This Almond biscotti recipe, also known as “cantucci” is a staple all over Italy. But visit Florence and you’ll see it everywhere! There are a few misconceptions about biscotti though. AND it’s not just an accompaniment to a cup of coffee or espresso. (This post was originally posted on November 24th, 2015.)
After a recent trip to Florence where my daughter was studying, I returned and decided to tweak my original recipe (published in 2015) to best reflect what we experienced and tasted in Tuscany.
She also took Italian cooking classes as part of her curriculum, and was able to contribute in reworking this recipe. (She also tasted a lot of cantucci and vin santo!)
What is biscotti?
Biscotti can refer to any cookie or “biscuit”. Derived from medieval Latin, it means “twice baked”. This is most likely where the British adopted the word biscuit for cookie. Shortbread is considered a “biscuit” and not a cookie in Britain. But in Florence, what we Americans think of as “biscotti”, are actually called “cantucci”. I will use both words here.
What do you serve with biscotti, (cantucci)?
While we usually associate biscotti with a cup of coffee or espresso, they will also served at the end of a meal in Italy with a small glass of vin santo. This almond biscotti recipe is similar to the biscotti we were served all over Florence.
Although there are many types of biscotti, we prefer the plain almond with vin santo. In fact, this is the only way we ever had cantucci in Florence; following an evening meal! I also have a recipe for a chocolate, cherry and almond version which goes well with a cup of coffee or espresso. (Scroll to the end for the add-ins for the cherry, almond chocolate chip biscotti)
Are biscotti hard?
Well, yes and no! After a recent trip to Florence and many a cantucci and vin santo tastings, one of the most surprising things we noticed is that the Italian biscotto is not rock hard. A lot of biscotti served in the US are hard enough to break a tooth! In Florence, the biscotti has just a bit of give in the middle. This recipe for biscotti will yield a slightly softer result.
Does it take a long time to make this almond biscotti recipe?
The “twice-baked” might make you think that this recipe takes twice as long as another baked good. But it really doesn’t. Total active time is just over an hour.
How to make biscotti or cantucci
Another thing we noticed about the biscotti in Florence; they are not as large as American biscotti. Smaller pieces called “cantuccini”, wwith vin santo, so that’s what we’re going for here.
What are the ingredients for this almond biscotti recipe?
Make sure the butter is room temperature. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the flavorings and eggs, then the flour. The dough will be quite stiff, if so, add in the chopped almonds by hand. Form the dough into two or three logs (depending on whether you want a smaller “cantuccini” or a larger biscotti for dipping in coffee. I do measure my logs using a wooden ruler just for the kitchen.
The logs will be about 3/4″ tall by 1 1/2″ wide and about 13″ long. Chill the logs about 20 minutes. Especially if it’s a warm day. Bake the logs just until golden, about 20-25 minutes depending on your oven.
The logs should give just slightly to the touch. Let them cool about 10 minutes. At this point they can be fragile, so if you don’t have a large offset spatula, you can use a cookie sheet without a lip to transfer the log to a cutting board.
Cut the logs on the diagonal with a serrated knife. Carefully transfer back to the cookie sheets for the second bake. For the second bake, remember that the bottom is the part that will brown, not the tops, so check at around 5-7 minutes. Once they are lightly golden brown, remove from oven and flip each biscotti over. If you’re using two baking sheets, reverse their position for more even baking. (Middle to bottom and bottom up to middle).
When done, let the biscotti cool until you’re able to transfer to a wire rack. They will continue to harden slightly as they cool.
Store biscotti in an airtight tin for a week to ten days. (Longer if they last that long!)
Do you have a friend who loves Italian cuisine? A basket of cantucci and a bottle of vin santo would be a lovely holiday or hostess gift!
What is vin santo?
Vin santo or “holy wine” is an Italian dessert wine. Traditionally served in Tuscany, vin santo is made with Trebbiano and Malvasia, but it can also be made with Sangiovese for a rose version. Similar to sherry, vin santo can vary in sweetness from dry to very sweet. Vin santo is served at the end of a meal as a “digestivo” or digestive drink.
As with other Italian products such at San Marzano DOP tomatoes, you’ll want to check the label of the vin santo you purchase. Look for the DOC label.
DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, or DOC, which means “designation of controlled origin. You can read more about DOC here.
Here’s the almond biscotti recipe! (With an adaptation for cherry, almond and chocolate chip biscotti).
Almond Biscotti or "cantucci".
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Coarsely chop almonds, then lightly toast for about 5-10 minutes.
- Line cookie sheet with parchment or silpat (sliicone baking sheets)
- In a standing mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add Amaretto and almond extract, then beat in eggs, one at a time.
- Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add to butter and sugar, just until mixed.
- Stir in chopped almonds. If dough is too stiff, mix in by hand.
- Form into 2 or 3 long logs about 1 1/2" wide and about an 3/4" high.
- Chill until dough is firm. About 20 minutes.
- Bake biscotti at 350 degrees F. for about 20-25 minutes or until golden. Don't over cook. They will be very light and give slightly to the touch. Transfer to wire rack and cool about 10 minutes.
- Cut logs diagonally into 1/2 to 3/4" wide slices. Bake, cut side down, for about 7 minutes. Turn biscotti and then bake another 7 minutes, or until just barely golden. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
- Don't over bake the biscotti during the first bake. You'll be baking them again and they will continue to harden as they cool.
- For cherry, almond chocolate chip biscotti follow above biscotti recipe and add 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips and 6 ounces dried cherries when you fold in the almonds.
- Store biscotti in an air-tight container. They will last at least a week to 10 days.
- Do not refrigerate!