Having a Tuscan grandmother means many things, especially when it comes to food. Among these things is growing up eating cantucci (Tuscan biscotti) while my peers ate packaged biscuits!
Not to say that my grandmother’s cantucci officially replaced my snacks and breakfasts, but in effect that was exactly what happened when I was with her!
She used to make a sizeable quantity of them and keep them in a large ceramic biscuit jar. She knew that, between her grandchildren and the neighbours passing by for coffee, they would be gone in under a week.
Making them frequently meant that they were always crunchy. Over time I have tasted the packaged varieties and they very often lack that consistency. I remember that crunch under my teeth like it was yesterday!
Whenever I saw my grandmother putting out flour, sugar, eggs, and butter on the kitchen table, I would stand at attention in hopes of seeing the almonds appear too. That was the sign that a new batch of cantucci was on the way! “Only good, Italian almonds”, my grandmother used to say. She went to buy them in bulk at the market; I never saw her use packaged almonds and she would have nothing to do with imported ones. “If the almonds aren’t good, it’s better not to make them into cantucci”. And so that was how it was.
Once all the ingredients were together, my grandmother shaped the ball of dough into a log, put it in the oven, and took it out when it was golden.
That was my favourite moment: My grandmother would take the log out of the oven and use her knife to show me where to cut it. She then put the baking sheet back in the oven and in five minutes the little pieces that I had so enthusiastically prepared transformed into my favourite biscuits!