This year Christmas will be different for everybody. In an attempt to stop the spreading of the virus, the majority of governments have implemented stricter measures for the entire festive period. Most of us will not be allowed to organize big family gatherings or to throw big Christmas parties with friends. However, we are still filling our homes with lights, decorations and tasty treats to get us in the Christmas spirit even during these difficult times… And to recreate the Christmas atmosphere there is nothing better than these six sweet treats from Tuscany to impress your (though very few) guests!
The so-called cavallucci are typical Christmas cookies from the city of Siena. These soft treats are prepared mainly with walnuts and candied fruit and flavored with spices, such as anisette and cinnamon. They are perfect to be eaten at the end of the Christmas meal or in the afternoon with a mug of hot chocolate or a cup of tea.
The ricciarelli are another type of Tuscan cookies from Siena, very sweet and soft in the inside. The main ingredients include almonds, sugar and egg white. A legend narrates that the ricciarelli arrived in Tuscany thanks to Ricciardetto della Gherardesca (hence the name), a knight that brought these treats back home when he returned from the crusades. Nowadays, in Siena it is possible to find ricciarelli not only during Christmas time, but also all the year round. Conversely, in the rest of Tuscany, they can be easily found only during the winter holidays.
Cantucci are almond biscuits that were invented in Prato. Today, they can be found anywhere in Tuscany and at any time of the year. Although they also contain almonds, they are very different from ricciarelli. First of all, cantucci have a long shape, while ricciarelli have a round shape. Secondly, while ricciarelli are very soft, cantucci are drier and way harder. Cantucci are normally paired with Vin Santo, a sweet dessert wine. As they’re very hard, it’s very common to directly dip the biscuit in the wine to make it softer.
Panforte is a traditional Christmas dessert whose origins date back to the middle ages. Like cavallucci and ricciarelli, also panforte originated in Siena. It is characterized by a very heavy and rich dough, made with honey, spices, candied fruit, almonds and aromatic herbs. Panforte can be prepared in many different ways, but the two most common versions are the white one and the black one. The white version is sprinkled with powdered sugar, while the black version is also called “pan pepato” and contains black pepper.
5. Copata di Siena
The copata is a typical Christmas treat again from Siena! It is very similar to another Italian specialty called “torrone,” which can be found all year round. Both copata and torrone contain egg white, honey, sugar, salted almonds, hazelnuts and/or peanuts. The dough is then placed within two hosts. While torrone is tick, hard and squared, copata is thinner and has a classic round shape.
Last but not least, the befanini are festive biscuits that are very common in the Tuscan areas of Lucca, Versilia and Garfagnana. This type of biscuits is very easy to make: the ingredients include only eggs, butter, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla, yeast, flour, and colored sugar sprinkles as decoration. They have typical Christmas shapes, such as socks, Christmas trees, stars and more, and for this reason they are the kids’ favorite treat!