Vegan Cantuccini

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The Cantuccini di Prato are probably my favorite cookies, they are crunchy & crumbly, with plenty of almonds and oil free (be wary of fake cantuccini, the true ones have no butter nor vegetable oil!!)! The original recipe contains 4 eggs, mine none, I used some potato starch and water. The result is amazing! Cantuccini keep for several weeks in an airtight container, and are a fantastic Christmas present.

A bit of history (from Asso Cantuccini):The origins of the cantuccini date back to at least the 16th century and the name seems to come from “canto-cantellus”, Latin for “piece or slice of bread”, a salted cracker which Roman soldiers ate on their military campaigns. The biscuit as a “sweet” makes its way in the innovative production and consumption of confectionery products firstly in England and in Tuscany and then in the rest of Europe starting from the 14th century as a consequence of what historians have defined as the “sugar boom”, followed by the widespread cultivation of sugar cane in North Africa and Southern Europe.

Starting from the second half of the 16th century, the cantuccini made their appearance at the Medici court, even if, as research carried out on the recipes of the time shows, they still did not contain any almonds, being very similar to the already well-known biscuits from Pisa and the related “Genoese biscuit”.

The 18th century was characterised by the spreading of the cantuccini in various forms but it was only from the 20th century that production of cantuccini with almonds started all over Tuscany at large. The use of butter and leavening agents in their recipe rendered them long-life products especially suitable for mass distribution and exportation. The new advertising channels, such as speciality food stores and the large-scale retail trade, established in the 20th century, contributed to their distribution in Italy and the world.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 500 g organic flour
  • 200 g almonds (not peeled)
  • 500 g organic cane sugar
  • 4 tsp potato starch + 10 tbsp water (mixed together)
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 1tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, turmeric powder, lemon zest and salt. Add the mixture of potato starch and water and vanilla extract and knead to a dough (slightly sticky) – add more water if needed.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, add the almonds (if you want you can use pine nuts, pistachios, chocolate chips, or … why not?… a mix of different nuts and chocolate!) and knead it 2 or 3 times, until it just comes together. Divide the dough into 2 or 3 equal pieces and form each one into a log (4/5 cm diameter). Transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and slightly firm. Let the logs cool for 15/20 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer them to a cutting board. While the logs are still warm, cut them into 1.5 cm slices with a sharp bread knife. Arrange the cantuccini back on the parchment paper, cut sides down, and bake, turning once, until golden, for 10 more minutes.

Allow them to cool.
The best way to savour cantuccini is plunging them in a glass of vinsanto (sweet white wine) or red wine….

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