diameter, and about 12 inches long.
Flatten slightly.

In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and milk, and brush the rolls with the egg mixture.


Line a large cookie sheet with parchment. Place the rolls on the parchment and bake until golden, about 20 minutes.


Remove from the oven and quickly slice each roll into 1/2-inch thick slices. Separate the cookies as shown, and return them to the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.


Place cookies on a wire rack to cool and dry completely. Store in an airtight container.


Makes about 60 cookies. 


 

40 comments:

  1. I love these cookies and I LOVE the linguistic analysis.... I agree with your assigned background of the word - I would believe you if you had explained it as stemming from 'song'!

    Love any cookie with almond - I could go for one with a cup of tea now!

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    1. I know, Ahu - I was disappointed it wasn't musical But, I still love them. And everything almond-y!

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  2. I just learned something. I had no idea biscotti was plural. Now I'll be correcting people!

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    1. We are such Italo-snobs! It I suppose, there are worse things to be called!

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  3. I love the photo looking down on the almonds in the measuring cup. It has a nice composition. Great story as well.

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    1. Thanks, Cory - on both counts! Glad you enjoyed it.

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  4. AND......I don't like it when people order A "panini!" I even corrected a restaurant where my daughter used to work. The menu board said "paninis." They were very surprised that they had made a mistake and didn't really see why it mattered to me, or to anybody. I think comes from not being interested in foreign languages. After all," English Only" is the name of the game here in the USA.
    Oh well, my hubby doesn't call me the grammar queen for nothing.

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    1. Mark uses a very similar name for me when I get on my Grammar Soap Box! But I really like to hear things said and pronounced correctly. (Don't get me started on "expresso!") Panini is another pet peeve of mine, too. And all pastas in Italian are plural so the dish is lasagne made with lasagna noodles. Thank you, Caterina, for letting me know I am not alone...

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  5. Beautiful! Cantuccini and biscotti di Prato are really the same thing. Recipes might slightly vary but the result always makes me want to sing! They are also good with any passito wine.

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    1. Thanks, Anna! Other than the ones you mentioned made in Abbruzzo, are there other biscotti versions by region in Italy? I never saw anything like the 5-inch huge ones I see here in the U.S., but maybe they do exist elsewhere in Italy.

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  6. Lovely post, David! The cookies sound delicious. My neighbor in Fresno makes biscotti with pistachios -- you might try the cantuccini with pistachios sometime for a nice variation on a theme. I think the key to language awareness about plural and singular nouns is some sort of foreign language education in school. SO SAD that it, along with art and music classes, is becoming such a rarity in our country. Shame on us!

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    1. I couldn't agree more, Kirsten. The importance of grammar in the U.S. has dropped significantly. At least now this is a pushback - Weird Al has a new song called Word Crimes, which is amusing and also very good.

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  7. David, lovely little morsels - we call them Biscotti - "bis" for "twice" and "cotti" for "cooked/baked" because they are baked twice - love them to bits and pieces with almonds but you already know that, of course.
    Liebe Grüße,
    Andrea

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    1. We call some cookies biscotti but cantuccini to me are a bit different and that could simply be that what we mostly see in the States are imposters. I love these little dunkers with my cocoa!

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  8. Hoping it's okay to have the after dinner cookie before dinner. Like for breakfast! I'd love one with my coffee. (You know you're a great photographer when you can make baking powder look pretty. )

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    1. Well, that has to he the nicest comment I have received on my photography! Thanks so much Valentina! And, yes, I have had my share of these with my cocoa for breakfast! :)

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  9. Oh, one of my favourite sweet treats! And I love how you researched! Beautiful recipe, beautiful shots!

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    1. Thanks, Liz! They are wonderful treats for anytime of the day!

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  10. These look easy to make and you have given us lots of material for conversation as we dunk and eat! It would be fun (and instructive) to see a list of words for foods that are incorrectly used or pronounced...I could add a few..."scone" comes to mind...

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    1. That could be a great idea for a future post, Susan! Another favorite of my peeves is bruschetta - I have never heard it pronounced correctly in the States...

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  11. Hi David, these look divine, I would love one or two of these in the afternoons with my tea for a little pick me up. Pinned.

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    1. Thanks, Cheri! Glad you liked the post, and I hope you like the cantuccini!

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  12. Glad to have found your site. Keep up the good work! DB Product Review

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  13. Hmmm. I'd check Markopedia again. Isn't it Cookie Monster who sang that song "C is for Cookie"? GREG

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    1. You are probably right, Greg. And Markipedia would know.

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  14. Cantuccini - I should've named Daisy that!
    D, these are gorgeous and the Rx looks easy enough for me. Too bad for my waistline, I have all the ingredients at home.
    Guess what I'm gonna do tonight?? xo
    PS-Those eggs look divine, just like the ones I got from Organic Valley. Gave me some peace of mind, but you're right - there's not telling where our butter, sour cream, etc come from.

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    1. Let me know what you think, Colette! Also, what is your instagram address? I can't find you!

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    2. Oh, and I just had a behind the scenes tour of the new Whole Foods in Tucson - some really nice looking organic stuff. I am keep[ing my fingers crossed for the butter and sour cream!

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  15. Those are gorgeous, and I loved this post! But I am awestruck. I've never seen vin santo that color! It looks really sweet!

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    1. Mimi - it isn't too sweet, actually! It is perfect with the cookies or by itself! Thanks for your nice comment!

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  16. Lovely! I don't know what it is, but when I made biscotti, they end up being twice as long as I wanted them to be! Your cantuccini are perfect, and I love that last photo with the wine! When I would be in Italy, staying with my grandparents, one of the most favorite things I'd have was taralli dipped in Marsala all'uovo. Sadly, I've heard that the new generation isn't interested in having egg yolk in their marsala so it's becoming less and less popular. :(

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    1. I had the same problem when I first started making them, Christina - I honestly (not to bash my own country) think that it s because the recipes were in American magazines/cookbooks, etc. SO much so that I thought the instructions were wrong when I first made these - but they came out the perfect size! I had a friend who used to talk about the marsala with egg yolk. I definitely would try that - it sounds heavenly. Like a Zabaglione Crudo!

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  17. Lovely post, David! I make biscotti quite often and never realized there was a word for the singular. Thanks for setting me straight! I would love one of your Cantuccini or maybe two to go with my morning tea!! They look fantastic!

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    1. I have heard that from a lot of people, Kathy - I hope I haven't offended anyone... :) Glad you like the cantuccini! Hope your trip was wonderful.

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  18. Ohhh David! You're making me miss Italy (and I only left a week ago!). Cantucci were my favourite Italian dessert, particularly when dunked in beautiful dessert wine as you've mentioned above. Much lighter than the famed tiramisu (though that is rather delicious too!). I'm ridiculously happy to see this recipe so that I can continue the tradition when I get home. And yes, in Australia we have biscotti in many cafés also; the ignorance about the singular makes me irate too! Also with panino vs panini! Argh! Anyway, love this post!

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    1. I am so glad you enjoyed these little treats when you were in Italy, Laura. Such a simple dessert yet quite satisfying. Let me know if you make them and what you think! xo

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  19. Thank you for specifying about the biscotto/i... (I will go further and say biscotti is the general Italian term for ALL cookies, not cantucci - so if you are making the effort to learn a foreign word, learn the right one!) one of my pet peeves alongside panino/panini (which is the general term in Italian for ALL sandwiches, not just a specific kind) and the pronunciation of bruschetta as 'brusheta' instead of 'brusketta'.

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    1. The bruschetta pronunciation drives us crazy, too, Fiona. And what is really sad is that many people who should know better (foodies!) do it, too. We has a whole list of bugaboos like this, but it seems like an uphill battle. So sad...

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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