Cantuccini with Black Pepper, Fennel and Orange Zest
These pepper-spiked biscuits are fun to make. There is just enough pepper to make itself felt, and it combines beautifully with the sweet clean flavours of orange and aniseed. Delicious dipped in a glass of vin santo or sherry.
Makes about 25
eggs 2, plus I egg yolk
caster sugar 200g
finely grated orange zest 2 tsp
vanilla extract ½ tsp
plain white flour 270g, plus extra for kneading
baking powder ½ tsp
fennel seeds 1½ tsp, lightly crushed
black peppercorns ¾ tsp, freshly ground
whole almonds with skin 100g
1) Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Line a large baking tray with baking parchment or silicone.
2) In a large bowl whisk the eggs, sugar, orange zest and vanilla extract for about 3 minutes until pale and creamy.
3) Sift the flour and baking powder into the egg mixture.
4) Add the fennel seeds and black pepper. Using a metal spoon, mix the dough until it forms a sticky ball.
5) Tip the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Flatten with the palm of your hand into a rough circle. Sprinkle over the almonds and knead them into the dough. If the dough is still too sticky add a little more flour.
6) Divide the dough in half. Roll out into logs about 4cm wide and 24cm long. Place the rolled logs on the prepared tin. Flatten slightly using the palm of your hand. Score the dough diagonally with a blade or sharp knife at 1.5cm intervals.
6) Bake in the middle of the oven for 15–20 minutes, or until pale golden and firm to touch. Remove from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 150°C/gas 2.
7) Cut through the score lines. Place the slices flat on the baking sheet. Return to the oven for 15-20 minutes, and bake until golden and no longer sticky.
• If the cantuccini brown too quickly during the first baking, cover them with
a loose piece of baking parchment.
• For completely hard cantuccini, turn off the oven and leave them to dry out
until the oven is cold. If you prefer a chewy moist biscuit, don't let them
dry out completely. Just let them cool a little and eat at once.
Recipe © Christine McFadden from Pepper: the Spice That Changed the World published by Absolute Press/Bloomsbury