21 October 2010

Biscotti - Cantucci - Cantuccini

When it comes to food, wine, and vinegar, there is much to be learned in Italy.

Remember last year when I was trying to perfect my biscotti? Without preheating the oven, I have recently made a head start. The outside temperature has cooled off considerably, and I am nearly ready to once again resume perfecting my authentic recipe.

While at lunch with family and friends a few days ago, my Lucchese friend explained to me (100% in the Italian language) the difference between biscotti, cantucci, and cantuccini. Biscotti (twice-baked/ cooked) is the generic term for any cookies that are twice-baked and loosely used for any type of cookies. Hence my head start. So I am not incorrect when I call my cookies "biscotti" since I do bake them twice, but isn't that a bit general when I want to be specific? In the States, most of us think of biscotti as the hard cookies we like to dip into our coffee or hot chocolate. Previously, I was under the impression that cantuccini referred to the miniature version of what I used to think was specifically, not generically or generally called, biscotti and baked only in the town of Prato.

No, no, no. Let there be no more confusion for me, nor for you. Biscotti are any twice-baked cookies or cookies in general. Cantucci and cantuccini originated in the town of Prato, possibly made famous by Antonio Mattei, and they always have almonds. The diminutive "-ini" means little. So cantucci are the larger cookies, and cantuccini are the smaller, fit-the-whole-cookie-in-your-mouth-at-once, bite-size cookies.

If your biscotti has raisins, figs, chocolate on top, or some other variation, you are not eating cantucci nor cantuccini; rather, you are eating biscotti.

In the States, we typically have our biscotti/cantucci/ cantuccini with a hot drink to dip the cookies into. In Italy, either cantucci or cantuccini are served as dessert with vin santo, a sweet desert wine, not an espresso.

In the coming weeks and winter months, it is cantucci I will be perfecting. And if I get really good at it -- which type of yeast is best to use? eggs or no eggs? how long to bake the second time to get the perfect crunchiness? -- I hope to end up with cantuccini, meaning the smaller cookies. Last year, my goal always was to bake the smaller cookies, but on the cookie sheet, the dough would spread and make the larger version.

Soon I will put on the apron and heat up the oven because, for me in Florence, it is approaching biscotti - cantucci - cantuccini season. Mmmm........

-- Josslyn
Firenze, Italia


  1. OK Joss, "Bring um On" but make um soft. Can't afford any more dentists! Sash

  2. You can send some to me to sample, please.

  3. Send them to me too! - amy s

  4. Thanks for explanation about the difference between cantucci and cantuccini!

  5. Well, I did know all that you explained but thank you for it anyway. What I was looking for is the follow on as I would be really interested in what you found out when testing recipes.

  6. Cantucci do not have fat in the dough - all cantucci are biscotti, not all biscotti are cantucci

    go figure. the difference is in the dough, the dough for contucci has not fat (therefore a different texture)