In English, Italian Biscuits with almonds. Yum ! I've always loved these biscuits, especially with coffee or espresso in the evening after dinner and spotting what I think was an easy recipe in the magazine, Delicious Uk, May 2009 Edition, I was sold. You can actually get some really store bought versions if you are in Europe and I used to buy them a lot, especially when I was making my Italian Cheesecake, for which I crush the biscuits with butter for my base. OK ! I digress, let's get to work making these really simple to bake biscuits. On the name, you may have spotted recipes for twice-baked biscuits… Yes ! these are the same thing, as they really are twice baked, but their Italian name is Cantucci. You'll be glad to know that you don't need any butter for these lovelies and as soon as you mix the ingredients, you just roll them out and pop them into the oven. So you need;
250g of plain or all purpose flour (if in South Africa, "cake flour" is the same)
150g of caster sugar
half a teaspoon of baking powder
half a teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 large free range or organic eggs
finely grated zest of one lemon
100g of whole almonds (i.e. with their brown skins on)
Dash of milk, say about 1 dessert spoon
Baking paper and one large flat oven baking sheet and oven on 180C.
Beat the eggs and pour into a mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Mix until everything is together and in a dough. Place your dough onto a floured board or a clean kitchen surface (if you're rich enough to have one of those Caesar stone or marble surfaces). Flatten and cut into three pieces – this will depend on how you want your biscuits to turn out – if you want them small like the ones above in the main pic, then rolling them out into three sausage shapes would be ideal.
If you want them more traditional like an oblong shape, then two or if you like try one long flattened shape. Place your rolled out biscuit dough logs or log onto a greased baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven.
Take them out, careful not to burn your fingers and using a very sharp knife, cut your dough into the biscuit size you want – ideally, 5 cm thickness is recommended.
Once you've finished cutting your biscuits, place them neatly onto the same baking sheet to be baked again – you see, "twice baked".
This stage is crucial because this is how you "dry" out the biscuits to make them harder. Don't get me wrong, they are quite nice "once" baked and are very similar to a sweet cake like biscuit. However, be careful at this stage as you don't want them too hard. I recommend no longer than 5-6 minutes on 180C. As soon as they get medium to dark brown, take them out and turn them over, so that the side on the baking sheet, which would have been exposed to more heat, will be facing upwards. After about 10 minutes, let them stand on their side, like below.
As soon as they are cool, enjoy. If anyone tells you they are too hard, ignore them as I did with my kids, and then watch them scrabble to finish them within a few days before you even get to them – I share this with you from experience. Yes ! they are a bit hard, but as soon as you bite into them the delicious combination of the lemon zest, almonds and sugar will have you addicted as you try to control yourself to having just 2 or 3 or 4 per helping.
In Italy, they are usually served with strong coffee and you can also serve them with hot chocolate as their relatively hard texture make them easy for dunking into your hot beverage.
Inspired by a recipe in Delicious Magazine UK, May 2009