Desserts

“Cavallucci di Siena” Christmas cookies with Walnuts

December 16, 2015 (Last Updated: September 29, 2020)
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Total time to make this recipe: 35 minutes
2 cookies on a cloth

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.

Cavallucci di Siena - Christmas Walnut Cookies

Traditional Cavallucci

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.

2 cookies on a cloth
Cavallucci di Siena - Christmas Walnut Cookies

The Recipe

  • The proportion of spices for Cavallucci is:
    -65% Coriander seeds 
    -20% Cinnamon
    -10% Nutmeg
    -5% Anise

All the spices should be finely ground in order to blend uniformly with the dough.

2 cookies on a cloth

Cavallucci di Siena

A crunchy spiced cookie made with walnuts and plenty of spices to bring out all the flavors of the Italian Christmas.
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 50 cookies
Author: Jessica – Cooking my Dreams

Ingredients

  • 6 1/3 cup All Purpose Flour, plus more for coating
  • 1 tbsp Baking Powder
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Powdered Sugar
  • 2/3 cup Water
  • 5.3 oz Walnuts
  • 2 tbsp Spices, see post for more details
  • 5.3 oz Candied Fruits (Orange and Cedar), optional

Instructions

  • 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 110 kcal | Carbohydrates: 21 g | Protein: 2 g | Fat: 2 g | Saturated Fat: 1 g | Sugar: 8 g

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: christmas cookies, italian cookie, italian recipe, tuscan recipe
Have you tried this recipe?Snap a photo and tag @jess.cookingmydreams or use the hashtag #cookingmydreams!
Cavallucci di Siena - Christmas Walnut Cookies

If you like this recipe, you can leave a comment and a star rating to support me. ★★★★★
Thank you so much!

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7 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    My Linh
    December 20, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    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 😀

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Jessica
      December 20, 2015 at 10:52 pm

      Thank you My Linh! Yes, coriander powder is very often used in traditional cookies and sweets from Tuscany! 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Dave L
    December 28, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    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%.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Jessica
      December 29, 2016 at 8:55 pm

      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

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Sally Lawson
    January 4, 2017 at 3:18 am

    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. 🙂
    Sally. xx

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Jessica - Cooking my Dreams
      January 5, 2017 at 1:45 pm

      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! :*
      Jessica

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