|Here they are baked and on their sides showing off all their lovely ingredients.|
My cousin Mary died recently. For her funeral reception, to celebrate the two very distinct sides of her heritage – Italian and English – I made cantuccini and a Bakewell tart.
If you think you know cantuccini biscuits as some dry little slab of a biscuit, offered as a consolation prize with your cappuccino, think again. These are crisp but moist and delicious. Even though it was a funeral, I got asked for the recipe and even though my father isn’t known for compliments he declared these “first class”. Here, in memory of Mary, who took me out on my first ‘solo’ trip to the newsagent to buy chocolate, and was the first person I remember ever telling me I was pretty, is the recipe. God bless you Mary, I’ll never forget you.
75g butter – it should be very soft
150g icing sugar, no other will do
1 egg, preferably from your own chicken
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of brandy
225g plain flour
half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, I implore you not to leave these out
100g almonds and pistachios, roughly chopped *
the zest of half a lemon
the zest of half an orange
Preheat your oven to 180C.
Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Scrunch it up first and then smooth it out so it lies flat. Cream together the butter and icing sugar. At first this will seem like an impossible task, but believe and it will happen. It’s also a great arm work out. You need to keep going until it’s fluffy and thick and looks like…well, what it is. Icing sugar and butter mixed together. Don’t give up until you get to that bit, this is the only hard-work part of the recipe.
Then add the egg, mix up a bit, then the vanilla extract, mix up a bit then the brandy, mix up a bit.
Then add the flour and the bicarb, the fennel seeds, nuts and zests. Mix together. You should have a very soft dough. With your hands, man-handle the dough into two log shapes with tapered ends, place on baking paper lined tray and finesse the shape whilst in situ ((I flatten the top a little). These do rise a little so place as far apart as your tray will allow. Don’t worry if it’s only a few cms, but don’t have them touching when they go in as they will fuse together (even that isn’t the end of the world, but it’s not ideal).
Cook for 20-25 mins. The tops should be golden but not super brown.
|Just out of the oven. This is the colour they should be.|
Slide the whole sheet onto a cooling rack and after about 20mins you can transfer the whole sheet onto a chopping board and slice them into, well, slices. I then transfer them back onto the cooling rack on their sides, so they can cool completely.
I find these so easy to make. They keep well and they’re a lovely biscuit to have in. I hope you enjoy them. They also make great presents wrapped in cellophane bags.
* When I make my own almond milk I use the almond ‘paste’ left over in these biscuits – I use about 80g of the almond paste and then 50g or so of chopped pistachios. Lovely.