I'll admit.. I have a weakness for exotic sounding recipes, or should I paraphrase that as recipes that sound exotic to my Indian sensibilities. The more unusual sounding the recipe name, the more likely it is that I'll have a go at it. From rugelach to Finnish Pulla to cucidati, the book, 'Baking with Julia' has a fair share of them. One of the reasons, I guess that I keep coming back to the group despite my long absences.
So, this Tuesday, I am having a go at the exotic sounding cantuccini! But, turns out that I have already made something similar. Cantuccini are Italian biscotti by another name. If anyone knows why the different names, do let me know. I suspect it has something to do with regional variations.
A while back, from the same book, I had made some dark chocolate and roasted almond biscotti. Crunchy, dry, crackly and not too sweet, I have been a fan of these Italian cookies ever since and not much convincing was needed to make them again.
While this recipe calls for almonds, having already used them earlier, I turned to the Middle East for inspiration. I went with the classic combination of pistachios and orange zest to flavour these cookies.
Because there is no butter or fat used in these cookies, they bake, as the recipe states, into 'a formidable state of crunchiness'. This makes them perfect for some dipping action. That's why their traditional accompaniment is vin santo but a cup of espresso or tea would do too.
But, since we are in the mood for something new today, I decided to serve them with affogato. Affogato is one of the simplest desserts ever created. In Italian, affogato means drowned. So, you take a scoop or two of vanilla ice-cream and drown it in a shot of hot espresso. And, me being me, I added a shot of coffee liqueur for good measure.
Where do I start? The cantuccini were superlative with a winning flavour profile. The orange zest was refreshing and the pistachios provided a much welcome nutty texture and flavour. The affogato, for all its simplicity, is one remarkable dessert. The hot espresso melts into the vanilla ice cream and then with a dash of the coffee liqueur, you are looking at a one-shot coffee ice-cream without all the work that goes into it.
Mix these two Italian components, the cantuccini and the affogato, and its a delightful marriage of flavours. The orange complements the coffee and the dry, crackly texture is perfect for dipping into the melted ice-cream.
Next time you call your friends over, ditch the coffee and serve them affogato with some cantuccini instead. Although, I must warn you that you mix gossip and cantuccini at your own peril. You won't notice how many you've had as you make your way through that bowl of ice-cream and the latest round of 'who would've thought..' gossip. Trust me.. I speak from experience!