The characteristic cantuccini almond biscuits are also known as cantucci or Biscotti di Prato as a tribute to their place of origin. But the recipe exists in innumerable variations all over Italy.
Classic cantuccini contain no fat and no yeast or baking powder. It’s a simple mixture of sugar, eggs, flour and almonds baked twice in order to obtain the characteristic dry hardness, that will make them virtually nonperishable. In the old days, this quality was highly cherished and biscuits and other kinds of hardtack were used to feed travelers, sailors and soldiers in times of war. To soften the biscuits and make them more elegant, cantuccini were normally served with a glass of vin santo, but I prefer to dunk them in a huge cup of cappuccino in the morning.
The classic cantuccini alle mandorle are produced in the area around Prato, Florence, Siena and Pistoia, where they have received I.G.P. status, but in other parts of Italy similar biscuits are sold under different names. In Lazio and Umbria, for instance, the hard, twice cooked biscuits are known as tozzetti and they can be made with hazelnuts, pine nuts, chocolate or pistachios. So there are lots of interesting deviations to try.