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Photography: felinda - Fotolia.com
When almonds are harvested in the hills of Tuscany during August and September, food lovers enjoy the aroma of biscotti – Italy’s most popular almond biscuit, enjoyed all over the world.
For fashion experts, Prato, Tuscany represents the heart of the Italian textile industry. It is renowned for the production of traditional, high-quality cloth, with these numerous businesses shaping the town outside of its historical centre. Countless shops also provide the city with excellent shopping facilities.
For art lovers, the town on the Bisenzio river is a must-see when staying in Florence. Alongside outstanding Renaissance works of art, it is home to the internationally renowned Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci. Florence – seen by Prato residents for centuries as predatory and domineering – is unable to offer anything that compares to this spectacular contemporary art foundation.
But what does Prato mean for food lovers? The mere mention of the city’s name gets nostrils twitching, due to the fine aroma of almonds that characterizes biscotti di Prato. The local pasticcerie fill the city with this wonderful smell, and under their everyday name of biscotti, the biscuits have gained global fame.
Biscotti were not, however, originally created in Prato. The oldest recipe preserved in the city’s archive states their regional origin as “di Genova”, though a lasting tradition of biscotti failed to develop there. This may be due to the fact that in the collective memory of the seafarer republic, the term biscotto (meaning cooked or baked twice) conjured up too many images of the dried rusks eaten on ships for people to believe the lengthy baking process would result in such a “bella figura”.
In Prato, however, the rediscovery of this recipe in the 18th century fell on fruitful ground – biscotti quickly became a popular export, and were soon copied and modified in other regions.
Today, the internet is home to no fewer than 115 different biscotti recipes, which vary through the addition of a host of ingredients, such as star anise, cinnamon, figs, chocolate, and even amaretto.
We prefer the traditional recipe for biscotti di Prato, which is as uncomplicated and straightforward as all other Tuscan specialities. To make biscotti, simply mix almonds, flour, sugar, salt, eggs, baking powder, a little milk – e basta!