Whatever about today being Paddy’s Day (and a very happy Lá ‘Le Pádraig to one and all), I can confirm that tomorrow, in my own little corner of the universe, it will be Biscotti Day. Biscotti Day doesn’t have a fixed date in the Spud calendar, but depends on a particular alignment of circumstances and sentiment which result in me taking a notion that biscotti needs must be made and graciously bestowed upon my fellow workers.
I have been in love with these twice-baked goodies ever since I learned how to make them at a one day course with Rachel Demuth at her cookery school in Bath. They were the first things I wanted to make when I got home from the course. I made them, brought them into work and found myself to be the architect of everyone’s happiness, for that day at least. Periodically thereafter, and when I was feeling particularly well-disposed towards my partners-in-work, I would make a batch of biscotti. It got to the point where the sight of a certain container being drawn forth from my bag upon arrival at work would generate a little frisson of excitement. Word would spread. Eyes would light up. This was Biscotti Day.
So today, the planets, in the midst of hurtling hither and thither across the universe, managed to align themselves in a formation that said biscotti. I took the hint. It was the right and only thing to do. I made my beloved biscotti and tomorrow, at work, and for reasons that will later become apparent to the eaters, it will be Biscotti Day. The Biscotti Day to end all Biscotti Days in fact.
This a slightly modified version of the recipe as presented by Rachel Demuth at her lovely cookery school in Bath.
- 300g plain flour
- 200g caster sugar
- 0.5 tsp baking powder
- 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
- large pinch of salt
- 2 eggs plus one egg yolk
- 200g almonds, chopped
- 100g dried cranberries
You’ll also need:
- A food processor. It’s not strictly necessary, but saves an awful lot of elbow grease on this one.
- One large cookie sheet, about 20cm by 30cm.
- Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line your cookie sheet with greaseproof paper or baking parchment.
- Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla, eggs and egg yolk in a food processor and mix until it forms a soft ball. Alternatively, you could develop your arm muscles and beat this by hand, though, personally, I’ve always gone the processor route.
- Place the dough (which will be soft and a bit sticky) on a floured surface and gradually knead in the cranberries and almonds.
- To do this, flatten the dough a little, scatter with some of the fruit or nuts, fold the dough over and knead until incorporated. Repeat until all of the fruit and nuts have been used. It may seem like there is a lot of stuff to incorporate into the dough, but stick with it. It all goes in eventually. I also find that the dough absorbs quite a lot of additional flour as you knead, so you’ll need to reflour the surface often.
- Divide the dough into three and roll each into an oblong, about 5cm wide and 1cm high. They’ll be around 15-20cm long.
- Place the dough strips on the cookie sheet, leaving at least 5cm between each strip, as they will spread.
- Dust the dough with flour and, with a sharp knife, score the dough diagonally at roughly 2cm intervals (so make deep diagonal cuts in the dough every 2cm, but don’t cut right through).
- Cover with greaseproof paper or baking parchment and bake for 15 minutes. Then remove the covering paper and bake for a further 5 minutes or so, until pale golden and firm to the touch.
- Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 150C.
- Cut the logs into thick slices along the diagonal score lines, lay the slices cut side up and return to the oven for 10 minutes more. They will have crisped up on the cut side, but will still retain some internal chewiness (which is how I like my biscotti). If you prefer much drier biscotti, bake them for about 20-25 minutes.
- Cool on a wire rack, enjoy with madeira or espresso or whatever you’re having yourself.
- For a Paddy’s Day green-and-gold effect, use pistachios instead of almonds and golden sultanas instead of cranberries.
- Makes about 30 small-ish biscotti.