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Monday 22 November 2010

Cantucci di Prato

Or Canticci di Pietro, if you'll allow me...

It is that time of the year when everyone starts talking about what edible Christmas treats they are making to give away, and the food blogs run wild with suggestions. Not all food blogs mind; I seem to have hardly posted at all recently, which I feel not quite bad about, but not 100% at ease with either. I have cooked for the blog, it's just that people keep eating the food before I can get a picture of any reasonable quality. And you know what low standards I have when it comes to the photos.

Thus my coq au vin will have be remade (the hardship!), as will the clafoutis (ditto) and the various cakes that never quite made it. I might wait a while for the first two though, based purely on the amount of butter that went into them. We had friends over, so it was fine, but making Julia Child recipes for just the two of us might lead to considerable weight gain, given my already-with-us-for-the-long-haul penchant for the sweet and sticky.

That reminds me: I have been saying I'll make these cinnamon rolls all year and need to get on it.

I believe I promised some Italian recipes after having been to visit Bob and Francesco in September. True slacker that I am, I haven't posted any until today, and even worse for those who want a traditional recipe, I have actually bastardised one quite awfully here. I am not going to apologise, but am going to say that they contain Brazil nuts, oranges and cinnamon, so calm down, missus, it's still all good.

As far as I am aware, Julia Child never wrote a recipe for biscotti, and she certainly never made this one, since it has no butter in it whatsoever. But I have noticed that lots of American bakers do add butter to their dough; this is so wrong. Stop it, I beg of you. The whole point of biscotti is that you dry the shizzle out of them, so adding butter is pointless.

True Cantucci di Prato contain aniseed and almonds. My biscotti have neither, because I have no desire to be that person who buys ingredients for absolutely every recipe he tries anymore. I don't have the shelf space, the time or the money. Also: Brazil nuts. Do you really want almonds instead? Didn't think so.

Some years ago I made a jar of Christmas biscotti for each family that makes up my extended family, thinking they would be a nice gift. It was an act of madness (12 jars), and will never be repeated, or at least, not without using smaller jars. However, should you wish to make these for Christmas gifts, know that:

  • they will last for ages, so you could make them now, and stash away for next month;
  • they are quite an economical gift to make so long as you use cheap packaging (basically, don't use big, expensive IKEA jars that hold an entire batch, unless you're only making them for one person) - cellophane bags would be great;
  • you can add whatever nuts and dried fruits you have in the cupboards.

Mr. P's Brazil Nut and Orange Biscotti

You will need:

300g plain flour
200g granulated sugar
100g Brazil nuts
3 eggs
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, bicarb, orange zest and nuts.
  2. Break in two of the eggs, and using your hands (keep one clean and outside the bowl, in case you need to answer the phone!), mix carefully to a dough. You can add milk if everything looks dry, but it should be fine. Take your time, and mix well.
  3. Form three small baguette shapes from the dough, each the width of two fingers. Put the dough baguettes on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with the well beaten thrid egg.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes at 190°C, then remove from the oven and slice the baguettes into biscotti. Bake the slices for another 5 minutes in the oven on the baking sheet, then turn them over and bake again on the other side for 5 minutes.
  5. Cool on a wire rack. Store airtight.


  1. Seeing as though we're on the topic of edible gifts-

    I'd like one.

    From you.

    Of course, you'd get one in return.

    Homemade edible gift swap?

  2. I'm glad to see a post from you! I've missed them!

    These look lovely. I have never understood why so many biscotti recipes don't contain butter, but the way you've explained it makes so much sense!

  3. DEAL! Gift swap will happen. :)

    And Kaitlin, we wouldn't mind some of that banana bread either.

  4. I'm right there with you, for some reason my posting has been waaay less frequent this month and I dont know why! (well, might be foodbuzz pfb is the culprit) Anyway, love these biscotti and I couldnt agree more that they are a perfect edible Christmas gift. :)

  5. Yay, you're back!! And with beautiful biscotti!


  6. These look great! If you organize a homemade edible gift swap, I'll join in, too.

  7. I've just found your blog (via Bellau Kitchen) and promptly lost about 2 hours of my life. These look delicious. And I needed one last thing for my Christmas hampers ;-)


That's what he said.

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