Cavallucci, typical Tuscan Christmas cookies
In Italy the 8th of December is a holiday dedicated to Saint Mary, when usually we trim the tree and we start making Christmas cookies… as every year, the house is full of cinnamon, aniseed and vanilla smells! Tuscan cookies are not nice to see nor colourful cool or chic… they’re round, a bit flat on the edge and dusted with flour. When I was young, mum used to bring home a white paper bag from San Gimignano, full of cavallucci, a gift from my Grandad.
Each time I eat those cookies, they remind me of Grandad. They are very similar: rustic and bashful on the outside, but sweet and flavourful inside, full of delicious ingredients and spices.
You can find tons of cavallucci recipes, but if you want to make really good cavallucci, there is just one way to have them: choose your favourite traditional shop, one of those that sell sweets, coffee and candies, go next to the counter with a suspicious look and whisper to the seller: can you give me the ingredients for half a kilo of cantuccini? The man will turn his back and fill small paper bags with candied fruits and spices, then he will put all the ingredients together in a bigger bag, he will seal it and he will undoubtedly say: this is the one and only recipe, the right one, you’ll see what a masterpiece they will be, I’m sure we will see again before Christmas because you’ll be searching again for those ingredients, I bet!
And I’ll be back to this shop, my cavallucci have let my aunt without words, they’re super, amazing!
My recipe for cavallucci
Siena’s most traditional Christmas cookies, cavallucci are not terribly elegant or photogenic, lacking the bright colours, icing, and sugar sprinkling we expect from a Christmas cookie. Nor do they come in Christmas shapes, but are round and rustic, rather, and pressed in at the ends. And yet, despite their humble appearance—floury, and a bit lumpy—with that first bite of warm spices, rich nuttiness, and sweet candied fruit you’ll forget all about presentation.
Cavallucci, typical Tuscan Christmas cookies
- 650 grams all-purpose flour
- 350 grams sugar
- 200 grams shelled walnuts
- 170 ml water
- 90 grams candied citrus peels, diced
- 30 grams icing sugar
- 15 grams baking ammonia
- 15 grams cavallucci spices, a mix of cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, anise in equal part
- Preheat oven to 175°/350°F.
- Roughly chop the walnuts and collect them into a bowl. Add the flour, the diced candied peels, the icing sugar, the spices and the baking ammonia. Mix thoroughly.
- In a small saucepan, add the sugar and the water and bring to a simmer to melt the sugar. As soon as the sugar has melted into a clear syrup, remove it from the heat.
- Pour the sugar syrup into the bowl with the other ingredients and mix thoroughly with the help of a wooden spoon. The dough will be dense and thick.
- On a floured surface, shape the dough into 5 cm thick logs, then cut them into pieces. You should get 25 equal pieces.
- Roll each piece into a ball, then gently flatten them pressing each ball with your thumb.
- Arrange all the cavallucci in a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake them for about 15 minutes. They will be still slightly soft to the touch. Remove them from the oven and let them cool down completely.
- You can keep the cavallucci for several days closed in a tin or an airtight container.
This Post Has 14 Comments
Non sai da quanto volevo questa ricetta (mi ricorda la mia infanzia in campagna – Umbria) ma mi sono sempre dimenticata di cercala. Ora ci sono finita dentro e non la mollo; tranne che non so perché sto nella parte inglese, ora vado nelll’italiano e la cerc o. Ciao. Grazie:
Hi Juls, I am in London and wondering where or even if I can buy baking ammonia here as it is not something I have ever seen/heard of. Is there some other combination of either baking powder, cream of tartar or bicarbonate of soda that I could use instead? Many thanks, Jane
Hello Jane. You might want to ask to a pharmacy, they could have it.
Anyway, I’d try with cream of tartar or baking powder. They are not supposed to raise too much, so just a teaspoon would work.
Dear Giulia,in Arezzo,i ate several kinds of cavallucci,i guess the right spices are vanilla,kummel,nutmeg,cinnamon?
What is the ratio of cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg and anise in the spice mixture? Thanks! And Happy New Year!
I usually use cinnamon, coriander and anise in the same amount, plus a good grating of nutmeg! 🙂
For the spices, is it OPTION A, a total of 15g consisting of a mix of the threee spices ( 5g cinnamon + 5g aniseed + 5g coriander) OR is it OPTION B, 15g of each of those spices (15g of cinnamon + 15g of aniseed + 15g of coriander)?
Hello Sergio, sorry if I’ve not been so clear! you got it right with OPTION A: a total of 15g consisting of a mix of the threee spices ( 5g cinnamon + 5g aniseed + 5g coriander.
Let me know how the baking goes!
The finished product is good, but maybe needs more liquid? My dough doesn’t stick together and is crumbly. Last time I made them, I piled a bunch of the dough crumbs onto plastic wrap and kneeded and formed them into rolls while rolled up in the plastic wrap. I have watched videos of other cavallucci being made and the dough is pretty wet and sticky- mine is not. What is the problem? Thanks
Hi Veronica, I’ve been making this recipe for years and it works every time. Probably it is a different kind of flour?
Like Veronica above I thought the mixture very dry but having never made or eaten cavallucci before I carried on regardless. I used Italian 00 flour as per the recipe I found on the La Cucina Italiana website. I thought they turned out a bit “doughy” but very tasty. I have to say I prefer ricciarelli!
they have this texture, so they turned out perfectly! but still, I understand why you prefer ricciarelli, melt in your mouth little treats!
First I made your candied orange peel (yum!) and then used it to make these cavallucci. While they are not quite as good as the ones I bought at dal Menchetti in Arrezzo, they were the best I’ve ever eaten in the US. Thanks for the recipes!
Just made these with Cavallucci spice mix I bought in Siena last week. They turned out tasty but the texture was very different than the one I ate in Siena – they were very hard on the outside, almost like rock buns, and slightly softer in the inside. Also – although pressing with my finger as instructed, they turned out to be little balls after all and not flat like the ones I ate in Siena. Do you have an idea why?