Cantucci (Italian Almond Cookies)

Cantucci are crunchy almond cookies from Tuscany. They are flavored with toasted almonds, lemon zest and twice-baked, giving them their dry, crunchy texture. They keep well, are great for gifting, and are best served with a cup of coffee for dunking.

close-up photo of baked biscotti on a baking sheet

I don’t usually go crazy with holiday baking, but I like making a few new-to-me treats this time of year. In the past, I’ve shared molasses cookies and Rolo chocolate crackle cookies, among others, and this year, it’s all about cantucci, an almond cookie recipe from Tuscany. I’ve made batches of the crunchy cookies, and they’ve now earned a spot in my must-bake Christmas cookie list.

Like many Italian things, these crunchy almond cookies are simple and irresistible – the perfect coffee companion. I learned while researching that Italians like to dunk theirs in a sweet dessert wine, but I prefer a few with coffee or hot chocolate. The dry, crunchy texture makes them great for gifting because they last for weeks stored in an airtight container.

What are Cantucci?

Like a lot of people, I categorize these types of cookies – oblong-shaped, dry, and crunchy cookies – as biscotti. As my friend Rosemary, who writes an Italian food blog, explained: biscotti has two meanings. Its literal translation is “twice baked” since the cookies are first baked as a loaf, sliced, and then baked again. This process is what gives them their crunchy, dry texture. Biscotti has a more general translation, too: cookies. So, if you’re in Italy and mention you made biscotti, you will most likely be asked, what kind?

In this case, the ‘kind’ is cantucci – a type of biscotti made in Tuscany. Traditional cantucci is made with toasted almonds, orange zest or lemon zest, and a few other basic baking ingredients.

Biscotti, cantucci, cookies… it can get a little confusing! But one thing is clear: I love the flavor of these cookies – the almonds and lemon zest flavors shine. Plus, they’re pretty easy to make with just a few simple ingredients.

Ingredients

  • Whole almonds
  • Granulated sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Baking powder
  • All-purpose flour
  • Large eggs
  • Vanilla extract
  • Lemon zest

Variations: Instead of lemon zest, try some orange zest or do a combination of both. Almonds are traditional in this type of biscotti, but you can swap them out for other kinds of nuts. Try pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, or walnuts.

How to Make Cantucci

I lightly adapted a recipe I found on Food52. I didn’t mess with it a whole lot but I tweaked it a bit.

Toast the almonds for a few minutes in a 350°F oven and then whir them in the food processor to break them down.

To save time, you can leave the almonds whole and just mix them into the dough, but I like them chopped up.

photo collage of whole almonds in the food processor and after they are processed

To make the dough, whisk the almonds with sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and flour. In a separate bowl, beat eggs with vanilla and lemon zest and add the mixture to the dry ingredients.

The easiest way to mix the dough is with your hands. I use one hand to mix and squeeze the dough until it comes together. I use my other hand to hold the bowl steady. The dough is very sticky, and it’s nice to have a clean hand to pull the sticky dough off the other after you’re done mixing.

photo collage of the dough in a bowl and the dough formed into logs

I like to form the dough into two large loaves. You can do smaller loaves, but I find two big ones work fine.

I dampen my hands a bit to keep the dough from sticking to them and press and pull them into two loaves approximately 14″ long and 2 to 3″ wide.

You also want the loaves to be of similar thickness, so they bake evenly. As you can see, mine weren’t identical, so don’t stress too much.

The loaves will spread as they bake and they may spread into each other. No harm, no foul because you can simply slice them apart once they come out the oven.

They don’t take long to bake – mine are usually done in about 30 minutes. You can tell they’re done when they are firm to the touch. Once they are pull them out and cool the loaves until you can handle them, about 10ish minutes. Any longer and they will be difficult to slice.

I like to slice the loaves into 1″ slices, which will give you approximately 32 cookies. It helps to use a sharp serrated knife so you don’t smoosh the loaves as you slice.

Place the slices cut sides up on the baking sheet, turn the oven off, and place them back in the oven. The residual heat will dry them out. The longer you leave them in, the crunchier they will be. I leave mine for about 30 minutes.

photo collage of the baked logs and the sliced biscotti on the baking sheet

Troubleshooting

I’ve made this recipe multiple times, so here are some helpful tips if you run into trouble. This is not a hard recipe to make, but like any kind of baking there are variables that can cause issues.

Flour: Normally, I use the spoon and level method to measure flour. For this recipe, I don’t and instead scoop the flour out of the container with the measuring cup and level it off. I’ve tested it with the spoon and level way and there just wasn’t enough flour – the dough was very wet. So scoop and level, friends.

Mixing: I’ve tried using an electric mixer to mix the dough and it changes the texture of the dough and not in a good way. Although it’s messy, using your hand to mix really is the best way.

Sticky dough: This dough is sticky but it shouldn’t be too sticky or wet. This means, when you try and shape it, it spreads and doesn’t hold a shape. If yours is too wet, try chilling the dough to firm it up before you try and shape it into logs.

Shaping: Since the dough is sticky, it helps to dampen your hands with water when you shape the logs. This will keep the dough from sticking to your hands.

First bake: The logs should be baked through after the first bake. If you’re not sure if they’re done, slice into the middle of the log – if the dough is still wet or very soft, the logs need more time.

Second bake: Leave the biscotti in the oven until they are dried out. The longer you leave them in there, the crunchier they’ll be.

Storage Tips

  • Cantucci are a wonderful cookie for the holidays because they keep in an airtight container for several weeks at room temperature. So you can make a big batch, hand them out, and your recipients can enjoy them through the season.
  • You can also freeze them and thaw them at room temperature when you want a treat to go with your coffee.

Happy cantucci-making ☕

April

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photo of a cup of coffee with cantucci on the side

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Cantucci (Italian Almond Cookies)

photo of biscotti on a baking sheet

These crunchy almond cookies are great for gifting because they keep well at room temperature for weeks. This type of biscotti is called cantucci which is a type of cookie from Tuscany. They’re flavored with toasted almond and lemon zest and are twice-baked, which is what gives them their dry, crunchy texture. Serve them with coffee or hot chocolate for dunking.

  • Author: April Anderson
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: 32 cookies 1x
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: Italian

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 1/2 cups whole almonds
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (use dry measuring cups to scoop the flour out of the container and then level it off)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread the almonds into a single layer on a baking sheet. Toasted them in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring them halfway through. Keep an eye on them and once they are fragrant and hot remove them from the oven. Place the almonds in a food processor and pulse them a few times until they break down.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the almonds, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and flour. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla extract and lemon zest until combined.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky, and I find it’s easiest to use one hand to mix it together by squeezing it and stirring with my hand until it comes together. Use your other hand to hold the bowl in place. Gather the dough into a ball and divide it in half (see note).
  4. Form each part into a log. I like mine to be about 12 to 14” long and 2 to 3” wide. They will spread when they bake so place the logs on a baking sheet spaced a few inches apart. Bake them for 30 to 40 minutes at 350°F. They are ready when they turn golden on top and are firm. If they spread into each other, just use a serrated knife to cut them apart (see note).
  5. Remove them from the oven and cool them for 10 minutes or so. Slice the logs with a serrated knife into 1” slices and place the pieces back on the baking sheet. 
  6. Turn the oven off and place the cookies back in the oven. Leave them in the oven for 30 minutes, so they dry out. Let them cool and then store them in an airtight container.

Notes

Mixing tip: Don’t use an electric mixer to mix the dough. You can use a silicone spatula, but it’s a whole lot easier to mix with your hand. 

Dough tip: If your dough is really sticky it helps to refrigerate it until it firms up. This will make it easier to form the dough into the logs. You can also wet your hands to shape the dough which will help keep the dough from sticking to your hands.

Baking tip: The logs should be baked all the way through before you slice them. If you’re unsure, slice into the middle of one log – if it is under-baked, just place them back in the oven for a few more minutes. 

Recipe lightly adapted from Food52.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 cookie
  • Calories: 135
  • Sugar: 13.3g
  • Sodium: 11.7mg
  • Fat: 4g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.5g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 3.4g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 22.3g
  • Fiber: 1.2g
  • Protein: 3.2g
  • Cholesterol: 23.3mg

Keywords: cantucci, almond cookies, almond biscotti, Italian almond cookies

Do you love this recipe? Don’t forget to leave a comment and your recipe star rating!

The nutrition is an estimate only. It was calculated using Nutrifox, an online nutrition calculator.

Post updated from the archives. First published in December 2019.

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2 Comments

  1. On its face the recipe sounds good. However, why is there no mention of butter or olive oil in the recipe? Can you advise?
    Thanks

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