Cavallucci Senesi - Sienese Christmas Walnut Cookies
Meet the cavallucci, the most unusual Christmas cookies, round and rustic, lightly flattened on the ends, floury and a bit lumpy.
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Today, as a small Christmas gift, we’re sharing the recipe for my favourite Sienese Christmas cookies with all our subscribers, as a thank-you note for an exciting year spent together! We are so grateful to have you all here!
Among Siena’s most traditional Christmas cookies, cavallucci are not elegant or photogenic, lacking the bright colours, icing, and sparkling sugar we expect from a Christmas cookie. Nor do they come in Christmas shapes: they’re round and rustic, lightly flattened on the ends, floury and a bit lumpy.
And yet, with that first bite full of warm spices, rich nuttiness, and sweet candied fruit, you’ll forget all about the presentation.
These were my grandfather Remigio’s favourite cookies. Every time my mum went to San Gimignano during the holidays, she returned home with a paper bag with a couple of cavallucci that Nonno had sent us.
Whenever I bake them now, I am brought back to those childhood Christmas holidays. The spiced smell lingers in the kitchen for hours, one of the most evocative aromas of Tuscan festivities.
RECIPE - Cavallucci Senesi - Sienese Christmas Walnut Cookies
Notes on the ingredients. Baking ammonia is a raising agent, used in many traditional Italian recipes. It produces a lighter, crunchier crumb. It has a potent smell that, once the cookies have been baked and cooled down, disappears completely. Read more about baking ammonia here and find out more about its substitutes here.
Makes 24 cookies
325 grams (2⅔ cups) all-purpose flour + more to form the cavallucci
15 grams (1¼ tablespoon) powdered sugar
150 grams (1½ cups) shelled walnuts
100 grams (3½ oz) mixed candied citrus peels (orange and citron), diced
7 grams (1 teaspoon) baking ammonia (ammonium carbonate)
20 grams cavallucci (about 2 tablespoons) spices (a mix of equal parts cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, and anise)
200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar
100 ml (⅓ cup + 1½ tablespoon) water
Preheat the oven to 175°C/350 degrees F. Like two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine flour, powdered sugar, roughly chopped walnuts, diced candied peels, baker’s ammonia, and spices. Mix thoroughly.
In a small saucepan, add the sugar and the water and heat on medium flame. This is a crucial step: as soon as the sugar has melted turning into a cloudy syrup, remove it from the heat. You don’t want it to boil, otherwise, your cavallucci will be rock hard, so have a close look.
Pour the sugar syrup into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. The dough will be dense and thick.
Generously flour a wooden surface, and shape the dough into 3cm/1-inch-thick logs. Cut them into 24 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, roughly just as big as a small apricot, then gently flatten them by pressing each ball with your thumb. Arrange all the cavallucci on the lined baking sheets, allowing enough space between the cookies as they will expand while baking.
Transfer the sheets to the oven and bake for about 15 minutes; when they are ready they will still be slightly soft to the touch. Remove the trays from the oven and let the cavallucci cool down completely.
You can keep the cavallucci for several days in a sealed tin or another airtight container.
If you need to print this recipe to keep it in your kitchen and use for scribbling down your notes, you find the printable PDF below and you can print just odd pages to avoid photos and save ink.
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