In Italy the 8th of December is an 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 for his niece.
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!
Cavallucci, typical Tuscan Christmas cookies
- 650 g flour
- 350 g sugar
- 200 g shelled walnuts
- 170 g water
- 90 g candied fruit
- 30 g icing sugar
- 15 g baking ammonia
- 15 g cavallucci spices, a mix of cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, anise in equal part
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Roughly chop walnuts and add candied fruits, icing sugar, spices and ammonia: use your hands to mix all the ingredients. Add the flour and mix again.
- In a separate pot add the sugar and the water and melt the sugar on a low heat: don’t let the sugar candy, otherwise you’ll have way too hard cavallucci.
- When the sugar has melted, pour it over the other ingredients and mix thoroughly with the help of a wooden spoon. Make thick rolls (about 5cm of width) and cut them into slices.
- Knead them again, make small balls and slightly flat them pressing each ball with your thumb. Put them in a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake them for about 15 minutes. Let them cool completely.
- You can keep the cavallucci for several days closed in a tin or an airtight container.