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CANTUCCI E VIN SANTO or Almond biscuits with vin santo

Ah . . . cantucci – crisp, delicate and studded with almonds. They really are the quintessential Italian biscuit. And they make the perfect accompaniment to a cold glass of sweet vin santo or “holy wine”. Traditionally these wines are from Tuscany and are sweet, nutty and caramelly. Like liquid sunshine . . .

MAKES 25–30

450g (1lb) plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
170g (6oz) butter, softened
340g (12oz) caster sugar
3 eggs, plus 1 extra yolk
a good grating of nutmeg (optional)
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
225g (8oz) whole unblanched almonds
vin santo, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F), gas mark 6.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and egg yolk and beat them in. Add the nutmeg and vanilla, if using, followed by the flour, in thirds, and stir into a batter. Then add the almonds and stir until the batter is smooth and the almonds are incorporated.

Refrigerate for 10 minutes to make the dough easier to handle. Line a baking tray with nonstick baking paper, then shape or pipe on the biscuit mixture as though you’re shaping baguettes – you should have 2–3 of them. Bake the logs of dough in the oven for about 15–20 minutes, until golden and just cooked through. Remove them from the oven, leave to cool slightly, so you can handle them, then cut diagonally into 1cm (½ inch) thick biscuit slices. They will be fragile. Don’t worry. Return the biscuits to the oven and bake until golden, about 8–10 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack. Serve the cantucci with as many glasses of vin santo as you please . . .

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