Biscotti is a crisp (some would say hard) biscuit of Italian origin,traditionally enjoyed (in Italy) with a wine or orange juice and in places outside Italy with a steaming cup of coffee. The word Biscotti describes its preparation - it is derived from the Latin word biscoctus which means "twice cooked/ baked". It describes foods which were cooked / baked twice so that they lasted longer and could be used to feed soldiers or travellers on long journeys and during wars. Their origin being the town of Prato, they are known as Biscotti di Prato; but they are also commonly called "cantuccini" in Tuscany and Sicily.
The traditional recipe only uses flour, sugar, almonds and eggs while not incorporating butter or yeast. The dough is baked in slabs and when fresh and warm cut into slices and baked once again till crisp. Recent recipes have started incorporating other nuts like hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts; baking powder and butter have also been included along with flavourings in the form of almond or vanilla extract and some spices like anise and cinnamon.
I love my cookies a bit crisp and crunchy and don't much prefer the soft ones, so I have always wanted to bake Biscotti. Never got around to doing it though until now. The thought of baking them twice and the fear of them crumbling while cutting them into slices after the first round of baking made it a little daunting, but it was actually all very smooth when I did get around to baking it.
I used milk chocolate (I had a large Cadbury Dairy Milk Fruit and Nut slab a friend had gifted my daughter and she - like me- doesn't always prefer "things" coming in between her chocolate. So I decided to cut it up into chips and use it in the biscotti. I also had some macadamia nuts lying from my trip to Australia and decided to use those as well. I adapted this recipe from Canadian Living.
I had my daughter's best friends over when I was making this so the tiny hands all wanted to shape the logs and they did a good job! My oven couldn't accomodate 14" logs, so I just divided the dough into 3 parts and made three smaller logs. The kids couldn't wait for the logs to be baked and then cool a bit so we could cut slices and I had a tough time restricting how much of the freshly baked logs they could consume - LOL! The slices cut quite easily with a serrated knife - you have to take care to use firm strokes to cut and not linger too much. The middle part of one of the logs was crumbling a bit, but there were a lot of takers for the crumbs, so I didn't have a problem with that :)
The Biscotti came out beautifully flavoured, not too sweet and with just the right amount of crunch from the nuts. They were crisp and made for a lovely snack with just the right amount of hardness. This is definitely a recipe to repeat since it has become a favourite in our house - none of my other cookies have won such all round approval satisfying the picky husband (when it comes to sweets) and the savoury liking daughter.
I have also baked my Christmas Cake with the kids - the one which I have been doing for many years and it is luscious with all the dried fruit inside - I sliced one portion and am dousing the other round cake with small spoons of orange juice till it is ready to be eaten on Christmas. I have another batch of dried fruit soaking with which I am going bake another Christmas cake when my niece arrives and we will have that one for New Year with friends and family. This is a different recipe I'm going to be using for the first time, lets see how it turns out. Have you baked your Christmas Cake - try this recipe here, its easy and you will love the flavour! If you haven't soaked dried fruit, ust steam the fruit for about 7-8 minutes gently in orange juice or rum and rest for 30 minutes, before proceeding with the recipe. Recipe here
Now back to the Biscotti.
Milk Chocolate Macadamia BiscottiIngredients:
Butter - 1/2 cup, softened
Sugar - 3/4 cup
Eggs - 2
Flour - 2 cups
Baking powder - 1.5 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Almond Essence - 1 tsp
Vanilla Extract - 1 tsp
Macadamia Nuts - 1/2 cup, chopped (can replace with almonds)
Milk Chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate bar chopped up into small pieces) - 2/3 cup
1. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl, beat till smooth and shiny.
2. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well.
3. Mix in the almond essence and vanilla extract into the egg mixture
4. In another bow, sieve the flour and baking powder together. Add to the egg mixture and combine with a light hand till it comes together into a soft dough.
5. Add the chopped nuts and the milk chocolate pieces and mix into the dough.
6. With your hands, divide the dough into 2 or 3 parts, depending on the size of your oven/baking tray.
7. Shape each part into a log about 10-12" long and place on a greased baking tray, then flatten slightly while still leaving the edges rounded, making each long about 3-4" wide. Use flour while shaping the logs in case they are sticking to your hands.
8. Pre heat the oven to 180C and bake for 25-20 minutes, till the tops are just turning golden and the logs are firm. Cool for 10 minutes
9. Cut the logs with a serrated knife diagonally in a firm, swift motion into 1/2" slices each.
10. Stand the slices upright in a baking tray and bake at 180C for 20 minutes, till dry and crisp and base is slightly browned.