After having created a less-than-satisfactory-looking lasagne for the previous night’s dinner, I woke up this morning with a mission: to bake cantucci (which the rest of the world calls biscotti).
Considering I had never endeavoured to make such an Italian biscuit before, it was a tall order. However, I was determined to overcome my culinary rut and conquer this centuries-old Italian recipe. Take that aesthetically displeasing lasagne!
Gathering ingredients from the cupboard on the way to the kitchen, I mentally prepare myself for the battle ahead. I was warned that the dough would be sticky. How sticky? Only time could tell…
Here goes nothing…
- 110g flour
- 60g caster sugar
- ½ a teaspoon of baking powder
- a pinch of salt
- 25g of chopped dark chocolate
- 1 egg
- 4 teaspoons of milk
Makes about 10 biscuits.
(So far, so good. All the ingredients are laid out ready to be combined. Now comes the hard part…)
- Line a baking tray with baking paper (trust me you want to do this first… you’ll see why later) and set the oven to preheat at 170ºC.
- Take a mixing bowl and sift in the flour. Then add the sugar, baking powder and salt. Swirl it around with your hand so that all the dry ingredients are more or less evenly combined. (This is going to be easier than I thought… sweet! Victory shall be mine!)
- In a glass, combine the egg and the milk. (Although this recipe does dates back to medieval times and we have been using our hands thus far… might I suggest a fork from here on out?)
- Make a little well in your dry ingredients and carefully pour the wet ingredients in. Then (with your fork) mix everything together. Trick is to mix the egg in one direction (either clockwise OR anticlockwise) and slowly keep incorporating more and more of the dry ingredients by giving your bowl a little shake and a turn. (I almost feel like a little dance should be done to coincide with all this mixing and shaking, but alas I digress…)
- Once the dough looks smooth, add the coarsely chopped chunks of chocolate and gently fold to combine. (Looking at the dough, something doesn’t seem quite right. It’s meant to be sticky, but this is borderline cake batter, not doughy at all… Uh-oh…)
- After everything is mixed together, generously (this is advice from first-hand experience!) flour a surface to work on and pour (or more like scrape!) the dough out from the bowl. Give it a good few kneads and (try to) put it on the baking paper (be warned, more scraping will be needed to detach from your work surface… at this point, if you hadn’t already completed step 1 and heeded my words of wisdom, you would be left sticky-fingered and fumbling with a roll of baking paper that refuses to lay flat). Shape it so it looks like a long loaf. (Looking at what lays before me, half of which is stuck on my fingers, I feel defeated. Yet another Italian dish that has prevailed over my attempts to conquer the culinary world! Sigh… into the oven it goes. Waste not, want not.)
- Bake until golden, this will take about 15-20 minutes. (About 15 minutes after putting my gooey mess into the oven, my shoulders perk up. Could it be? It’s actually… RISING! In the distance, an imaginary choir belts out the chorus of Händel’s Messiah in triumph.)
- Take your cantucci loaf out of the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before using a bread knife to cut it into 1-2cm thick slices. Lower the temperature of your oven to 140ºC and put the cut cantucci back in the oven to toast until golden on both sides. Each side should take about five minutes, so keep a close eye on them. (Oh yeah! Golden cantucci before half past ten in the morning, take that lasagne! Victory is mine!)
- Cool before eating. Great for breakfast (with coffee) or as a dessert (with a Tuscan Vin Santo).
Final score: 1 to 1, until we meet again Italian cuisine…