It turned out to be a good thing that we ran out of cinnamon. Last night I decided to bake my favorite almond cantuccini (essentially biscotti), a perfect recipe for spur-of-the-moment baking because it doesn’t call for any obscure ingredients. Thing is, we happened to be out of that staple cinnamon. No problem—time to scour the spice cupboard for an adequate substitution. Inspired by these cookies I made a month ago, I decided to use cardamom and orange zest instead of cinnamon. I couldn’t be happier with the results. In fact, I don’t know if I’ll go back to the original recipe.
The recipe tweaking didn’t end with spices. Don’t laugh, but I made a few changes to make these cookies a little more healthful: I substituted half of the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour and I reduced the sugar by 1/3. Try it and I bet you can’t even taste a difference.
Perfumed with orange and cardamom, these crunchy cantuccini will become your go-to sidekick for your afternoon tea or coffee.
Orange, Cardamom & Almond Cantuccini (They’re half whole wheat!)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons plus a pinch baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons orange zest
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups raw whole almonds
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
2. Put the flours, sugar, baking powder, cardamom, orange zest and salt in a large bowl and stir with a rubber spatula to mix. Stir in the almonds.
3. Whisks the eggs and vanilla together in a small bowl, then stir them into the flour mixture. The dough may seem dry at this point, but it will come together as it is kneaded.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, folding it over onto itself until it is smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide the dough in half and shape each half unto a 12-inch-long log. Gently press down on the logs with wet fingers to flatten them until they are about 2 inches wide and 1 inch high. Transfer them to the prepared pan.
5. First Baking Bake the logs for about 30 minutes, or until they are slightly risen and firm to the touch. Slide the logs, parchment paper and all, off the baking sheet and onto a cooling rack. The logs must be completely cool before you can continue with the recipe. Since they will take about 30 minutes to cool, you can either turn the oven off or leave it on for the next step. You can bake the biscotti up to this point several days ahead. Wrap the logs well in plastic and continue when it’s convenient.
6. Second Baking When the logs have cooled completely, preheat the oven to 350°F, if necessary. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with a sharp, serrated knife, cut the cooled logs diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Place the sliced cookies cut side down on the pans and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the biscotti are crisp and golden. Cool on the pans.
These biscotti will keep for up to a month in an airtight tin or plastic container.
**On the off chance that you’d like to make the original recipe, use all-purpose flour instead of white whole wheat, increase sugar to ¾ cup, skip the extra pinch of baking powder and substitute ½ tsp cinnamon for the cardamom and orange zest.
Adapted from Nick Maglieri’s Cantuccini recipe in Baking with Julia (p 313).