Almost 10 years ago, I went to a small town in Tuscany and stayed in a magical place…Villa Delia.
It was my first trip to Europe so, of course, I was smitten. I fell in love with Italy the moment my feet touched the ground there and I was enamored with the people, the weather, the lifestyle and of course, the food.
Villa Delia was a special place (if you want to read more about it, click on this post). Every morning, we would meet on the “loggia” – Italian for “really big outdoor covered patio” – and talk about what we thought we would be cooking that day (did I tell you it was a cooking school??). Some days it was pasta, gnocchi, ravioli, other days it was stuffed turkey thighs or wild boar ragu and other days it was homemade lemoncello and a plethora of sweets.
While we would dream about what our creations would be for the morning (we would cook all morning and then venture out for an afternoon of touring and of course eating!), Marianna would be busy cooking our breakfast. Every morning there would be a beautiful table laid out with fruit, cappuccino, eggs, meat, and every imaginable homemade sweet that you could think of: sweet buns, croissants, pastries, crostata (an italian sweet pie), a variety of cakes and of course cantuccini (baby biscotti). I think she must have started at 4am to get all of that on the table.
Every. Single. Day.
So, of course, I wasn’t leaving until I got her recipe. It was simple, made by hand and the best little treat to put on the side of your saucer when you are having an espresso.
Every time I make this recipe, it brings me back to that loggia…among friends discussing the day ahead and being grateful that a wonderful woman named Marianna made the best cantuccini!
6 3/4 c flour
2 1/3 c sugar
1 1/4 c butter
5 eggs (plus another beaten egg for the egg wash)
150 ml marsala wine (a sweet wine you can get at the liquor store…you could also use a coffee or almond flavored liqueur)
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking soda
2 c almonds (toasted in a hot oven is best)
1 c chocolate chips (or small dark chocolate pieces)
1/2 c chocolate pieces
1 tsp vegetable oil
1. In a large bowl, place flour and sugar and butter, and mix with your fingers (or a pastry cutter) until all of the butter is incorporated.
2. Then, make a well in the mixture (just make an indent in the flour mixture) and place eggs, sweet wine, vanilla and baking soda in the center; mix again.
3. Add the nuts and chocolate and mix again…use that elbow grease!!
4. Once it forms into a ball, let it rest for a few minutes while you get your pans ready.
5. Turn your oven on to 350 and line 2 large cookie sheets with either parchment or Silpat mats.
6. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll into thin logs (remember that cantuccini are baby biscotti…about the size of the top digit of your finger…from your knuckle to the tip of your finger); flatten the logs and place on the cookie sheet. Brush with egg wash and bake for about 15 minutes.
7. They should be golden like these above; remove them from the pan and let them cool for about 10 minutes.
8. Reduce the oven to 300 degrees.
9. Cut them into 1″ slices (using a serrated knife)and place back on the cookie sheet; return to the oven and bake for about 1 hour (they should be hard and just a touch brown)
10. Remove from the oven and place the cookie sheets on a counter to cool.
11. Place glaze ingredients in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave for about 1 minute (stir to combine)…if not melted, return to the microwave until it is smooth.
12. Place in a Ziploc bag and snip a tiny hole in the corner. Push all the chocolate to the corner and, using the bag like a piping bag, drizzle all the cookies with the chocolate.
This recipe makes about 1 kg of cookies…enough to share with a friend…’cause that’s what baking is all about!