I always love meeting a new cookie. So I was delighted to make the acquaintance of Cantuccini in the newly-released book Ancient Grains for Modern Meals: Mediterranean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries & More by Maria Speck, in which they are introduced thusly:
"Small almond biscotti are called cantuccini, or "little nooks" in the Tuscany region of Italy. These are honey-sweetened and delicately flavored with almonds in two forms--a finely ground meal and whole toasted nuts. Watch these twice-baked cookies closely, as you don't want them to brown too much and lose their fine fragrance. You will need extra almond meal for the work surface."
- 1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 cup lightly packed almond meal (3.5 ounces)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted skin-on whole almonds
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- Whisk together the pastry flour, almond meal, and salt in a large bowl, and then stir in the almonds. Make a well in the center. In a medium bowl, using a large whisk, thoroughly blend the olive oil, honey, vanilla, and lemon zest until thick and syrupy, about one minute. Add to the center of the dry ingredients and combine, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, just until a soft dough forms. Do not overmix. Cover the bowl with a plate and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 300 degrees F.
- Line a large rimless sheet with parchment paper.
- Lightly sprinkle your work surface with almond meal. Cut the dough inside the bowl into four equal pieces. It will be soft and sticky. Briefly knead each piece a few times to smooth and form into a log, about 7 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. If almond pieces protrude, gently press them in while working the dough. Add more almond meal to your work surface if needed. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place logs on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches in between.
- Bake the logs until the tops show small cracks, firm up, and just start to brown--32 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven, and carefully slide the parchment paper with the logs onto a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Leave the oven on.
- Transfer logs to a cutting board. Using a large, sharp serrated knife, cut each log diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slice. Return the parchment paper to the baking sheet; place the slices upright (not cut-side up) on the baking sheet.
- Bake until the cantuccini feel dry to the touch at the cut sides (not on the top) and just start to brown at the edges, 15-17 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before storing. They freeze well for up to 1 month.