Cantucci di Prato: the original recipe for a taste of Tuscany
In Tuscany, the land of fine wines and breathtaking scenery, no Sunday meal goes without some cantucci from Prato, made from the original recipe. Sweet and crumbly, locals swear they are best when dipped in Vin Santo (a traditional sweet wine of Tuscany). However you don’t need to wait for an invitation to a Sunday family lunch to try some cantucci; these typical biscuits are on the dessert menu of every tavern or bar in Tuscany all year round.
Cantucci and Vin Santo are a perfect combination: the dry crunchiness of these biscuits is softened by this sweet wine, creating a unique set of flavours. It’s the unpeeled whole almonds in the mix that ensure their delicious crunchy texture still persists in your mouth.
The origins of Prato cantucci
Like most Tuscan dishes, the original recipe of Prato cantucci has peasant origins. The poorest families would eat the leftovers of the sweet loaf that the bakers prepared for the wealthiest people; this surplus was called “cantuccio”.
The biscuit was only officially acknowledged by Italian cuisine in 1691, when the Academia della Crusca defined the term cantuccio as a “sliced biscuit, made with flour, with sugar and egg white”. Almonds arrived after the time of Caterina De ‘Medici.
How to prepare the original cantucci
The original recipe for Cantucci was handed down to Antonio Mattei, pastry chef of Prato, a city near Florence, and is the centre of this tradition since the 19th century. The same preparation is still used today, including versions with chocolate and pistachios, a variation not recognized by the purists of Tuscan food.
Start by toasting almonds in the oven, then chop them with a knife. Place the flour on the table into a fountain shape, break the eggs and pour them into the centre, adding sugar, bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt. Work the mixture with your hands, add the ground almonds and some whole almonds. Make 2-3 loaves, place them on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper and bake at 150 ° C for about 10 minutes. Once cooked, cut the loaves into diagonal slices and leave the biscuits in the oven for a few more minutes. Note: cantucci must be cut when the loaf is still hot, it becomes impossible when cold. Store in a glass jar.
The term “cantuccio” or “cantuccino” is considered improper by the Pratesi, who simply define it as Biscotto di Prato. Some say the difference between the two is substantial and that cantucci are much older than the Prato biscuits. For those who want to know more, the dispute was settled a few years ago by the Florentine journalist Marco Ferri in his book La vera storia dei cantucci e dei biscotti di Prato (Le Lettere publishing house). Via in-depth documentation, the original cantucci recipe is shown to be more similar to bread than sweet biscuits.
Try the original cantucci recipe in our Dessert food box Tuscan
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