“I have come to believe that anyone who walks into a kitchen should know how to make biscuits. Biscuits are the utility infielder of the culinary world. They can be plain, spicy, savoury or sweet. You can eat them hot or cold, and furthermore, they closely resemble their first cousin (or twin sister), the scone. There is nothing in the world as useful or as delicious”. Laurie Colvin from More Home Cooking. (1993)

In theory, cantucci di Prato (twice-baked Tuscan almond biscuits) should arrive with a warning. If you’ve recently had extensive dental treatment or the teeth you display are temporarily leased from the NHS, beware. When first approached these biscotti can be teeth-achingly crunchy. I know. I once spent some hard-earned lire at a dentista in Milan counteracting their effect.

The point of these secular Italian biscuits, is their incontestable requirement for the holy dessert wine of Tuscany – Vin Santo. Across Italy, cantucci di Prato are traditionally served at the end of a meal with a chilled glass of Vin Santo for discreet but prudent dipping. This gentle absorption softens the biscuit, protects any expensive dental work and allows the biscotti to melt on the tongue. All in all, an audacious sensation and one that proves to be far more exciting, even decadent (in this taster’s opinion), than a McVitie’s Digestive dunked in a mug of PG tips.

I have used this Cantucci di Prato recipe, above all others, after coming across it in a Saturday edition of The Times in 2002, by the then ‘Cookery Writer of the Year’, Jill Duplex.

Makes about 40

100g whole almonds

250 g plain flour

250 g caster sugar

1 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

½ tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 extra yolk

Heat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4

Toast the almonds in a hot dry pan until they smell sweet and nutty, then cool and roughly chop

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla extract, two whole eggs and one egg yolk in a food processor and blend until the mixture leaves the sides and forms a ball

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, scatter with the almonds and knead for a minute or two to mix them through

Divide the dough in two and pat it out into log shapes about 25 cms long and 5 cms wide

Line a baking tray with lightly buttered greaseproof paper and place the logs on it with room for spreading each side

Bake for around 25 minutes until they are lightly coloured and firm to the touch

Remove the tray from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 140°C/Gas 1

Cut the logs on the diagonal into 2 cm slices, lay them cut side down on the tray and return to the oven for about 15 minutes or until they are quite dry and hard, without allowing them to colour

Let the biscuits cool on the tray and store in an airtight container

They will keep for weeks if not months

Wine thoughts

As above, the traditional accompaniment is Vin Santo, but any chilled dessert wine will be just as delicious. I have enjoyed them with a glass of Madiera too.