I adore a well flavoured biscotti but have never been a fan of the ones you can buy in coffee shops and the like that can be little more than an expensive work-out for the jaw!
Flavour and texture are crucial in any biscotti: the taste should certainly pack a real punch as you eat them and while they should be very crisp, they should melt away easily in the mouth as you crunch into them.
Biscotti are great as they are or dipped in coffee, dessert wine or chocolate sauce: a recipe for a very quick chocolate sauce is at the bottom of this post.
The basic biscotti dough
I like to add ground almonds and almond extract to the main dough, which might not be at all traditional, but they add a great flavour.
For the second bake I prefer a very slow bake and at a reduced temperature so that they dry out gently, giving perfect crispness without colouring too much.
Other than those changes, the proportions are pretty much in line with recipes that can be found anywhere.
I often double-up this recipe to make two types of biscotti. You can leave the biscotti dough unflavoured or else add whatever you have to hand, but aim to use dry ingredients such as nuts, dried fruit and the like as you don’t want the dough to become too wet.
Proportion-wise, the dough will actually take a lot of extras quite happily: I find that adding extras up to about the weight of the portion of dough you have gives best results.
Chocolate, cherry & almond:
Chocolates, cherries and nuts: what’s not to love? The cherries here are dried sour cherries which have such an intense flavour.
I love eating these with a dark chocolate sauce flavoured with Amaretto.
Biscotti: makes about 16
The standard biscotti dough:
- 130g plain white flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 125g vanilla caster sugar* (or use standard caster sugar)
- 55g ground almonds
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 large egg, beaten
Chocolate, cherry & almond
- 70g best quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped (or use chips)
- 70g dried cherries, roughly chopped
- 70g blanched almonds, keeping some whole and some very roughly chopped
(1) Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Stir in the sugar and the almonds. Mix in the chocolate, cherries and blanched almonds. Add the egg, a little at a time, and mix well with a wooden spoon, adding enough of the egg until the ingredients just come together to form a firm dough. NB: if scaling up the recipe for making several flavours, once the sugar and ground almonds have been added, add the egg and form the dough. Then split the dough at this stage, and gently work in the extras for the flavours you are going for eg) orange zest, dried apricots, different nuts…..
(2) On a lightly floured surface, gently roll the dough to a cylinder about 2″ in diameter. Transfer to a baking tray lined with non-stick greaseproof paper, making sure they are well apart if making more than one type. In the picture below I had made two flavours of biscotti (the chocolate and cherry dough is at the back).
(3) Bake for 30 minutes at 140C(fan): the dough will have spread, have taken on just a bit of colour and will have rustic cracks along the top. They very much have a ciabatta look to them!
(4) Remove from the oven and leave for about 15 minutes until cool enough to handle, at which point they will have firmed up a little and cut easily without breaking. If they have spread into each other, carefully run a sharp knife down the join: all will be fine! Meanwhile reduce the oven temperature to 120C.
(5) Slice each piece diagonally, going for about 1cm thickness, and place onto lined baking trays, cut-side up.
(7) Bake at the reduced temperature for between 45 minutes to an hour until they are firm to the touch, rotating the trays after about 25 minutes. The biscotti will crisp up further as they cool.
(8) Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
I use vanilla sugar a lot in my sweet bakes, and always have a jar of it to hand. Simply add a few vanilla pods, sliced along their length, into a jar of caster sugar and leave for a few weeks to take up the flavour. Re-fill the jar with sugar each time you use some.
Quick chocolate sauces for dunking:
For a simple chocolate sauce, stir 3 parts best quality chocolate (dark or white) into 2 parts hot double cream: take the cream off the heat once it has come to boiling point. Mix until smooth and flavour as desired.
The sauce can either be served warm and slightly runny or else left to cool and set as a soft ganache.
Flavourings can also be added. Finely grated orange zest, liqueurs and strong coffee are three that work particularly well.