You either love them or hate them - I always have some appetite left for cantucci/biscotti when I have my espresso after dinner at an Italian restaurant. Definitely better than the speculoos-tasting brown biscuits wrapped in plastic and smelling of e-numbers that you get in other places. But there's good and bad, obviously, and I have always wondered why there isn't more variety in flavours and ingredients. You tend to always only get nuts, at least around here, and I have always thought that this would work equally well with some chocolate, dried fruits or any combination of the three. And being so easy to make and keeping so well, you should really see more of them!
Then I found a recipe for a quite unlikely combination of flavours in an issue of Food & Travel. The pink peppercorns are really fruits of the "baies roses" plant grown in Madagascar and Réunion, and although pungent they are not quite as spicy as pepper. I like how it is used in this sweet biscuit, it's a bit like eating Revels, where you never quite know which flavour awaits you at the next bite. Is it sweet, is it spicy? Proper adventure eating.
I made these cantucci for our South-African friend Lyn who, after more than nine months of living with us, will be leaving us tomorrow. Personally I think she's quite mad to give up her honourary position as primary guinea pig for all the concoctions I am cooking up every day, and I will surely miss her around the house, especially our coffee chats (we used to have around 10 per day, and consequently were going through at least 500 g a week of the strongest espresso blend). Now she doesn't even know if she'll have a proper coffee making facility at the new place! The biscuits will hopefully remind her to call "home" every now and then and invite herself for dinner...
Almond and pink peppercorn cantucci
250 g flour
½ tsp baking powder
150 g caster sugar
1 heaped tsp ginger paste (or ground ginger)
50 g butter (melted)
50 g ground almonds
2 tbsp pink peppercorns
100 g whole almonds (skin on)
Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and ginger in a mixing bowl, then add the butter, eggs and ground almonds. Transfer to a floured surface and knead the mixture to form a smooth dough, then work in the whole almonds and the peppercorns. Form 2 logs of ca. 25 x 3 cm and lay them on a baking tray lined with non-stick paper. Leave some space between them as they will spread out a bit.
Transfer to the oven where you bake them for 20 minutes at 200 C. Take out, leave to cool for 30 minutes, then cut into 2 cm thick slices. Spread the slices on a baking grid without any lining, take the temperature down to 100 C and bake for a further 10 - 15 minutes until they are dry, crisp and slightly browned on the edges, then leave to cool on a wire rack.