Sweet dreams are made of cookies. And yes this is just one reason why the Advent season is very important for me: setting up a Christmas tree, shopping for gifts, putting out the Christmas decoration, drinking mulled wine and baking a lot of cookies are the biggest fun when it is getting cold and uncomfortable outside. Having all this things just once a year for only a month may be why Christmas appeals to me. Who bakes speculaas or drinks hot lumumba (hot chocolate with rum, called “dead aunt” in North Frisia) in Summer?
So I spend the last days kneading and rolling dough, baking and decorating. I eat Christmas cookies all day long and invented the ‘breakfast dessert cookie time’. Don’t skip your healthy breakfast just eat a nice Christmas cookie for dessert while enjoying your coffee. This is only allowed during the Advent season.
Cantuccini came in my mind as I was looking for a recipe for a cookie swap. This is a cookie exchange party where everyone brings some cookies and swaps with others, so you get a great variety and I also got new ideas for the next year Christmas baking marathon. For this party I needed a great bunch of cookies, cutting and decorating this amount would have cost me the whole day. But just rolling eight logs, baking, cutting and baking again is so much easier.
Cantuccini means twice baked so they are hard (I mean really, not only crunchy) so they are nothing for a toothless granny. That is why they are traditionally served with something to drink, so dunk them in milk, tea or coffee. In Italy they would come along with a sweet dessert wine called vino santo.
This recipe calls for Lebkuchen Gewuerz / gingerbread blend of spices, if you don’t find it at your grocery market, use just cinnamon or make your own and use it also for other Christmas recipes, waffle batter, pancakes or add it to ground coffee before brewing. There are several blends, I prefer the first because of the higher amount of cinnamon but I always reduce clover (not my favorite spice):
or (also ground):
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon coriander
gingerbread (Lebkuchen) cantuccini
500 g / 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
400 g / 2 cups sugar
20 g / 6 teaspoons Lebkuchen seasoning or gingerbread spice blend
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
50 g / 1/4 cup butter at room temperature
300 g / 3 cups almonds or other nuts
100 g / 3/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
Combine sugar, butter and eggs and blend well. Add flour, baking powder, Lebkuchen seasoning, salt and vanilla extract and mix until combined, don’t over mix. Add nuts and dried fruits and mix or knead with your hands.
Cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180 C / 360° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut the dough in half, place one half back into the refrigerator.
Divide the other half into four pieces and roll each portion into a log, about 25 cm / 10 inches long. Place the logs several inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the logs from baking sheet and cool for about 5 minutes. Brush the logs lightly with water and let them cool for another 5 minutes This step is important because they will be easier to cut.
On a cutting board, with a sharp knife, cut the cantuccini diagonally into 1.5 to 2 cm / about 3/4 inch slices. Use a serrated knife like a saw or a (chopping) knife and cut them with one strong move.
Arrange the slices, cut side down, on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile prepare the second half for the first baking and form it also into four logs. Go ahead and follow this method again.