In Tuscany, where arguably the most famous biscotti come from, you can find a few types of similar cookies. The most well-known are cantuccini, which are often almond-studded biscotti from Prato, Florence's neighboring city. There are also tozzetti, which can be found in the Etruscan areas of Tuscany's deep south that border Lazio; these cookies sneak in from the province of Viterbo. Finally, there are numerous variations that can be found here and there—like the cantuccini gigliesi from the island of Giglio, where bakeries sell long flat logs of dried fig and dark chocolate filled cantuccini to take home for chopping up.
I usually make cantuccini with almonds, whole, raw and unpeeled, and a splash of vin santo added to the mixture. But now that I live in southern Tuscany, which is closer to Rome than Florence—where it's more common to see hazelnut tozzetti than cantuccini—I've broken my own rules and morphed the recipes together for something that's like cantuccini but with the distinct hazelnuts of tozzetti.
If vin santo isn't available, you can use anything to replace it—any other wine, grappa, sambuca (that anise flavor is quite typical of traditional biscotti); or, if you don't have alcohol, use a splash of water. —Emiko
- Makes about 30 cookies
(200 grams) whole hazelnuts
2 1/2 cups
(300 grams) flour
1 1/4 cups
(250 grams) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons
zest of 1 lemon
vin santo or grappa (see headnote)
- Toast the hazelnuts in a moderate oven for about 5 minutes or until they are warm and fragrant. Rub the warm hazelnuts in a tea towel to remove the skins (they don't have to be perfect—a few bits left here and there are fine), then chop about half of them roughly in half.
- Sift the flour into a bowl and create a “well” in the center. Crack the eggs into the center and beat them in, incorporating the flour little by little (like you would when making fresh pasta). Add the rest of the ingredients, including the hazelnuts, and mix until just combined.
- On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, shape the dough into two or three logs about 1 1/2 inches (4 centimeters) wide (it may be quite sticky; in this case, do this with 2 spoons, placing blobs into a long, log-like shape). They don’t have to be perfect—they will smooth out and expand a bit in the oven—but do leave plenty of space between logs on the baking sheet.
- Bake at 350° F for about 20 minutes, or until golden on top. Remove the biscotti from the oven and, when cool enough to handle but still slightly warm, slice the logs at a 45° angle into cookies about 1/2-inch (1 to 2 centimeters) wide.
- Place the sliced biscotti back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Let cool completely. Keep them in an airtight container so they maintain their crunch.