That is the question.
When I was younger I was a dunker. Saying that, when I was younger I ate a lot more biscuits than I do now. My favourite dunking biscuit was, without doubt, a chocolate digestive. Into a large mug of hot sugary milky tea. You see, that was perfect as the tea would melt the chocolate just enough to lick it off saving the digestive for last.
Like I said, I don’t eat a lot of biscuits nowadays, but the one biscuit I love to make – and dunk – is Biscotti. The dry and crunchy biscuit is perfect for soaking up a really strong coffee with a touch of milk and a pinch of vanilla sugar. The sad truth is, that once I make biscotti, they never really last too long – so I make these as a treat every now and then.
These biscuits were one of the first recipes I really mastered when I started to bake. I would knock a batch together in 10 minutes and didn’t need to read the recipe. When I moved into the new house (with the new pretty oven) I lost my mojo for baking biscotti. There were hotspots in the oven that I wasn’t too familiar with and they would end up burnt and not nice. So I stopped baking them for a good year and concentrated on other things.
Just before Christmas, I was making gift hampers and was thinking that something crunchy but seasonal would be a nice addition among the chutneys, jams and puddings. So I decided that I would give the biscotti another go.
I hauled out the Nigella Lawson Feast book, turned to page 202 (I have memorised it!) and tried again. I subbed out some of the ingredients, reducing the white flour and bulking up on the wholemeal flour. I replaced the chocolate chips with cranberries and, dare I say it, they were divine. I had to make a 2nd batch to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. The second batch made it to the hampers! The wholemeal flour gives the biscotti a sort of nuttiness that just lifts them above a regular biscotti.
These biscotti are not difficult to make – you will need a little patience and make sure that you follow all the steps to double bake them – otherwise they will be nice, but they will lack that really great crunch that sometimes makes you wonder whether you have broken a tooth – the dunking will eliminate this risk!
To Make you will need to preheat your oven to 180C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
One Egg, 100g caster sugar, 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract, a couple of drops of almond essence (optional), 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 50g plain flour, 75g wholemeal flour, 50g shelled whole almonds, 75g cranberries *
Beat the egg and caster sugar in an electric mixer until the mixture is moussy and thick. Add the vanilla and almond essence and beat again until combined.
In a separate bowl, mix the flours, baking powder and salt. Add to the egg mixture and fold together.
Add the almonds and cranberries and mix quickly.
Take the mixture, which will be sticky and runny, and form a long narrow tube onto the baking tray. I lay it diagonally on the tray as you get more length. Make the shape as narrow or wide as you like. It will expand as it bakes. I usually make it narrow.
You can dampen your hands and shape the dough – it will stick to your hands otherwise. Take it from me – biscotti in your hair is not a good look!
Place the baking tray in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
Take the tray out of the oven and allow to cook for 5 minutes before laying on a chopping board. Cut the dough into 1cm width shapes, cutting the dough diagonally. Lay the biscotti back on the tray on their side and put back in the oven for a further 5 minutes. Take out of the oven and turn the biscotti and bake for a further 5 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before placing on a wire rack.
Once completely cool, store in an airtight jar.
Make yourself a coffee, curl up in a cosy armchair, and dunk to your hearts content. I have to sit on the couch though – I’ve been relegated.
* Another alteration of the recipe I enjoy ( a little too much) is to roughly chop 75g of orange flavoured chocolate. Mayan Gold from Green & Blacks would work, or Tesco Finest do a really lovely plain chocolate with Orange and Almond pieces.