This year we are not going to Italy for Christmas as we decided to spend it quietly at home and to take it easy for the first time. I feel like a need to relax in the comfort of my own home this year, watching the children opening their presents, cooking nice food and meeting close friends.
Christmas in Italy can be very hectic indeed. You will find it incredible how much Italians actually eat, and not just on Christmas day, there is new year's eve with a "cenone", a really big and slow dinner which carries on until midnight; there is new year's day when you have a nice meal with the extended family and then Epiphany of course, where, at least in the region of Friuli, on the night of the 5th, gathered around a bonfire, we drink mulled wine and have a special spiced cake called pinza and on the 6th we have another meal with the extended family. Also on the 6th the "Befana" comes: an old lady who brings sweeties to the children, so another exciting thing for the children to look forward to. Not bad eh?
Not bad at all, but instead of packing my bags this year I have been having more time for baking and as I am growing more and more fond of spices I have made Italian Christmas cantucci biscotti. I made traditional cantucci (or biscotti) before and also chocolate cantucci too. I love this type of biscuit so much, it is perfect for dipping and it is incredibly moreish.
There is some sort of comfort in having spices in the winter: they are soothing, they warm you up and they can add so much flavour to your bakings. I am totally in love with my cinnamon Christmas biscotti. To the traditional recipe I have added pistachios, cranberries, citrus zest, cinnamon and nutmeg. They will be perfect for serving after the Christmas meal dipped in sweet dessert wine!
- Prep Time : 20 minutes
- Cook Time : 35 minutes
- Yield : 40
- plain flour - 200 g - 1 + ¾ cup + extra to sprinkle
- baking powder - 1 tsp
- eggs - 2
- butter - 30 g - 2 tbsp
- almonds - 40 g - 1/3 cup
- pistachios - 40 g - 1/4 cup
- dried cranberries - 50 g - 3/8 cup
- brown sugar - 90 g - ½ cup
- cinnamon - 1 tsp
- grated nutmeg - 1/2 tsp
- vanilla essence - 1 tsp
- the zest of one lemon and one orange
Put the, flour, the baking powder, the eggs, the sugar, the softened butter, the vanilla, the orange and lemon zest and the spices in a bowl and mix well. Add the nuts and the cranberries and combine well.
Put the mixture on your work top and working with your hands combine the ingredients forming a long sausage, add extra flour if the mixture feels too sticky. Wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Put the pastry on a sheet of greased baking tray and bake at 180C or 350F for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven, wait for the pastry to cool down for a couple of minutes (enough for you to be able to handle it), then with a sharp serrated knife slice the log diagonally 1 cm or 0.4 inch thick (you can use a teatowel to hold the log if you like). Place the biscuits on the baking tray and toast them for about 2 minutes each side.
Let them cool down and enjoy! They last very well stored in an airtight container for at least 3 weeks.
Check out my video on how to make them.