Biscotti alle mandorle

A crunchy Tuscan biscuit, perfect with coffee or sweet wine

If the heady, rich scent of darkly roasted espresso is the aroma of a Tuscan town, then the crunch of nutty biscotti is the sound of it—well, that and the mopeds. Originating in Prato, one of the larger towns in the region, it is the quintessential accompaniment to Italy’s national drink.

Or at least, so we thought—until Germana at Gastronomica informed us that one of the most popular ways to serve biscotti alle mandorle in Tuscany is not with coffee, but with vin santo, a sweet Italian wine. “We do have them with coffee—around late afternoon,” she cautions, when we turn up beady-eyed at the stall at 10am—“but if you go to a restaurant or a friend’s house for dinner, they will give you a small glass of vin santo and serve the biscotti alongside, and you talk with your friends.”

Laced with almonds
There are many varieties—pistachios, hazelnuts and chocolate can all feature—but the biscotti you’ll find at Gastronomica are particularly traditional: laced with no more than whole almonds and lemon zest. “They are artisanal,” confirms Germana, baked in a log, cut up into slices, and baked again so they’re dry, crispy and likely to keep for a long time.

Indeed, the word biscotti, though light and lively on the tongue, quite literally means ‘twice cooked’—and this is by no means a criticism. While in most cases a second blast of heat would render a biscuit inedible, it’s what makes biscotti so perfect for dunking. Not only do Gastronomica’s biscotti alle mandorle hold their shape in liquid, they retain their nutty, sweet-savoury taste and some of their texture too. At 3pm, enjoy with coffee; but as the sun dips over the yard-arm, don’t be afraid to crack open the vin santo, also available at Gastronomica—because if there’s one thing that will enhance this exquisite melding of nuts, egg, flour and heat, it is a strong, sweet, alcoholic drink.