As if one needs another excuse to curl up with a steamy, cup-of-anything-hot this season, I’m giving you another: home made cantuccini. And yes, by that I mean ‘biscotti’, sure. But in Italian, biscotti simply means cookie, whereas cantuccini are the twice-baked biscuits we all know and love from coffee houses and stuffy tea parties. (Hey, if I can’t be a master Italian baker, at least I can be gastronomically accurate.)
This inspiration for these actually began months ago on a trip to Italy (weird, eh?). My husband, the insatiable coffee drinker, mentioned how nice it would be to have these cookies kicking around the pantry from time to time, as he would get one on the side of every espresso order and loved the combination of smooth, rich coffee and sweet, crunchy nibbles. I thought I would indulge him when we returned but I was disappointed to discover a severe lack of vegan recipes, as eggs play a major role in the traditional version. I put the idea on the back burner until recently, when I baked something at work using applesauce instead of eggs. It worked perfectly. The cantuccini spark was reignited and now we do have these kicking around in the pantry, much to our delight.
Applesauce instead of Eggs
Let’s be up front: I got nothin’ against eggs. However, I am forever curious about finding substitutes for certain ingredients as I have to cater to vegan diets, or food allergies, or the weight-conscious, at the restaurants I work.
Substituting eggs is a slightly tricky matter in baking, as eggs take on different roles depending on what you’re making. In a cake, for example, the eggs serve as a leavening agent, helping to make the cake light and fluffy. In baked goods such as cookies and muffins, the eggs add moisture and act as a binder, gluing all the other ingredients together.
In this case of cantuccini, applesauce is a great choice because it’s naturally sweet and it will act as the necessary “glue”. The baking soda is in included to help leaven the dough, as the cookies would be rather flat otherwise.
To replace the eggs in this cookie recipes, simply use ¼ cup applesauce per egg. This type of cantuccini recipe typically calls for 3 eggs, so I have substituted them ¾ cup of applesauce.
Orange Cranberry Hazelnut Cantuccini
• 3 cups flour (I use spelt)
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 – 1 1/2 cups Sucanat or unbleached cane sugar (depending on how sweet you like your cookies)
• 3/4 cup smooth unsweetened applesauce
• 1-3 tablespoon sunflower or olive oil
• Zest of one organic, un-waxed orange
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
• ½ cup dried cranberries
1. Preheat oven the 325°F.
2. Line two cookie sheets with baking paper.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, applesauce, oil (1 TBS for a hard biscotti, 2-3 TBS for a softer biscuit), and orange zest.
5. Stir the sugar mixture into the flour mixture, add the nuts; finish mixing with your hands.
6. With floured hands, shape the dough into three, 3-inch wide “logs” about 3/4 inch thick, with the ends squared off.
7. Place these on the cookie sheets.
8. Bake the logs for about 25 minutes.
9. Remove the pans and reduce the oven heat to 300°F.
10. Cool the logs on a rack for 15 minutes.
11. Cut the logs carefully with a sharp knife straight across into 1/2 inch wide slices.
12. Place the slices cut side down on the cookie sheets.
13. Bake 5-10 minutes, or until golden on the bottom.
14. Turn the slices over and cook 5-10 minutes more, or until golden on bottom.
15. Cool on racks, then store airtight for up to two weeks.
I made my cantuccini with cranberries, orange, and hazelnuts because these flavours compliment one another well, and also have a “holiday” feeling to them. If you don’t like these ingredients, try the following, or any combination that suits you:
– almond lemon
– ginger apricot
– pistachio honey
– chocolate orange
– cashew orange
– cinnamon raisin
– double chocolate walnut
If you’re really feeling naughty, dip one side of the cookie in high-quality dark chocolate.
These cantuccini make a really nice gift for the holidays – take a batch to a party and watch them disappear into coffee cups and smiling faces. Or keep them kicking around your pantry – for a very short time.