Cantuccini are a funny pastry from northern Italy, which I was offered for the first time by my late mother-in-law. I took a hearty bite of the little crispy something, which I immediately regretted, as the thing tasted more than crispy, namely rock-hard and extremely dusty. Fortunately I have strong and firm little biters, otherwise the adventure would have catapulted me onto the couch of Dr. S., my Viennese dentist.
Able to learn as I am at times, I quickly understood that Cantuccini can either be chewed nobly or enjoyed with a café or a glass of Vin Santo. The latter is too much of a good thing even for me with a sweet nose and so I always preferred the café, preferably strong black espresso, during my later stays in Northern Italy. By the way, espresso has gradually become part of my life in this way, pure black, strong, without the fuss of milk or sugar.
The Cantuccini, on the other hand, I have somehow forgotten with the passing of this mother-in-law. And then the Corona pandemic came and the time at home became long and my baking skills are quite clear, so that one day between homeoffice, e-learning of my crown prince and after an article about italian delicacies I started to bake Cantuccini by myself.the thing was not that difficult, first the recipe for bloody beginners made of flour, almonds, sugar, eggs and vanilla pulp tested, with not only for me convincing results.
On the second and third attempts I boldly added grated lemons or orange peel with the result that the things were eaten away even faster than on the first pass.
Italy, Tuscany, Florence, oh how much I was gripped by the desire to travel and the taste for dolce vita, especially in this phase of quarantine! But apart from the fact that I would generally refrain from travelling to Italy at the moment, because Corona has raged in some parts of the country and in my opinion the all-clear cannot be given yet, the travel budget, also thanks to "Oasch-Virus Corona", is for the time being too thin for a trip of this format. A small olfactory cheaper trip I promised myself from Mandorlo di Sicilia from the Blu Mediterraneo series of Acqua di Parma, so I quickly organized a bottling. Before I go into the fragrance itself, I would like to briefly explain my expectations and what these have to do with Cantuccini. In front of my inner eye I had the enchanting Beatrice from Il Postino or the young buxom Claudia Cardinale and a powdery almond scent with an overall subtle dry sweetness and slightly citrus notes in the opening and a musky base.
This corresponds more or less to a Cantuccini in scented form and if you study the scented pyramid of Mandorlo di Sicilia on the Acqua di Parma website:
The top note: star anise, Italian bergamot, Italian orange
Heart notes: Green almonds, ylang ylang
Base note: Madagascan vanilla, Lebanese cedar wood, tolu balsam, musk*
To make a long story short: yes, I got the Cantuccini - but with sticky Vino Santo and I hadn't ordered the latter! Mandorlo di Sicilia starts off full-bodied sweet, the listed citric notes in the prelude are reduced to an equally sweet orange aroma for my nose, which reminds me remotely of those refreshment sticks I used to nibble on at my grandmother's when I was a child (does anyone here remember them? Dark, very sweet chocolate sticks filled with a peckish-sweet aqueous liquid that had orange or lemon flavour from the chemilab). In no time at all an almond chord - unfortunately also sweet - appears. The sweetness could come from the listed Ylang Ylang, I have very different scent experiences with Ylang Ylang, sometimes it is flowery - lush, sometimes rather flowery-vanilla, sometimes simply sticky for my nose.
Here I cannot identify it, suspecting the vanilla listed in the base as the actual culprit. I don't notice anything of cedar wood and musk, the whole thing is just a simple sugary vanilla melange and makes me dream of salt crackers, pickles and curry sausage.
Nevertheless, I will not give up bottling Mandorlo di Sicilia so quickly. Perhaps it will serve me well next winter and then unfold its true charm under a woollen sweater and with warm lined boots on my feet. For this reason, I will wait a little longer with my evaluation here.
Furthermore, because of my geographical potpourri, it is perhaps my own fault that my expectations were not met. Between Tuscany and Sicily there are not only kilometres but certainly worlds apart. To search for a Tuscan speciality in a fragrance declared as Sicilian was therefore perhaps doomed to failure from the very beginning.