Prato biscuits: don't call them cantucci! – Italian Cuisine


They are famous all over the world thanks to the fame of the Prato fabrics, and they preserve the historical recipe. Even today at the Mattei Biscuit Factory they are made like they used to be, by hand, tile after tile

In 1858 Italy did not exist yet, Tuscany was a Grand Duchy and a Meadow, in Via Ricasoli 22, Antonio Mattei opened his own Biscottificio with resale. Baked up a dry almond biscuit with a recipe developed by him, and certainly he never imagined that that biscuit would become the traditional biscuit of Prato, which would have survived for over two centuries and that would have traveled far beyond the borders of what a few years later would have become a nation.
Prato has always been known throughout Tuscany for bread, and the bakeries that produced the Bozza Pratese (the typical local silly bread) also produced biscuits. In addition to all the historic biscuit factories in fact, in Prato it is common practice that the ovens also make the biscuits, so there is a vastness of offer and declinations that have always been, then become ecellence. Thanks to the fame of the fabrics before, and then in the years of the Italian economic boom, the city has become one of the most famous and studied textile districts in the world, and the industrialists of the time have contributed not a little to the spread of Prato biscuits, sending them and giving them away in every part of the world. Even today in Prato it is not Sunday unless a blue bag of biscuits "di Mattonella" is discarded.

Cantucci or biscuits from Prato?

The first documented recipe of this cake is a manuscript, preserved in the State Archives of Prato, and bears the signature of Amadio Baldanzi, a Pratese scholar, dated 1779: here the biscuits are called Genoese. The Accademia della Crusca in 1691 had already defined the cantuccis as a "sliced ​​biscuit, flour flour, with sugar and egg white". The almonds were not present and only appear at the home of Caterina De ’Medici.
Both the cantucci and the Prato biscuits are dry cakes made with a mixture of eggs, sugar and whole almonds, neither roasted nor peeled, and are obtained by cutting a piece of dough into pieces while it is still hot after cooking. The difference is in the cut, which is twisted diagonally in the Prato biscuits, and in the ingredients. "The Biscotto di Prato, the one we pack in our famous blue bag – explains Francesco Pandolfini of Biscottificio Mattei – follows a slightly different recipe from that of the cantuccio: it is somehow a simpler product without the addition of yeasts, fats or aromas, which inherits the tradition of Prato bakers". The substantial difference compared to the codified recipe of 1779 is that today the biscuits are no longer "biscottati", that is cooked twice, and this time a time necessary to give greater conservation to the product is today skipped.

The Mattei Biscuit Factory

Prato biscuits are made with flour, sugar, almond, eggs and pine nuts – they do not contain preservatives, animal fats or vegetable fats. The fame of Mattei products began to spread beyond city limits, traveling together with the precious fabrics that merchants bought in the city. The merit medal was won in 1861 at the Italian Exposition and the honorable mention at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1867 and illustrious fans such as Pellegrino Artusi, who reported the recipe for their Torta Mantovana in his famous recipe book, and mention the products of Antonio Mattei also Malaparte, Ardengo Soffici, Sem Benelli, Hermann Hesse, and the Presidents Carlo Azeglio Ciampi and even Bill Clinton. In 1904 the business passed to the Pandolfini and Ciampolini families, and it was in the 1920s that new products were born, such as the Candone Filone, the Brutti Buoni, the Biscuit of Health, which today are classics, rigorously disciplined in receiving and cooking almost as much as the Prato Biscuit. Even today the Biscottificio of Antonio Mattei is owned by the fourth generation Pandolfini. As has always been the case since 1858, the production is still done in the same laboratory, in the 13th century family palace in the historic center of Prato, with the same quality raw materials and artisanal methods: in addition to having preserved the same processing methods, the cookies in the traditional blue bag, for example, are still closed and hand-tied one by one. Novelty, from pichi years in biscuit factory you can also sleep in one of the four apartments above the laboratory, Le Dimore di Casa Mattei.

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