Same goes for recipes. A week or two ago I added a new recipe to my repertoire: Italian biscotti (made from a tweaked British recipe), known in Tuscany as “cantucci” (Check out the picture in the wikipedia link… does the picture look familiar? Oh yeah! Contributing to for the greater minds of tomorrow! Combatting stupidity one upload at a time!). They turned out quite well. So well, in fact, that by breakfast the next day after there were none left! And you know what that means… when the biscuit box is empty, it’s time to replenish the stock and get baking again! (It is becoming more and more apparent that neither my husband nor I will ever go hungry as long as I have access to a working oven.)
So here is an alternative recipe for the Tuscan favourite… but this time… in miniature and with almonds (as dictated by the traditional recipe)! And just out of curiousity as to which recipe is generally better, I decided to do a side by side comparison and bake two batches: one Italian, one British. As with any fair test, all variables are kept the same except what you are trying to test (in this case the one ingredient that is differs: butter or milk). All explanations aside, this is…
Britain vs Italy: Cantuccini Challenge 2015.
Let the games begin!
- 1 egg
- 70g of caster sugar
- 25g of melted butter
- ½ teaspoon of baking powder
- 125g of flour
- 60g of almonds
- a pinch of salt
Makes about 25-30 cantuccini.
10 minutes preparation; 30 minutes baking
- In a pan, at low heat, toast the almonds until that are slightly more brown and give off a nice fragrance. (To be honest, I just dumped them unceremoniously in the pan and left them to their own devices. However, do make sure to keep an eye on them and turn them once in a while so that you don’t end up with the fire brigade at your door… unless you are into that sort of thing… fires, firemen… to each their own.)
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC, line a baking tray and set aside. (Now for the messy part…)
- Put the egg into a bowl and add the sugar. Mix until smooth. Then add the melted butter and mix again. (In theory, you are supposed to wait until the melted butter is cooled, but I honestly don’t have the patience for such things and rarely to never wait for anything to be cool before throwing it into something else.)
- Sift in the flour, bit by bit, and combine with the mixture. Once completely combined, fold in the toasted almonds (which you should have taken off the stovetop about halfway through step 2. What did I say about keeping an eye on the almonds?)
- Generously flour a working surface so you can form two thin loafs out of your dough. (Comparing the two recipes in terms of overall kitchen cleanliness, I’d say they are equally messy. The only difference would be that this time I knew what to expect and therefore was prepared for the sticky mess to come. I call that “improvement number 1”. ) You will need plenty of flour to work the dough, as it is very sticky. Space the loaves sufficiently apart on the baking tray so that they have room to grow.
- Sprinkle a tiny bit of extra flour on top before putting them in the oven. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Let them cool a bit before you use a bread knife to cut the cantuccini loaf into 1cm thick slices. Try cutting them at an angle to make them slightly more aesthetically pleasing. (Improvement number 2!)
- Turn the oven down to about 140ºC and put the cantuccini back into the oven to toast for about 5 minutes on each side, or until slightly golden on both cut sides.
- Cool before eating. (Traditionally softened by dipping into a Tuscan Vin Santo, but also delicious dipped in milk, coffee or with a scoop of ice cream. Improvement number 3… ice cream always makes things EVEN better.)
How do the two recipes compare? Blind taste tests conclude that the Italian recipe tastes more authentic and crumbles better when dipped. Slight buttery taste is also favourable and adds depth of flavour to the cantuccini itself.
Winner is: Italy
PS: I couldn’t resist but to try another type of nut. Pictured below is Cantuccini con Pistacchi. Same recipe applies, just substitute the almonds for pistacchi. Keep checking back… next time they will be chocolate based!