Creamy Radicchio Risotto

with Mascarpone

(or Not - Vegetarian &

Vegan versions)

A Variation on Biscotti, and a Story behind Their Name

Today’s harvest: Almonds, Hazelnuts

If you ever go to Florence, you might notice, on a specific road I can’t precisely remember, statues with quite a livid expression on their faces, all looking at the same direction. Those statues look towards Siena, as rivalry between the cities (well, amongst all Tuscan cities, really) was fierce and people wanted this to be a clear statement.

That is the kind of look my mom gave me when I told her I was going to make Cantucci – which are known abroad as Biscotti, but with a twist.

As an inexperienced baker, I immediatly understood that the foolproof way to make sure people were honest with their feedback was to check how fast my baked product would go. A very tasty cookie, or focaccia, or bread, is one that doesn’t sit on the counter for more than a day, possibly not for more than a few hours if you have people over for a meal.
These cookies are the story of how my morning started with my mom saying “what do you think you’re doing, twisting a Cantucci recipe like that? That’ll turn out to be a disaster”, and ended up with half the tray gone in the risible timespan of five mere minutes.

Now, I am not sure how many non-italians know about it, but the word ‘Biscotti’, in Italian, refers to all cookies in general. My mom called their original name: Cantucci.
Cantucci is one of those recipes that can turn the average Italian – especially Tuscans, into an unbearable nuisance who will brag about keeping the authenticity of their recipe, but it is also one of those preparations people love to customize, and that is why, after all, the American version of Biscotti is not so far from our Italian truth.

Cantucci are very ancient cookies which date back to medieval times, and they were originally very similar to an anise-scented breadstick. With time the recipe evolved, and now Cantucci are these very crunchy cookies that are first cooked then dried, and they are meant to be enjoyed dipped into something, preferably in Vin Santo, sweet tuscan dessert wine. In fact, the word ‘biscotti’ probably derives from the process of making Cantucci, as the word itself means ‘cooked twice’, and that is what happens with these guys.
The key difference here is just one: american biscotti contain fat, Italian cantucci usually don’t.
Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that these are healthy, but they definitely make for a nice treat one needn’t feel too guilty about. I loaded up my version with ‘better’ ingredients, so to speak, and what menaced to turn into a disaster actually turned out to be one of the best versions of cantucci ever made in my house.

Traditionally, Cantucci contain almonds or hazelnuts, anise flavored liquor, and not much else. the secret to make them easy to munch on without any fat is to add baking powder. It might sound strange, but trust me, it works. Here I’ll provide both the original recipe and my own version. The process is the same, so I am only writing it once.
So these are as easy to make as put-everything-in-a-blender-and-blitz, not to mention very customizable: replace the nuts, use other dried fruit, omit both and add chocolate, drizzle chocolate on top – do whatever you feel like with these cookies. I used dried fruit along with nuts, soaked in a boozy concoction of anise and rum (Italians love their booze), and a medley of flours. I replaced some of the sugar with honey – vegans can use Agave syrup instead, or Maple syrup, which would make them very un-Italian.

But, after all, do you have people staring at you with a pissed face in your kitchen?

I don’t mind if I do.

Cantucci - Italian Biscotti

Classic Cantucci
(Makes, well…quite a lot of cookies)

500g ’00’ Flour (AP or Pastry flour will do)
4 eggs, 3 whole and one separated
15g Baking powder
300g Sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 tbsp Honey
A tablespoon or two of Anise liquor (like Anisette, Varnelli or Sambuca)
A teaspoon or two vanilla extract
About 200 grams Almonds

Brown Berry Pistachio Biscotti
(See above)

200g Spelt flour
200g Whole wheat flour
50g Oat flour
50g Chestnut Flour
4 eggs, 3 whole and one separated
15g baking powder
200g Brown sugar, plus more for sprinkling
3 loaded tablespoons of Honey
A tablespoon Anise liquor (see above)
A tablespoon of Rum, or your favorite booze
About 100g mixed nuts (Pistachios and Hazelnuts)
1/2 teaspoon (or 1) cookie spice mix (optional, but it’s a good addition)
A splash of Vanilla

Boozy dried fruit
100g mixed dried cranberries, raisins, goji berries
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp anise liquor
1 tbsp Rum, or the liquor you used for the dough.

Preheat the oven to 190 C˚ (375 F˚)

Soak the fruit at least an hour before you start baking, so that they have time to absorb the flavor of the liquor.

Separate one egg and reserve the yolk. Add everything but the nuts and fruit to a food processor and roughly mix until combined. You should end up with a very sticky dough, difficult o manage but not liquid or overly loose. Should it be too hard, add a splash more liquor. Add the nuts and fruit, which should be squeezed of eccess liquid, and mix well again.

Line a baking tray with paper, and divide the dough into 5 parts, which you’ll shape into long and narrow strips (about 1″ to 1.5″) with very well floured hands. Consider that these strips will spread out, so make sure there is some space in between.
Brush them well with the yolk, and sprinkle granulated sugar on top.

cantucci4Prepping cantucci - Italian Biscotti

Turn the oven temperature down to 180 C˚ (355 F˚) and bake your little logs until brown. It could take 20 or 25 minutes – start keeping an eye on them around the 15 minutes mark. When ou take them out of the oven they will be nice and colored, but softer than you’d expect them to be and will have probably cracked slightly on top.

This step is crucial: slice them straight away!
Using a serrated knife, slice them diagonally into half inch slices. Put them back onto the tray, turn off the oven and leave them in until completely cool. After 10 minutes or so, you can leave the door of the oven slightly ajar.
Make sure they are completely cooled before serving.

These little guys keep for a long while, but keep them tightly sealed, possibly in a cookie tin box, or they might lose crispness. Enjoy, dipped in dessert wine, coffee or whatever you like best!


It’s cookie and christmas time, so, needless to say, these make for a super cute jarred gift! Just get a cute jar, fill it wih cookies and decorate it.

Christmas-y Biscotti Idea: Red and white, of course! Try Hazelnut Cranberry biscotti, and dip half of them in white chocolate.

Cantucci - Italian Biscotti

Incontri: Focaccia Patate e Cipolla, ad Alta Idratazione

Ora, non che io voglia trasformare questo posto in un blog sui lievitati, ma è Dicembre, la stagione ufficiale delle feste! Quel magico periodo nel quale cerchiamo tutti di bilanciare le nostre vite tra biscotti e insalate è davvero cominciato. Tutte le donne si guarderanno le chiappe allo specchio sperando che non lieviti anch’esso insieme a panettoni e brioche.

E’ tempo di cibo di festa. Il più divertente di tutti. E’ tempo di ritrovarsi con parenti che amiamo o odiamo, ferie, cioccolate e così via.

Io lo adoro.

Quindi, nonostanche anche io abbia pronto il mio repertorio di insalate non tristi, il primo post di Dicembre deve essere sulla regina dei buffet festivi: la focaccia. La prima cosa a sparire su ogni buffet subito dopo la pizza. La focaccia fu parte dei miei ricordi di bambina, delle nostre feste di compleanno, delle gite scolastiche e, soprattutto, la spina dorsale di molte merende a scuola.

(anche se a me pareva la mangiassero soprattutto i maschi).

Quel rettangolo soffice ogni tanto me lo sognavo. Ci sono tnate versioni di focaccia, ma a noi piacevano tutte. Quella del super, nel suo sacchetto di carta bianco, tagliata e riempita. Quella ligure delle superiori, col pesto sopra. ‘nsomma.

La qui presente è una focaccia alla romana. Perfetta per essere farcita, condita sopra o mangiata così com’è.

Nonostante le varie versioni Romana, Pugliese e Ligure, che vorrei provare a fare tutte, la focaccia casereccia è piuttosto diversa – anche perchè spessissimo la si fa col classico cubetto di lievito per mezzo chilo di farina facendola lievitare 2 o 3 ore in totale. Per essere riempita va benissimo, ma io non l’ho mai adorata.

E insomma ho cominciato a pensare a come fare quella focaccia tipo super, e qui la mia mamma ha fatto cascare l’asino.

“Viene così morbida perchè la reimpastano con lo strutto o qualche grasso solido,” mi dice. “Lo facevamo anche noi in albergo, e fidati che se la vuoi così o la reimpasti con lo strutto o ti viene diversa”.

‘Qualche grasso solido’ qui è la frase chiave. Se vogliamo metterla su un piano pratico, lo strutto sarebbe anche un grasso accettabile se paragonato ai grassi solidi vegetali, che – facendo due più due, sono quelli più usati, dal momento che costano meno. Finchè non saprò di preciso che ci va in quella focaccia terrò da parte l’idea di farla.

Ma, d’altro canto, chi se lo aspettava che questa sarebbe venuta ancora più buona? E’ soffice, saporita e…tipo droga. E’ buonissima.

Come fare la Focaccia Romana

Ed ecco quindi la focaccia romana, Regina delle Feste. L’ho fatta con la farina di farro che è un po’ meglio delle altre. Portiamone una teglia alle feste e rendiamo tutti felici.



Alta Idratazione: Facendo due conti con la formula qui indicata, vedremo che il livello di idratazione di questa focaccia è dell’ 83%. Parecchio. Il risultato finale sarà una focaccia morbida, alveolata e leggermente simile a una pizza napoletana.

Olio d’Oliva: Non c’è niente da fare: la focaccia ha da esse unta, se no non è focaccia, è pane. l’olio aggiunge ovviamente anche al sapore, quindi cerchiamo di non usare un olio schifosissimo. Nella mia non ce n’è poi moltissimo, ma è presente.

Fermentazione Lunga: la lievitazione è ovviamente un fattore chiave. Assicuriamoci di lasciarla in ambiente stabile senza correnti o sbalzi di temperatura. Il miglior posto di tutti? Il frigo. Fate l’impasto, poi dimenticatevela lì per 24 ore.


Tutte queste piccole regole contribuiranno al creare una focaccia molto saporita che non si asciugherà subito dopo il raffreddamento, e non diventerà di cartone il giorno dopo (ammesso e non concesso che ci arrivi, al giorno dopo).



Si può provare a sostituire 30 grammi di farina con della semola rimacinata, o altri 30 grammi di farina di farro con qualche altra farina per rendere il tutto più interessante. Di solito la focaccia si fa con la farina bianca, ma non vedo perchè dovremmo essere così noiosi nelle nostre cucine.

Come ho detto in altri post, il malto d’orzo dà risultati stupendi e si trova nei negozi di alimenti biologici o naturali, ma si può sostituire con del miele o, per i vegani, con dello sciroppo d’agave, d’acero o zucchero.

Come fare la Focaccia Romana

Focaccia Romana di Farro con Cipolle e Patate

Impasto sufficiente per una teglia da for a 8″ or 9″

(E’ da notare che con queste dosi non se ne ottiene molta, ma la ricetta è facilissima da raddoppiare o triplicare. Basta assicurarsi che la focaccia stia nella teglia in un livello pari, e che i bordi non siano piu sottili o non tocchino i lati).

Per la Focaccia

150 grammi Farina di forza

150 grammi Farina di Farro

240 a 250 ml acqua caldina

1.5 grammi Lievito di birra*

2 cucchiai di olio d’oliva

1 cucchiaio scarso di malto d’orzo**

1 cucchiaino di sale


* Eventualmente sostituibile con quello liofilizzato, ma è meglio il fresco.

** Sostituibile con un cucchiaino di miele o zucchero


Per il topping

1 Patata media, affettata a rondelle sottili

1 Cipolla media, affettata a mezzaluna sottile

Olio d’oliva, sale e pepe


Un cucchiaio abbondante di olio d’oliva

Un cucchiaio abbondante di acqua

Un bel pizzico di sale


  1. SE LA SI FA LA NOTTE PRIMA (o almeno 20 ore prima): Aggiungere le farine a una impastatrice o in una ciotola. Sciogliere il malto e il lievito in parte dell’acqua e aggiungerlo alla farina, insieme all’olio e al resto dell’acqua. A seconda delle farine che usate ptrebbe volercene di piú o di meno. Suggerisco di cominciare con 240, poi aggiungerne altra se l’impasto non é molle abbastanza. Impastare bene finché tutta l’acqua non é assorbita. Dovrebbe essere molto molle e appiccicosa, ma non liquida.
    SE SI IMPASTA A MANO: Si, si puó fare! L’impasto é molto molle ma, con un po’ di ‘sbattimenti’, ce la si fa. Adoperando il metodo ‘solleva e sbatti dentro la ciotola’, l’impasto inizierá a diventare elastico e uniforme. Aggiungere gli ingredienti nello stesso ordine di cui sopra.
    Ungere bene una ciotola e mettervi l’impasto, coprire con della pellicola e lasciarla in un luogo senza spifferi e a temperatura costante, preferibilmente a  25 C˚.
    SE LA SI FA 24 ORE PRIMA: L’impasto si puó anche fare 24 ore prima, ma é bene tenerla nella parte bassa del frigo.

    tagliare le patate a rondelle sottili, e metterle a mollo in acqua per tutta la notte.

  2. DOPO 12 ORE: A questo punto, la pasta dovrebbe essere notevolmente cresciuta e dovrebbe aver prodotto molte bolle. Preparare una teglia che puó accomodare l’impasto senza lasciare i bordi piú bassi, di un’altezza di un centimetro abbondante. Lasciarlo riposare coperto per un’oretta, sempre a 25C˚.
  3. 30 minuti prima che l’impasto sia pronto, preriscaldare il forno a 240C˚, impostazione statica.

    Cuocere anche le cipolle: aggiungere dell’olio a una padella con le cipolle, il sale ed eventualmente un goccio d’acqua. Cuocere fino a farle colorare un po’, circa 15 minuti.

  4. Dopo un’ora la focaccia dovrebbe essersi un po’ gonfiata. Mischiare una cucchiaiata d’acqua con una di olio e del sale, e cospargere uniformemente sulla focaccia. Condire le patate leggermente e cospargerle in uno strato equo sulla focaccia. Cuocerla nella parte piú bassa del forno per 15 minuti, dopodiché spostarla sul livello medio e e cuocere altri 5 minuti. Aggiungere anche le cipolle cotte in precedenza, e far finire di cuocere altri 5 minuti. La focaccia dovrebbe essere dorata, ma non imbrunire. Controllatela: potrebbe volerci meno dei 25 minuti totali.
  5. Tagliare la focaccia a cubetti e godetevela calda! Se si raffredda, la preferisco riscaldata nel forno, ma portandola a una qualche festa reggerá benissimo.


    • Questa focaccia é anche straordinariatagliata a metá e imbottita.
    • Un altro tipo topping buonissimo sono le zucchine trifolate!
    • Oviamente, la versione rosmarino e sale grosso, magari qualche sale particolare.
    • Le zucchine di cui sopra, piú lo stracchino o la crescenza.

    Come fare la Focaccia Romana

Gatherings: Roman Spelt Focaccia with Onions & Potatoes

Now, I don’t mean this site to turn into a baking blog, but it is December, the official holiday season! Now that magic period in which we all try to balance our lives between baked goods and salads has officially begun. We girls all look at our butts in the mirror and wonder how much larger it will be within a month’s time. The US has already been through Thanksgiving, but Italy has just entered that Santa-and-cookies time of the year.
It is Party Food Time. The most fun time ever. A time of gatherings, a time of relatives we love or hate, a time for get-togethers, vacation, and hot chocolates with friends.
I just love it.

So, even though I have not-sad salads ready to publish next, this first post of December has to be about the queen of party foods: Focaccia. The first to go at every buffet table in the country, second only to pizza. Focaccia with toppings? That’s almost a piece of heaven.I would like to spare a few words on this amazing product of Italian ovens, as it makes up a good chunk of my memories as a school girl. It was part of out birthday party tables, part of our outdoor trips in the spring and, most of all, the backbone of many of our school snacks.
(Well, at least it was for the other kids. It seems to be the predominant snack amongst boys.)
That soft, pillowy square of wonder was often in our dreams. There were multiple versions of focaccia, but we loved it all. A quick trip to the supermarket right before school meant freshly baked focaccia, tucked in its crispy white paper bag, which we snacked on furtively before snack time actually came.
This one I present to you is just one of the many kinds of focaccia, which s a very versatile kind of bread and can be treated either like a sandwich or like a pizza. So it can be either stuffed, topped or eaten plain.
Depending on the kind of focaccia, you can decide how to enjoy it. Let me introduce you to the most common kinds present in the country:
  • Romana, which is a highly hydrated focaccia (at least 75%) that is native to Rome, and it is a medium tall, soft, bubbly focaccia with a neapolitan pizza feel. Even though it is great plain too, it is really meant to be sliced and stuffed, most commonly with mortadella. It is often sold topped in a pizza sort of way throughout Rome, and it is the kind I am going to make in this post.
  • Ligure, which is probably the oiliest, thinnest of the various kinds. Because it is thinner than most, it is usually not stuffed, but topped with either pesto or layered with runny italian cheese – thus getting the name Focaccia di Recco. I have tried both soft kinds and crispier kinds. Both are really oily. Both are really awesome.
  • Pugliese, Which can include potatoes and semolina flour in the dough and is traditionally topped with cherry tomatoes and black olives, and eaten as is. It makes for a very dense focaccia that can be either medium-tall or more on the thin side, which is most common in Bari.

Although these are the main focaccia kinds – and I will get around to making all three versions at some point, homemade focaccia varies a lot. It can be tall and fluffy, thin and crispy, medium-tall and spongy, and so on. It is usually dense or bread like, as most people do it with the usual quick fermentation, which involves a whole cube of fresh yeast per 500g of flour and a total fermentation time of 2 hours or so, plus cooking. This is the way my mom always made it and, even though I am not a super fan of it, it is makes for the best sandwich bread ever, as the inevitable fat you add to it makes it much, much softer in the end.

roman onion potato spelt focaccia bite size

So I started talking about replicating that focaccia we used to have as kids, and my mom immediately ‘eh’.
“It is so soft because it is re-kneaded with either butter or lard,” she stated. “We did it too at work, and trust me, if you want that kind of soft feel, you have to knead it a second time with some kind of solid shortening”.
‘Some kind of shortening’ being the key phrase here. Because I can definitely cope with the idea of focaccia being kneaded with lard, which is, objectively speaking, not that bad of a fat around here. But any lard is surely more expensive than vegetable shortening made with dubious, processed oils, which let me to the logical conclusion that the in-famous supermarket focaccia needs to be adapted to the principles of this blog before I can make it, so it will take some further thinking.

But who would have ever thought that this focaccia would turn out to be even better? It is so tasty, soft and – and…well, addictive’s the word.
So here is my roman focaccia – also called White Pizza in its plain form, Queen of Gatherings. I made it with whole spelt flour, which is highly nutritious, and the last bit of that amazing hand-milled flour I used for my Ciabatta. Bring a tray to your party, and let people be happy.


  • High hydration: if you do the math with the formula indicated in this post, you’ll see that this focaccia has a hydration level of 83%. That is quite a lot. The end result will be a slightly chewy, soft, holey focaccia.
  • Olive Oil: Guys, there’s no two ways about it: focaccia must be oily outside and within, otherwise it’s not focaccia, it’s bread. And oil not only adds to the texture, but to the flavor as well. Use olive oil, extra virgin if you can. My focaccia doesn’t use an insane amount of oil compared to others, but it is present.
  • Long Fermentation: Fermentation makes or breaks focaccia – or any other pizza or bread. Make sure you leave it in a stable environment with no currents or temperature shifts. The best place ever? The fridge. Assemble it, then leave it in the lowest part of your fridge for 24 hours.


All these little rules make for a very tasty focaccia that will not turn dry as soon as it cools down, and will not turn hard as stone the day after (provided that it makes it to the day after, that is).


Try substituting 30 grams of strong flour with semolina flour, and/or 30 grams of the spelt flour for another flour of your choice to make things more interesting. Italian focaccia is usually made with white flour only, but I see no reason why we should be that boring in our own kitchen. Barley malt, as said in other posts, is great for baking, but use honey if you have to substitute it and maple syrup for a vegan alternative.

This recipe is also present on Food52.

roman spelt focaccia onion potato cubes

Roman Spelt Focaccia with Onion and Potato
Makes enough dough for a 8″ or 9″ pan
(Note that this doesn’t make much focaccia, but the recipe easily doubles or triples. just make sure you put it in a pan here it’s evenly layered and the edges are not thinner.)

For the Focaccia
5.3 oz (150 grams) Strong bread/Manitoba flour
5.3 oz (150 grams) Spelt flour
1 cup (240 to 250 ml) Lukewarm water
0.05ounces (1.5 grams) Fresh yeast *
2 tablespoons Olive oil, plus more to top
1 scant tablespoon barley malt
1 teaspoon Salt

* If you can’t find fresh yeast, substitute with a good pinch of active dry yeast.
** I really recommend using barley malt, but if you can’t find it honey or sugar will do. Reduce the quantity to a teaspoon.

For the topping
1 Medium potato, thinly sliced into rounds
1 Medium onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
Olive oil, salt and pepper

An abundant tablespoon olive oil
An abundant tablespoon water
A good pinch of salt

  1. IF MAKING THE NIGHT BEFORE (or at least 12 hours before): Add the flours to a bread machine or to a bowl with the dough hook attachment. Dilute the yeast and the malt in some of the water, then add it to the flour, along with the 2 tbsps of olive oil and the rest of the water. Depending on the flour you’re using, you might need more or less water: I suggest starting with 240ml, then adding a bit more if the dough seems too stiff. Knead everything until incorporated, then add the salt, and knead until the dough is well mixed. it should be very loose and sticky, but not really liquid. IF KNEADING BY HAND: This can be totally kneaded by hand! The dough is quite loose, but work it well with your hands, collecting it from the bottom and slamming it in the bowl for several times. You’ll see how the dough will start to look smoother and more elastic after 5 to 10 minutes of this collect-and-slam process. Proceed just like with the machine, adding water, yeast, malt and oil to the flours, then the salt when everything is already incorporated. Oil a glass bowl and put the dough in it, cover with plastic wrap and leave it in a place where there are not going to be temperature changes, like the oven. The dough should stay at a temperature of about 25 C˚ (77 F˚).
    IF MAKING 24 Hrs BEFORE: the dough can also be assembled 24 hours before, but you should keep it in the lower part of your fridge for the whole time. Cut the potatoes into thin rounds – make them slightly thicker than a potato chip, and soak them in water overnight.
  2. AFTER 12 HOURS: At this point, your dough should have noticeably risen and should be very bubbly on top. Prepare a pan that can fit your dough in an even layer, about a half inch thick. Oil the bottom, and scrape your dough into the pan. Add a little oil on top, and spread it out with your oiled hands, then fold it over itself a couple times. Spread it out again in an even layer, and leave it to rest, covered with plastic or with a cloth, for about 1 hour. Again, make sure is stays in a current-free environment at about 25C˚ (77F˚).
  3. 30 minutes before the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 240C˚ (465F˚). Make sure it is set to static.
    Also, cook the onions: add a bit of olive oil to a pan and add your thinly sliced onions, add salt, a bit of water and cook until they start to color, but are not browned. It should take around 15 minutes. Keep adding tablespoons of water to prevent them from burning, but make sure there’s no water left when they’re ready.
  4. After 1 hour, you Focaccia should have puffed up a bit. Mix 1 tbsp of water with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt, and spread on top of the focaccia. Spread the potato slices evenly, then put your focaccia in the lowest part of your oven for 15 minutes. After this time, transfer the pan to the medium rack of the oven, bake for a further 5 minutes, then spread the onions evenly on top. Finish baking for 5 more minutes. The focaccia should be a golden color. If the edges start turning brown, remove immediately from the oven. The total time of cooking here is 25 minutes, but it could take more or less depending on your oven.
  5. Cut the focaccia into bite-size cubes and enjoy warm! If it gets cold, I suggest reheating it in the oven.MORE TOPPING AND FILLING SUGGESTIONS
    • This focaccia is also great cut lenghtwise and stuffed with cold cuts, grilled vegetables or cheeses (or all three).
    • A tasty addition to the topping are zucchini sautéed in olive oil, salt, pepper and parsley.
    • To make a simple focaccia, skip the onion and potato and top with rosemary and coarse salt instead.
    • Another amazing vegetarian topping is sautéed zucchini and some fresh, runny cheese. In Italy we use a cheese called Stracchino, or another one called Crescenza. If you can’t find any of these, pick a cheese you like a lot.
    • To make what we call ‘Pizza Rossa’, or red pizza, just spread on top some tomato passata garnished with salt, pepper, oregano, olive oil and garlic if you like it – right before cooking.
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