Sat, 26 December, 2020
Crunchy biscotti slices studded with hazelnuts and walnuts, flavoured with the Christmas fragrance of gingerbread spice – just gorgeous!
On Christmas Eve, after the bustle and the hustle of present wrapping, putting out a mince pie for Santa, fighting with the over-excited offspring, and mixing the stuffing you can finally relax and sit down. With a large cup of hot chocolate or a goblet of dessert wine – and one of these.
You will discover how awesomely dunkable they are, even if you’re not much of a dunker. You’ll find sweet wine is an ideal beverage to sip with them or dip in. You’ll be amazed at how the gingery spiciness of a not-too-sweet biscuit perfectly fits the hush of tonight and the anticipation of the following day.
When to have gingerbread biscotti?
That’s not to say you are only to have gingerbread biscotti on Christmas Eve – au contraire, or should I say tutt'altro! They are a fitting snack to have with any beverage (except perhaps mojitos and such like) as long as the Christmas period lasts.
What are 'biscotti'?
Biscotti, whose name has been bastardised to encompass a plethora of various small bakes, mean ‘twice cooked’. That means biscotti are the only true biscuits that ever exist, and all the other biscuits are not really biscuits. Therefore we should give some credit to the Americans who call their confections ‘cookies’.
I had never been very big on biscotti. What is the point of turning slices of a soft fresh cake dry, hard and stale? Of course, it all goes back to preserving and making food – and snacks – last longer. And the slices look pretty, being usually studded with nuts, chocolate or fruit, and that’s a good enough raison d’être, at least for Italians.
To dunk or not to dunk?
Neither am I of the dunking tribe so a cake hard and dry enough to suck up coffee/tea/chocolate has not had any appeal to me. But as you have surmised, I have changed my mind somewhat. Perhaps you won’t see me baking biscotti every week, but they do deserve a spot and a moment – and for me that moment is the eve of Christmas.
How to make biscotti dough?
The dough for biscotti is exceedingly simple: no fat, (I think the butter addition makes the difference between cantucci and biscotti) but only the base of eggs, sugar and flour with any additions you might want. I wanted the gingerbread spices and relied on the traditionally added mixed nuts.
I have consulted the greats: Nigella Lawson and Theo Randall to work out my recipe. The mixing is super easy: whisk the eggs into sugar or honey, stir in flour and that’s it. Make sure you add enough spice – nothing more disappointing than bland gingerbreads.
How to bake biscotti?
The only slightly tricky moment is the first baking: the biscotti (at that stage should we call them unocotti?) log must be cooked through, otherwise the finished slices will be hard, but not crunchy or brittle enough. As long as it doesn’t brown too much, err on the side of longer baking.
The coating with cinnamon sugar is optional, but it’s a nice touch.
gingerbread biscottiServings: makes about 2 dozen biscuitsTime: 60 minutes
- 140g (1 cup) hazelnuts and pistachios, mixed
- 60g (1⁄3 cup) dark brown sugar
- 120g (1⁄3 cup) honey
- a small piece of root ginger
- 250g (2 cups) plain flour plus more for dusting
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1⁄2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1⁄2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 eggs
- For the coating:
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp. caster sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas 2.
2. Chop the nuts very roughly, into halves or leaving some whole. Place them on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 10 minutes.
3. Place the sugar and honey in a small saucepan. Grate the ginger into the mix. Heat up until the honey and sugar melt. Set aside to cool.
4. In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking powder and spices.
5. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment.
6. When the honey mix is just warm, whisk in the eggs. Keep whisking until the mixture turns paler and foamy.
7. Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients, add the nuts and stir into thick dough.
8. Turn it out into a floured surface and shape into a flattened log with tapered ends. Place it on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 25- 30 minutes until lightly coloured. Remove onto a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes until not too hot to handle.
9. Stir the cinnamon into the sugar in a bowl.
10. Slice the log on a diagonal, sewing very gently with a serrated bread knife, into biscotti about 1 cm thick. Dip each in the cinnamon sugar on both sides and arrange them back on the parchment on a baking sheet, cut side down. Return to the oven for 10 minutes.
11. Turn the biscotti over on the tray and bake on the other side for 6-8 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.
12. Store in an air tight container.