Monday, 3 October 2011

Vanilla with roses (Cantuccini-Biscotti )

She never made cakes or sweets, except for her almond cakes, cartellate, at Christmas, and "biscotti tagliati" as she called them (cantuccini to everybody else.)
Mamma's biscuit making was a kind of a rare ritual. She very quickly made the soft dough... so quickly you just had time to smell the fragrance of the fresh lemon rind and the vanilla.

There was something magical about her hands: they could do five things at once! Unlike mine, her fingers were short, her nails slightly long and thick. Those hands are embedded right here: in my memory and in my heart: the hands of the person who gave me life and my first kiss. And how I wish I could hold them now... I can smell a scent of roses...

As the biscotti were baked in oven, the house filled with the fragrance  of "good things to eat"  If you could eat love, that's what my mum's biscuits tasted of! So much love... so much love, it still follows me everywhere. And happiness... that's what I must remember, most of all.

While I was in Italy, in my pursuit to capture time and put it inside a capsule, I made biscotti, just like she used to make. Even the "bottom" was burnt! And I heard myself say:" It's not my fault! It's the oven!"  When did I hear that before? We have an old fashioned oven in our place in Cilento, good for roasting, but terrible for baking, as you have to regulate the emission  of gas, yourself! And cakes and biscuits, unfortunately, do tend to come out with a black "bottom!"
I took some photos, as I went along. Here is the recipe I would like to share.

My wonderful lemons from Sorrento

Biscotti Tagliati (Cantuccini)

(makes about 60)
325 g (12 oz) plain flour
300 g (11 oz) caster sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
few drops vanilla extract
325 g (12 oz) almonds
Sugar balls or almonds to decorate
Before you start, put your almonds in a bag, and crush them, but only slightly.
Place flour, sugar salt, lemon peel  and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Combine, then add your almonds , roughly chopped.

Now, in another bowl,  mix your "wet" ingredients,  by whisking the eggs with the vanilla. Stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, till you get a stiff, soft dough.
Turn your dough onto a floured surface, then divide it in half. Prepare a baking tray, by greasing with butter and dusting with flour. You can now roll your delicious dough to make two big "sausages", which you will flatten slightly. Place the cylinders onto the greased baking tray, leaving a space between the two, as they will expand, and decorate.

I used some egg wash and these pretty little sugar balls ( diavolini) for one lot and whole almonds for the second.

My cantuccini looked very pretty!

Bake your biscotti in a preheated oven (180 C, 350 F, Gas 4) for about 25 minutes. Take your baked dough out of the oven and leave to cool down. Once cool, you can cut the dough into small, diagonal slices which you will place onto the baking tray, upside down, and bake, once more for a further 15 minutes. This explains the meaning of the word "biscotti": literally "twice baked!"
Eat your biscotti cold. They will be fragrant, crunchy, almondy and will bring a bit of Mediterranean sunshine to your home!
Cantuccini are truly delicious! We enjoy them at Christmas time, with a glass of Prosecco and nostalgia. 



  1. I love them! Cantuccini are so delicious! I enjoy eating them by dipping them into Vin Santo. Your recipe is mouthwatering! I always bake them at Christmas and this time I'll try your recipe! Grazie molto! Big hugs from Christa

  2. Hello Anna

    I could just envision Mamma baking and you portrayed her beautifully. I can see her hands as she kneads the biscuits.

    I will bake this at Christmas too, like Christa, and shall remember you.

    Thank you for the memories and for sharing the love that reigned in your household.

    Helen xx

  3. Hello, Christa! What a beautiful name! It brings back memories of days in Bavaria with my lovely German friend called Christa, just like you!

    I have a confession to make: I have never had Vin Santo, so I'll have to try it.

    Thank you, Christa, for your lovely comment.


  4. Hi Helen!

    Thank you for your kind (as usual) comment. And also thank you for being able to feel the love that I am missing so much, at the moment.

    I hope your cantuccini don't turn out burnt at the "bottom" like mine did! I'll have to try again, using the good fan oven I have here.



  5. Hi! :) this blog smells of italy and exotic at the same time and it feels just great! love your photos and foods!

  6. Hello Anna,
    I loved your post as usual and I will try to make those lovely cantuccini when my children and I are together this Christmas. I do feel for you in your sadness at the moment, it seeps into every bit of everyday life, doesn't it? But the loving memeries you share are such a tribute to your wonderful Mother. Jane x

  7. Ciao, Gaijina!

    Thank you very much for using the word "exotic" I like it! I do hope that my blog has an Italian feel to it. I associate Italy with sunshine and colour and I'm really glad that my photos and my food manage to create a little sunny pocket in blogland.

    E se non sbaglio, sei italiana come me. Grazie per la tua visita e il bellissimo commento.

    A presto, spero.


  8. Hello, Jane! I'm so glad that with your schedule being as busy and exciting as it is, you still find time to come and say hi. Thank you!

    You must make these biscuits. I assure you that the homemade kind are much nicer than anything you can buy. We will all make cantuccini, this Christmas, including Helen! And I'll try to get hold of some Vino Santo, though I suspect it might be too sweet for my taste!



  9. Such fancy Cantuccini with a sprinkle of sugar balls on! Never seen something like that!

  10. Michela,

    I got the idea from a 75 year old lady I know, in Campania, who is forever making and sharing cakes and biscuits. I think it's an old fashion type decoration, but charming because of that and very home made Italian! My mum never put sugar balls on her cantuccini.



  11. I have tried to comment on this post several times. I have been having a little trouble with my computer. I thought the photography was so beautiful on this Anna, you really should make a cookery book. Love Linda x