Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cantucci di Pinoli e Rosmarino

This is the second post in a short series on cookies. We began with a recipe for Strassburgers from a Swedish cookbook entitled Sju Sorters Kakor. Next up is a recipe for Cantucci di Pinoli e Rosmarino from a new cookbook by Mona Talbott and Mirella Misenti entitled Biscotti: Recipes from the Kitchen of the American Academy in Rome: Rome Sustainable Food Project [2010].

The American Academy in Rome’s mission is to foster the pursuit of advanced research and independent study in the fine arts and humanities. Inspired by Alice Waters’s vision of making the Academy’s food reflect its high ideals of scholarship and art, the Academy launched its Roman Sustainable Food Program in 2007. In Biscotti’s Forward, Waters writes: “The recipes in this book are a perfect expression of the values of conviviality and purity embodied by the Rome Sustainable Food Project. Each of these cookies brings with it a taste of time and place—the ingredients are seasonal, organic and local—and no cookie is so big or so sweet that eating one will interrupt conversations at the end of a meal.”

Biscotti is not and makes no claim to be a collection of authentic Italian recipes. Rather, the cookbook features fifty cookies that are a part of the kitchen’s repertoire. Some of the cookies are Italian, for example Brutti Ma Buoni (or Ugly but Good). Other cookies are quintessentially American, such as Snickerdoodles. However, all of the cookies in Biscotti are Italian in spirit; like Roman cooking, they are direct and simple. Essential flavors of Italy—pine nuts and rosemary, cornmeal and almonds, pistachios and oranges—permeate the book’s collection.

If you pick up this book you will be struck by its handy size. Like Sju Sorters Kakor, it is half the size of a typical cookbook. I find these dimensions particularly useful and friendly. (A number of my British cookbooks are like-sized.) Biscotti can and should be compact as it presents a limited offering. I think its narrow focus is a virtue and not a fault. Biscotti is concise and easy to use.

I also like the size of the kitchen’s cookies. As Waters states, the biscotti presented are piccolini (i.e., small or tiny). They are just the right size to serve with coffee or tea, or as a dessert with a glass of wine.

Here is a recipe for a pine nut and rosemary cookie called Cantucci di Pinoli e Rosmarino. This unique and wonderful cookie is a variation of the classic, twice-baked Biscotti di Prato.
  • 110 g / ¾ cup pine nuts
  • 175 g / 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 10 g / 2 tbsp fine cornmeal
  • 2 g / ½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 g / ½ tsp salt
  • 4 g / 2 tsp rosemary, minced
  • 60 g / ¼ cup + 1 tsp butter
  • 138 g / ½ cup + 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 large egg
  • 10 ml / 2 tsp Marsala

1) Preheat the oven to 150°C / 300°F.

2) Spread the pine nuts evenly on a baking sheet and toast for 8 – 10 minutes or until golden.

3) Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and rosemary in a medium-size mixing bowl.

4) Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest at high speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until well incorporated. Change to low speed and add the Marsala. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in two parts and then gently fold in the pine nuts until evenly combined. Wrap the dough in plastic film and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

5) To bake, preheat or reset the oven to 180°C / 350°F.

6) Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it in two. On a floured surface form each portion into logs 2.5 cm/ 1 inch in diameter. Transfer the logs to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes.

7) Once cool transfer the cookie logs to a cutting board and cut them into approximately 1-cm / ½-inch slices with a serrated knife. Lay the cookies flat on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and bake for 6 – 8 minutes, until golden brown.

These cookies will keep well in a sealed container for up to 1 month. Yields 60 cookies.

I baked the cantucci using the metric measurements without incident. I also substituted white wine for the Marsala and the cookies tasted great.