Though gingerbread men and chocolate chip cookies will always be in our hearts (and in our snack drawers), we’re constantly looking for ways to deck out our sweet selection of crunchy, addictively delectable cookies. Thanks to the unbelievable abundance of Italian cuisine, there are plenty of options. We have yet to get through countless of the yummy biscuits, or, should we say, biscotti, Italy has to offer. But we don’t have a problem taking it slow, cookie by cookie, introducing new delights now and then.
Today, it’s cantuccini’s turn - ubiquitous cookies originated from Prato! The Tuscan treats are often called cantucci, too, but here’s how we see it. Even though cantucci and cantuccini (and sometimes even biscotti, which has become an umbrella term for all Italian cookies) are used interchangeably, they have slightly different meanings. See that tiny “ini” in cantuccini? It denotes the smaller size of cantucci cookies. So, depending on your preferences - if you like your cookies dunked in your cuppa or embellished with delicious spreads, you can join the cantucci or cantuccini team. While you’re contemplating whose side you should take, we’re going to tell you all about origins, flavors, and delicious varieties of cantuccini cookies!
An Ancient Favorite: How Cantuccini Came About
There’s no way you’ve never met these sweet yet challengingly crunchy biscuits from Tuscany. Canntuccini cookie has an instantly recognizable elongated shape and dry texture, traditionally packed with crunchy almond pieces. They are the fabled favorite of Italians, along with amaretti biscuits, to which we’ve dedicated an extensive blog post. Well, moving on from one almondy delight to another, cantuccini cookies are dated back to the ancient times of Romans. According to food historians, cantuccini were born during the times of long battles, and, we think, it makes perfect sense. The unleavened, low-moisture cookies with simple flavorings have a long shelf life that would have been even more appreciated if you were occasionally stuck in a long march on a battlefield, don’t you think? Pliny the Elder, an ancient philosopher, thought cantuccini could last even for centuries - making them extremely popular throughout the country. However, we’ll just take his word for it, no need to test it out - we like our cantuccini aromatic and, to be honest, not centennial.
After the earliest remarks in Roman manuscripts, hard almond cookies fall off the food history radar and only get their well-deserved makeover during the Renaissance period. Some say it was the Pratese baker who reinvented the almondy delight that would soon become an irreplaceable part of not only Tuscan but Italian cuisine as well. The ancient energy snack was transformed into a fabled dessert, usually enjoyed by dunking in a glass of Vin Santo. This traditional dessert wine is the ultimate BFF of cantuccini; however, there are more pairings worth trying, and you’re going to read all about them soon.
Even though flavor options were quickly broadened and extra ingredients were added, Cantuccini Toscani, the classic variety, is the only PGI (the Protected Geographical Indication) preserved treat of the region. First served at the Medici court, classic cantuccini cookies were made without almonds for a long time. It took 19th-century confectioners to start using butter to soften cookies a little bit (prettifying them for export and traveling) and, of course, crunchy almonds. So, it’s no wonder even Christopher Columbus enjoyed a generous pack of cantuccini cookies on his journeys.
Ways to Indulge like a True Italian!
Well, if you’ve got what it takes to bake these crunchy treats at home, have a shot at it; we will be staring in awe—just kidding! We’re all for home-baking, and to prove it, here’s our favorite recipe for classic cantuccini cookies! However, for those who are just like us, eagerly desirous of savoring delectable treats ASAP, we’ve devised a quick little list of all the fabled names and flavors you should try. We’re going to let you in on our favorite ways of pairing cantuccini like a professionale, too. So, read along about how to deck out our festive menu in traditional and unique ways!
We’ve got to start by honoring classics! Classic cantuccini cookies by Sapori will taste immaculate when paired with a glass of Vin Santo; trust us, no one can resist a truly Tuscan combination of complimenting flavors. They are like peanut butter and jelly, bacon and eggs, maybe even chocolate and strawberries?! Okay, we might need to think over that last perennial pairing, but there’s no denying that cantuccini tastes unbelievably better when paired with fabled Italian dessert wine. However, there are ways you can combine Sapori cantuccini biscotti and Vin Santo. While some prefer to dunk their cookies into a glass, others despise their soft, moist texture. So, they nibble on cantuccini cookies and drown them with a sip of Vin Santo. Which one are you?
Traditional Tuscan cookies are not too sweet, so if you’re looking for luscious flavors, you might be better off opting for unique takes, such as chocolate chip cantuccini by Chiostro di Saronno. The ultimately crunchy cookies owe their enchanting aroma to premium quality chocolate chips, making them look and taste equally delectable. The great thing about chocolate cantuccini is that they are as versatile as your ol’ chocolate chip cookies. So, feel free to dunk these bad boys into a warm glass of milk and have yourself a truly Italian breakfast.
Even though they are perfect on their own as a quick pick-me-up or accompaniment to your afternoon coffee, cantuccini cookies make great additions to various desserts, too. With crushed cantuccini, you’ll quickly elevate your cheesecake or even tiramisu if used as a base. We know grinding them that fine might be a challenging task, but cantuccini chunks have their designated application, too. Sprinkle generously on top of your creamy desserts, maybe even custard for a little more texture, or add it to your gelato bowl. And to make everything even more convivial, opt for fruit & oat cantuccini by Pan Ducale. These unique cookies are made with oat bran, whole wheat flour, raw cane sugar and are packed with red fruits, such as raspberry and blueberry. We can already hear the delicious crunch echoing in our ears; what about you?
- Don’t let the crunchiness shy you away from enjoying the magic of cantuccini on its own. The soft lusciousness of perfectly almondy cookies makes them as versatile as cookies get. So, if you’re not a fan of dipped, slightly mushy treats, here are some ways to elevate them without the help of your beverages. Nut butter is always a good idea. Choose your favorite: pistachio or almond? Maybe you’re in the mood for exquisite flavor melding. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered here, too. Chestnut spread by Clement Faugier will add signature French flavors to your cookie snacking routine. However, if you want to keep it 100% Italian, it is acacia honey you should go for. Oh, we almost forgot, they will taste and look equally delicious when prettified with light mascarpone cream and berries.
So, whether you’re looking for a versatile addition to your cookie collection or want to surprise a friend with a crazy sweet tooth with cantuccini, these almondy treats will be the best choice. In our collection, you will find cantuccini in all sizes, flavors, and even shapes (not really a shape, but they do come in a vintage gift truck), so your options are limitless. We’ve also shared our favorite ways for adding a little bit of style to these perennial favorites; however, it’s all up to you how you want to indulge.
…And whenever it is that you’ll be coming back for more, bulk cantuccini cookies by Chiostro di Saronno will be here, waiting for you patiently!