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Cavallucci: Italian Cookies with Walnuts, Candied Orange Peel, and Anise

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Cavallucci, the Italian cookies with walnuts, candied orange peel, and anise, are the epitome of a humble, un-precious treat. 

Cookie season is upon us, and this year we are after something a little bit different. The recipe for these Italian Cavallucci caught our eye as we were reading Charlotte Druckman’s “The Best Christmas Cookie Recipes of 2021, All from Italy” in The Wall Street Journal. The Cavallucci recipe is an adaptation of the one from Emiko Davies, an Australian-Japanese food writer living in Tuscany. This past year, she published her fourth cookbook, Torta della Nonna, and shared her take on Cavallucci. We committed at the mention of candied orange peel.

The beauty of these cookies is their simplicity. Not too sweet, spiced with anise, and studded with bits of candied orange peel, Cavallucci are the epitome of a humble, un-precious treat. Kind of like biscotti, just better for the orange and anise. They are crunchy and satisfying, and perfect dunked in tea or sweet vin santo after dinner.

Because they are super sturdy, Cavallucci keep well and are great travelers. Pack them in your cookie tins and boxes – they will be welcome contrasts to all the traditional, sugary Christmas treats.

Adapted from Charlotte Druckman for The Wall Street Journal, who adapted the recipe from Torta della Nonna by Emiko Davies

1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 ¾ ounces candied orange rind, finely chopped
2 tablespoons anise seeds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups flour, plus more for dusting

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan over low heat, cook the sugar in 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water. Once the sugar dissolves, bring the liquid to a simmer and cook, stirring regularly with a rubber spatula to prevent sticking, until it reduces very slightly but does not color, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in walnuts, candied orange, and spices. 

Sift the flour into a separate bowl. Add the hot syrup and mix together to form a dough. Oh a work surface well-dusted with flour, roll golf ball-sized balls. Place the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pat to flatten slightly. Bake until the cookies are hard to the touch but not browned, 15 minutes.

These cookies are meant to have a hard shell and soft interior, so do not overbake them. Let the cookies cool on a rack before serving. Serve with vin santo, coffee, or tea, for dunking. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, they should last for 3 weeks.

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