7 December 2014

Italian Pistachio Cantuccini

Cantuccini are sweet and crisp biscuits that always remind me of Christmas and the festive season. Traditionally made with almonds, these cantuccini get a christmasy makeover with pistachios and orange zest. 


First Christmas cookie of the season! Let me introduce you to my favourite little Italian sweet, the cantuccini. Also known as biscotti, I love these cookies, crispy, sweet and always flavourful. 

Can you believe that 2012 2014 is nearly over?!? And yep, I did actually type 2012, the time is moving so fast! December is going to be a great month; I have regenerated my love of ballet for the past 2 years and finally, I am going to be getting my pointe shoes! Also, as you probably know, I am going to Paris just before Christmas. Family are then coming over for Hogmanay (New Year). 

This is definitely going to be a whirlwind of a month. 


I love these cookies which are even made with Italian olive oil! The olive oil adds a lovely depth of flavour as well as an authentic texture to the cookies; crisp yet crumbly and a buttery crumb. You would be surprised that there is no butter in this recipe. 

Cantuccini originated from the Italian city of Prato in Tuscany. Prato is a city focused on the idea of "slow food" - food that takes love and time to make and many local shops and bakery specialise in the cantuccini cookie. 

Cantuccini is seen as a "slow" food as the cookies are twice-baked; first as a whole log and then in slices. This technique of baking guarantees a crisp result. 



The main flavour in these cookies is pistachio. I love pistachios, so tasty and green, if green is a selling point! To get the maximum flavour, you should shell and de-skin the pistachios yourself. I know it is a bit tedious but, after a while, it becomes slightly therapeutic! I bought a 250g bag of nuts in their shells and after shelling ALL of the nuts, I finally got 125g of prepared nuts. 

To remove the paper brown skin of the nuts, just put the nuts into a clean tea-towel and fold it over, to create a little pocket and rub gently. The skin should then come off - hopefully!

Yes, I know is quite a faf just preparing the pistachios, but trust me, the flavour is definitely better!  

If you are not a fan of pistachios, use any other nut of your choice but I wouldn't especially use peanuts, as their flavour may overpower the delicate flavours of the cookies. 



These cookies are great for gifts and presents for food lovers, or really anyone! Simply package up in little cellophane bags and tie with a festive ribbon and anyone who receives them will be over the moon.

(Unless they are allergic to nuts and eggs, gluten intolerant and can't eat sugar... That would be sad...) 

On that note however, soon (soon as in 5 years) hope to become vegan. Already very a vegetarian pescatarian, I definitely think I will end up vegan one way or another! 



To make the cantuccini, whisk together some eggs, sugar and orange zest until nice and fluffy. I use organic and free-range eggs from our own chickens but if you buy eggs, make sure they are organic and/or free-range. Imagine eating an egg from a chicken that lives inside in a cage all day with nowhere to run and roam freely and is fed additive-filled food that makes them produce larger and larger eggs. 

The thought fills me with complete horror!

On the sweet note, I always use golden caster sugar as it has been less refined. Also, make sure your sugar is fairtrade too! 



Next, slowly pour in your olive oil in a steady stream until all is added. You want to emulsify the egg with the oil to make a soft and pale mixture which is thick yet light at the same time, kinda like a sweet mayonnaise.  Just so you know, I hate mayonnaise!

To go fully Italian, you should use extra virgin olive oil, preferably cold-pressed. This will impart a strong yet floral flavour of the oil. I love the taste of olive oil so I used extra virgin oil from a friend who pressed it in Italy! 

If you are not keen on the taste, I recommend you use either vegetable oil, such as rapeseed, mild olive oil or even melted butter. 



Sieve in the flour, baking powder and finally add the nuts and vanilla. Stir well and dollop onto a baking tray lined with either baking parchment or a silpat mat. I love using a silpat mat, mine is nearly a year old and is still as non-stick as ever, it's amazing!  

Try and shape the batter into a log sort of shape and bake until lightly golden. Leave to cool for a minute or so and then slice with a serrated knife. Place the slices on the same tray and bake again for 15 minutes until golden again.

Easy cookies done! 

P.s They taste divine; the nuts are a lovely contrast to the sweet orange and olive flavour dough. Sweet and utterly delicious, they are perfect with coffee, tea or as a quick snack or dessert. 



Italian Pistachio Cantuccini
Posted by Eve
Makes 35-40
Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 150g caster sugar
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 125ml mild olive oil
  • 275g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 125g pistachios, whole
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180/ 170 fan/ gas mark 4 and line a large baking tray with baking parchment or a silpat mat.
  2. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and zest until fluffy and mousse-like; this should take about 5 to 8 minutes. Gently pour the oil down the sides of the bowl until all of the oil is added and combined into the egg mixture 
  3. Fold in the flour and baking powder and mix gently. Add the pistachios and the vanilla and mix well. 
  4. Shape into a log about 30cm long and  2cm - 3cm wide. Bake for 15 minutes until golden, once baked cut into 2cm pieces and bake again for 10 to 15 minutes cut side down on the baking tray until dry and evenly brown. Place on a wire rack to cool completely

Enjoy!


The cantuccini should be kept in an air-tight container for up to 3 weeks.



1 cantuccini , 1/40 of recipe

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