Small treats 2: Lemon and Cardamom Biscotti

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My second choice for this week has fallen on light and crispy biscuits that feature one of my favourite ever combination of flavours and ingredients: lemon and cardamom. That I am a great fan of lemon in sweet, it is something that you should know already enough from my wedding cake post.

Cardamom is an amazing spice that I discovered only after moving to the UK, at least at the time it was not very common in Italy and what I love about it is not only the flavour, as predictable, but also the fact that it is so versatile, it can go in sweets, in savoury and it can act either as the powerful main actor of a dish or the supporting side component that lifts all the others.
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I have to be honest, using the word “biscotti” causes me a relatively severe pain as these type of cookies, which are originally from Italy and are, in their original form, a great pride of Italian sweet making tradition are really not called biscotti. The Cantucci or Cantuccini (depending on the size, -ini indicates small) are probably the most famous baked goods from Tuscany and they are even more famous as they are traditionally dunk in “Vin Santo”, the strong and aromatic wine that the priest uses and drink during the celebration of the mass.
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How they would make their way into the Anglo-Saxon world as biscotti, since in Italian that is only the generic word for cookies and biscuits, it is still a mystery to me. But maybe it is all for a good reason. Tuscan people are very proud and strict with their tradition and they surely would not be happy to see my “philistine” version named after the real deal. You can still try to eat them according to the full Italian tradition though, with a sweet and aromatic fortified wine, something like Marsala would do if the mass wine is to tricky to get hold of!
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La mia seconda seclta per questo fine settimana è caduta su una riceeta per dei dolcetti croccanti che contengono una delle mie accoppiate di sapori preferite: limone e cardamom. Che io sia un’appassionata di limone specialmente nei dolci non è un segreto, soprattutto dopo il mio post sulla torta nuziale. Il cardamomo invece è una spezia che adoro ma che ho scoperto solo qualche anno fa dopo essermi trasferita in UK; almeno a quei tempi in Italia non era molto comune. Quello che mi ha conquistato di questo ingrediente, non è solo, come ci si potrebbe aspettare, per il sapore e l’aroma inconfondibile, ma anche per il fatto di essere estremamente versatile: funziona benissimo nei dolci, ma anche in piatti salati e puó essere usato o come sapore principale o per accompagnare o esaltarne altri.
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Devo essere onesta, utilizzare la parola “biscotti” in inglese per definire questi dolcetti mi urta alquanto, poichè dovrebbero essere chiamati Cantucci o cantuccini, a seconda delle dimensioni. Infatti questi sono una versione rimaneggiata dei ben più famosi e celebrati Cantucci toscani che sono tradizionalmente intinti nel Vin Santo.
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In Inglese si chiamano proprio “biscotti”, che mi sembra veramente troppo banale. Forse perchè sono cotti due volte, forse perchè è più semplice di Cantucci…ma forse è meglio cosí, dubito che in Toscana sarebbero molto felici di veder usare il nome del prodotto originale vicino alla mia versione un po’ “eretica”. Si possono comunque assaporare seguendo la tradizione, intingendoli per qualche secondo in un buon vino liquoroso e aromatico, se il Vin Santo non è disponibile, un Marsala dovrebbe andare bene comunque!
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Recipe
500g Flour
142g Caster sugar
3 eggs
Grated zest of 4 lemons and juice of 1
10g Ground cardamom
4tbs vegetable oil
4tbs honey
2tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
300g blanched whole hazelnuts
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Combine thoroughly the lemon zest and the sugar and add all the remaining dry ingredients (flour, salt cardamom and baking powder) until well mixed. Whisk together the eggs the honey, the lemon juice and the oil. Put together the dry with the wet mixtures until all the ingredients are well combined and incorporate the whole hazelnuts. Shape into a log, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for about 30-45 minutes. The dough is slightly sticky so you can help yourself with a bit of flour just be careful to not add too much.
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Sprinkle the surface of the log with caster sugar and bake at 170C for 30-40 minutes until light gold on the surface. Let cool of a rack for about 30 minutes and cut into slices about 1-2cm thick. Re-bake at 150C for 10-15 minutes until nice and dry. Cool thoroughly before serving.
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