Biscotti, or cantucci, as they are known in Tuscany are crunchy and chewy slivers of twice baked and ridiculously moreish, Italian biscuits traditionally containing almonds, and often an abundance of dried fruit. They are obligatorily dipped into an immodestly full glass of Vin Santo (Italian sweet wine) and held there until the majority of the wine has been absorbed by the biscuit and there’s every chance it will land in one’s lap before it reaches one’s ready and waiting mouth.
Unfortunately, biscotti are endangered in Britain. Their reputation is marred by the imitation biscotti that have taken up residence in the majority of common coffee chains.
These poor copies of the true Italian post-prandial biscuit are so dry that they react like silica gel to one’s mouth, so stale that you may need to sacrifice a tooth to consume them.
For this pleasure the coffee chains also charge a trillion percent mark-up on what are the easiest and most inexpensive biscuits to make. Also, they’re often sold individually – who stops at just one?
This recipe is very versatile. I love strong flavours, and so I paired ginger with orange to give the biscuits a tang, and added the toasted hazelnuts for slight smokiness. However, these ingredients can be substituted with any dried fruit and nut of your choice, or indeed left plain. Use 200g of the dried fruit, 250g of the nut of your choice and, in place of the orange & ginger syrups, sub in an extra 2 tbsp honey.
For the biscuit
500g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 eggs + 1 egg white + 1 egg yolk for later
2 tsp vanilla essence
3 tsp curaçao (triple sec)
250g roasted hazelnuts crushed into halves or slightly smaller pieces
2 tbsp honey
Zest of 1 orange
2 trays lined with baking parchment
For the candied oranges
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
For the candied ginger – or 140g store bought
200g ginger peeled and slices into 1/8 inch disks
4 cups of water
Candied ginger method
- Place sliced and peeled ginger in shallow pan with water and bring to boil. Allow to simmer with the lid on for 25 minutes
- Drain the ginger saving 1 cup of liquid and pour in sugar. Bring to medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes until the liquid becomes syrupy and the ginger is translucent.
- Place sieve over a bowl and pour the mixture over to drain off the syrup. Reserve both elements for later use.
Candied orange peel method
- Slice the peel off the oranges with a knife in thick strips, cutting close to the flesh. Cut the peel into thin 0.5 cm strips and those to roughly 2cm lengths.
- Place chopped orange peel, sugar and water in pan and bring to boil. Reduce to medium heat and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid is mostly evaporated and syrupy and the oranges are translucent and lacking the sourness of their fresh state.
- Preheat oven to 180C. Mix all the dry ingredients together with the toasted hazelnuts in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl separate one egg and place the yolk aside for later use. Mix together the 3 whole eggs, the egg white of one egg and the other liquid ingredients with the candied orange peel (along with it syrup) and the drained pieces of ginger along with 2 tbsp of the ginger syrup.
- Pour liquid mixture into the dry and stir until combined in a stiff dough.
- Sprinkle a wooden board with flour and spoon 1/6 of the mixture onto it. Coat your hands in flour and roll the dough out into a 5 cm wide log. Place on tray. Repeat with rest of mixture, leaving a large at least 10cm distance between each piece since it will spread whilst cooking.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until deep golden brown. With knife at the ready, take them out and slice diagonally into 3 cm widths and turn them so they’re cut side up. Turn off the oven and place these back in to dry out for another 10 minutes. Or just leave them in until ready to serve.