Cavallucci is a crunchy spiced cookie with walnuts and plenty of spices to bring out all the flavors of the Italian Christmas. This cookie is originally from the city of Siena in Tuscany, Italy and it has an ancient tradition but it's still very popular nowadays are the Holidays.
Siena is a beautiful small medieval city in the center of Tuscany surrounded by hills and fields of the gorgeous countryside where I lived for 25 years. It is a major tourist attraction, especially in summer when the Palio horse race runs, therefore it's really common when people in the Netherlands ask me where I come from and I reply "Siena" their face turns into a huge smile and say "ohhhh! I've been there! It's so beautiful, amazing, gorgeous!".
Indeed it is. And even though I'm grateful for my life in the Netherlands, there are things I miss.
One thing I really miss about Siena around the holidays is the baked goods. Especially the Christmas baked goods: Ricciarelli, Panforte, Panpepato and Cavallucci.
Sweet, spiced, nutty flavored, and sugar powdered goodness that fills my belly with joy around Christmas.
This year I decided to replicate the Cavallucci, an ancient cookie coming from the peasant's traditions. In medieval times, the peasants used to exchange cookies as Christmas presents. Their consistency is quite hard and crunchy because they were supposed to last for a really long time. The original recipe has only walnuts and spices, although nowadays it's more common to add candied fruits (orange and cedar) which also soften the cookie a little bit.
This time I opted for the first basic version, but feel free to add some candied fruits to the dough.
Another peculiarity is that they look like they are coated in sugar powder but it's actually flour, which makes them more rustic and less sweet.
Another great traditional Tuscan cookie I love is Cantucci, the classic almond biscotti.
- The proportion of spices for Cavallucci is:
-65% Coriander seeds
All the spices should be finely ground in order to blend uniformly with the dough.
Cavallucci di Siena
- 4 ½ cup All Purpose Flour, plus more for coating
- 1 tablespoon Baking Powder
- 2 cups Sugar
- 2 tablespoon Powdered Sugar
- ¾ cup Water
- 5.3 oz Walnuts
- 2 tablespoon Spices, see notes
- 5.3 oz Candied Fruits (Orange and Cedar), optional
- Preheat the oven to 180°C / 355°F.
- Roughly chop the walnuts and add them in a large bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, powdered sugar, spices and candied fruits in the same bowl with the walnuts and mix well with you hands or with a wooden spoon.
- Set aside and prepare the sugar syrup: In a medium pan pour the water and add the sugar; turn on the heat to low and stir frequently to melt the sugar. Turn off as soon as all the sugar is melted (In total it will take about 3-5 minutes).
- Pour the sugar syrup over the other ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until you get a sticky ball of dough. At some point you may work it with your hands if you prefer, but be careful since the sugar syrup may be still hot.
- Pour some extra flour on a cutting board; make small balls of dough,the size of a golf ball and roll them in the flour until completely coated. Press them gently with your palm to make thick disks and place them in a baking tray lined with baking paper.
- Bake the Cavallucci in the pre-heated oven for about 10-15 minutes.
- The proportion of spices for Cavallucci is:
-65% Coriander seeds
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
If you like this recipe, you can leave a comment and a star rating to support me. ★★★★★
Thank you so much!
I have tried this recipe 3 times. Every time my dough is so crumby it does not hold at all. Not crumby like a pie crust that just requires more kneading, but so crumby it does not stick at all. I first added honey, the second time I doubled the syrup, the third time I just added water. I am actually really good in the kitchen so I am stuck trying to figure out what is happening. Please let me know if you have any idea or suggestions!
Hi Frances, Thank you for your comment. I retested this recipe since it was a bit old and I found the conversion from grams to cups of flour was a bit off so I now adjusted the recipe (also, the flour should be scooped and leveled). If you still get a crumbly dough, add a few more tablespoons of water until you get a sticky consistency.
I have a question about the cedar. Just pull it from the tree?
Hi Adam, As mentioned in the recipe card, both the orange and the cedar are candied fruits. If you cannot find candied cedar in your area, you can omit it. 🙂
Happy New Year, Jessica! And thank you SO much for this wonderful recipe! I combined it with one that was in my local airline's inflight magazine (I kid you not - Air New Zealand, Kia Ora had a Cavallucci Bicuit recipe in it!). I'd stumbled upon these wonderful cookies in a little city in the North Island of NZ earlier this year, and so was delighted to find the recipe in our airline's inflight mag on my trip north to have Christmas with my daughter. I bought all the ingredients up there to make them with her, but we ran out of time!
So, I've just made my first ever batch of Cavallucci biscuits, and am delighted at how beautifully delicious they are. 🙂 And the smell!! Divine!
The recipe I used didn't specify which fruit to use, so I used cranberries, then added two drops of doTerra's Wild Orange and 1 tablespoon of Rose water to the sugar syrup. Just added an extra bit of magic to both the taste and the smell of these delicious cookies!
Anyway. I just wanted to say thank you SO much, and in keeping with the 'cookie swap' theme, I would love to send you a recipe for one of our iconic NZ cookies - they're called ANZAC cookies..... 🙂 Can you please let me know how to share this recipe with you??
Many, many thanks and much, much love and sunshine from our corner of the world to yours. 🙂
Jessica - Cooking my Dreams
Hi Sally! Thank you so much for your lovely comment! I'm so glad you liked these cookies, I would have never thought that you could find the recipe and the cookies themselves in New Zealand, how nice! It feels like a piece our our ancient tradition is now scattered around the world and it's amazing to think about it 🙂
I would love to try the recipe of your Anzac cookies, you can send it to me via email. As soon as I try them I'll let you know! 🙂
Thanks again and have a great day! :*
We made these and they were pretty good, but wanted to point out that 60% Coriander, 10% Cinnamon, 5% Nutmeg and 5% Anise doesn't add up to 100%.
Thank you so much for your comment Dave! The % of the spices is only indicative for the amount but indeed it's wrong. I fixed it now.:D
These cookies were lovely ^^ Never would I have guessed there's coriander in these cookies :O The steps are surprisingly easy too. Just the way I love my recipes, easy and delicious 😉 Thank you again for sending me these lovely cookies, Jessica 😀
Thank you My Linh! Yes, coriander powder is very often used in traditional cookies and sweets from Tuscany! 🙂