The word Biscotti has become part of the American lexicon. It has come to mean a long thin cookie that sometimes has nuts and sometimes doesn’t. Biscotti in Italian really means cookie not just that particular kind of cookie which is really a version of the Cantucci di Prato, an ancient Tuscan dessert that is served at the end of the meal.
Usually very dry and crunchy, it is often served with a small glass of Vin Santo. Some people dip the cookies into the Vin Santo. The cookies are very easy to make and are baked twice. The Vin Santo is a much longer process.
Here’s a recipe for the cookies which would make a great Valentine’s day gift. This recipe is for about 36 cookies.
* 500 g bread flour
* 300 g sugar
* 250 g almonds, unpeeled
* 50 g pine nuts
* 4 eggs
* 1 tsp baking powder
* pinch of salt
* grated peel of one lemon
* a baking or cookie sheet, parchment paper
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F).
2. Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl. Add eggs and the rest of the ingredients until the ingredients stay together in a ball of dough.
3. On a clean surface, turn out the dough and shape it into a 3 cm wide roll as long as your baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper to help keep the cookies from sticking to the sheet (as no butter or oil is used). Place roll on the sheet, lightly flattening the top part of the roll.
4. Place sheet in oven and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the roll from the oven. The roll should be warm and firm; place it on a cutting board and cut diagonally, making 1 cm wide slices.
5. Place the slices back on the baking sheet on one of the cut sides, making sure to leave some space between each slice and place the sheet back into the oven, lowering the temperature a bit to 150°C (300°F). Bake for 15 minutes, then take the cookies out and turn them onto the other side and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove and let cool.
Vin Santo or the wine of saints is an Italian dessert wine that is produced in Tuscany, Umbria, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and Trentino.
White grapes (Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia and Canaiolo in Tuscany, Garganega and Gambellara in the Veneto and other grapes in different regions) are hand picked in the Autumn months of October and November. The bunches are left to hang dry from the rafters in a room called the Vinsantaia, which generally has many windows in order to promote air circulation and drying.
When the grapes have dried, which can go into January, they are pressed and the must that is obtained goes into the caratelli (small chestnut barrels) for fermentation. After the initial fermentation the wine is racked at least once and the caratelli are placed under the roof of the winery. Each area has a different tradition in terms of how long the wine remains in the caratelli before being bottled and eventually sold into the market.
Vin santo traditionally has a honeyed, orange taste with hints of dried fruits and nuts on the nose and palate. Usually it is an off dry or sweet wine and is the perfect way to end a special meal.