My kind of Jawbreaker – Espresso Cantuccini

I have never been fond of baking cookies. Blame it on Famous Amos. There were countless futile attempts to make these small hard little molds of dough without them spreading to form a giant plate of a cookie. Big flat cookies were not at all in those days. (Ok, we have SubWay to blame as well then.) Deeming myself a cursed cookie baker, I devoted all of my oven time to cakes instead.
But everyone here bakes cookies for Christmas! Being one who succumbs easily to mass societal pressure, I find myself browsing through all the cookie recipes I ever owned to select a few for this year’s Christmas baking. I decided to start safe – surely it’s hard to mess up a biscotti recipe?
I’m so glad with my choice. My cookifidence has multipled twofold with a jar of beautifully baked Cantuccini sitting on the pantry shelf, ready for the next coffee break.
A bite of this eggy hard biscuit brought me back to my Starbucks hangout days. I was offered a piece of biscotti once and eversince then associated this taste and smell with the sight of the green mermaid. Being illiterate in Italian, I was curious to know what’s the difference between a biscotti and a cantuccini. A quick round of googling revealed that biscotti is the Italian for biscuits in general while cantuccini is a specific type of hard twice-baked biscuit. There you go.

The recipe I tried came from a local magazine, Lust auf Genuss, which I’m a big fan of. The photography is artistic and the layout makes for a wonderful read. The recipes use ingredients you can find locally; the steps are easy but most of all, the creations are unusual and surprisingly tasty.

As I’m writing this post, the cookie jar has already been emptied! I’m rarely tempted to double recipes but looks like this one would be an exception. Being amazed on the few pieces of equipment and the little cleaning up I had to do after, cantuccini are great to make on a day you feel drained by work but still dying to create something. They are also something I would make for the next long coffee session with the girls.

Ingredients

100g skinless whole almonds
130g flour
70g sugar
1/2 tsp backing powder
2 tsp instant espresso powder
1 tbsp coffee liquor (e.g. kahlua)
50g marzipan
20g butter
1 egg (55-59g)

Christmas in Germany is like Chinese New Year in Singapore. Certain shelves can be emptied on days leading up to the festival. I had to use sliced almonds instead of wholes because they were sold out in all three supermarkets I tried my luck at. Also, you notice that my roll cracked. I suspect the oven temperature was too high. Do check oven temperature with an external thermometer if you have one.

Method

  • Roast almonds in a frying pan without fat. They should however not be browned. Cool.
  • Preheat oven to 180 C.
  • Mix flour, backing powder, sugar and almonds together.
  • Stir espresso powder into coffee liquor.
  • Grate marzipan coarsely.
  • Add espresso mixture, marzipan, butter and egg into flour mixture.
  • Knead into a flour by hand.
  • Form a 40cm roll from the dough and place on grease proof paper. Bake for 25 mins.
  • Let roll cool for a short while and while still hot, slice roll into 1cm thick pieces.
  • Place pieces on grease proof paper and bake for another 10mins.
Slice the roll as soon as it is cool enough for you to handle. I think it might have been overbaked during the first round as well.

Hints:

  • Cut the roll while it’s still fresh from the oven. Otherwise, the crust hardens very quickly and the pieces tend to crack during slicing. Wear a glove to maintain grip on the hot roll.
  • Cool the Cantuccini completely before storage so that moisture will not be trapped in the container. Cantuccini has a long shelf life without the need for preservatives.
  • Use a container that is difficult to be opened. They are too addictive!
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