Cavallucci are one of the most famous Christmas treats in Tuscany, dating back to Renaissance times when the church's council would give panpepato and cavallucci to their members. Originally from Siena, these old-fashioned biscuits have a soft texture and are made with plain flour, nuts, candied fruit, aniseeds and spices.
Nobody knows the exact origin of their name (which comes from cavallo, or “horse” in English). Some believe that it comes from their shape, with a central furrow resembling a horse hoof, or perhaps because a little horse was once imprinted on top of them. Others point to how they were often consumed by roadhouses workers, where travelers would stop to rest and change their horses.
Originally they were simpler: no nuts or candied fruit—only flour, honey, sugar and aniseeds. They have been enriched over the centuries to meet the increasingly demanding tastes of the bourgeoisie. Thanks so much to Alice del Re for this recipe and these photos!