Siena is a beautiful small medieval city in the center of Tuscany surrounded by hills and fields of a gorgeous countryside where I lived for 25 years. It is a major turist 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 about my life in the Netherlands, there are things I miss.
One thing I really miss about Siena around the holidays are 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 peasants 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 now it's more common the use of candied fruits (orange and cedar) which also soften a little bit the cookie.
Since candied fruits are practically non-existent in the Netherlands (or at least in the city I live in) I had to opt for the first basic version.
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 (which is supposed to be a good thing).
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
- 6 ⅓ cup All Purpose Flour, plus more for coating
- 1 tablespoon Baking Powder
- 2 cups Sugar
- 2 tablespoon Powdered Sugar
- ⅔ cup Water
- 5.3 oz Walnuts
- 2 tablespoon Spices, see post for more details
- 5.3 oz Candied Fruits (Orange and Cedar), optional
- Roughly chop the walnuts and add them in a large bowl. Add the flour, baking soda, 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. Bring to a gentle simmer and turn off the heat (In total it will take about 10 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 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 at 180°C for about 10-15 minutes (depending on the dimension) press gently on top with your finger, if it's firm then they're ready.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
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