It all started because my wife wanted me to bake biscotti to give away as Christmas presents to her friends and relatives. So I searched the internet and found a few recipes, but the one that caught my fancy was this one using pistachios and cranberries. These two items provide the red and green colours that represent the colours of Christmas, and these two ingredients, being rather costly, would make the effort worthwhile!
This popular Italian cookie associated with the Tuscan region of Italy, traces its origins to Roman times. The word biscotto derives from “bis,” Latin for twice, and “coctum” or baked (which became “cotto,” or cooked). The Roman biscotti were more about convenience food for travelers rather than a pleasurable treat for leisurely diners. Unleavened, finger-shaped wafers were baked first to cook them, then a second time to completely dry them out, making them durable for travel and nourishment for the long journeys
To begin, ensure that you have all the ingredients on hand. The entire process for one batch takes about 2 hours once you get the hang of the method and what there is to do. The recipe here has been doubled in their portions from the original, so as to make two logs at a time. This gives you about 80 to 100 slices of the biscotti, depending on how thick you make the slices.
2 Large eggs,
140gm fine white sugar ( or less)
2 pinch of sea salt
100gm shelled pistachios
80gm frozen dried cranberries
1 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Vanilla extract
300gm All Purpose flour
Orange zest from 1 orange grated (optional)
Rehydrate the cranberries for a few hours or overnight, after washing and allowing them to stand wet in a small bowl. I also tried using a tablespoon of dark rum to soak the cranberries. Toast the pistachios lightly for 5 to 10 minutes on low heat in a toaster at about 150˚C.
On the day of the bake, get two bowls. A deep small bowl and a shallow bowl. Measure the 300gm AP flour into the shallow bowl, and add in the 1 tsp baking powder. Do not use too much as the biscuit logs will crack during baking. Mix these thoroughly and have a sieve handy.
In the other deeper bowl, crack in the two eggs, and whisk the eggs into a fine foam. I used an electric hand held whisker. Then add in 140gm fine white sugar ( I would add less about 120gm to make it less sweet and fattening). Whisk again till the sugar dissolves, then add in 1 tsp Vanilla extract, and mix this in. Finally sieve the flour mixture into the egg mixture and mix the two thoroughly.
The two eggs whisked until frothy. Either by hand or machine whisk will do.
Using a fine sieve, shift the flour mixture through to mix with the egg mixture.
This shows the final sticky mixture of egg, flour, pistachios and cranberries.
When all the flour has been mixed with the egg mixture, add in the cranberries and then the pistachio nuts and mix these as homogenously as you can. It’s a very sticky dough and takes a while to incorporate all the solids evenly.
Transfer this ball of dough mixture on to a well floured surface and using wet hands, flatten the dough mixture into a long bar about 20cm x 10cm. Flour the surface of this bar and with a scraper divide the bar length-wise into two bars and shape the edges,
Showing the two dough bars which have been shaped to have straight edges.
The two dough bars on the tray baking at 160˚C for 30 minutes.
On to a baking tray lined with baking paper and lightly floured, transfer the two bars as shown, and bake these in the preheated oven at 160˚C for about 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly golden brown. When done, remove and cool them on a metal rack for 10 minutes before slicing the bars into slices using a serrated knife. It’s recommended to make the slices about 0.8cm thick. But this is entirely up to personal preference. Some people like the slices thinner, in which case, you’ll end up with more slices of the biscotti!
When golden brown, remove the bars or logs to cool for 10 minutes before slicing
I used my serrated bread knife and find no difficulties slicing the bars into 0.8cm slices.
Cooling on the tray before packing them into bottles. These can be kept for weeks, and even if they become soft, reheating them for a few minutes at 150˚C will crisp them up .
Arrange the sliced pieces onto a lined baking tray as shown . You will need a second baking tray. Place the trays into the oven at 150˚C for 6 minutes before taking the trays out, Then flip the slices over to dry the other side, and bake again for another 6 minutes. Finally, remove the trays and allow the biscotti to cool before packing them into bottles.
In Italy, Biscotti is usually served with the local sweet wine, Vin Santo. Their dry, crunchy texture is deemed to be the perfect medium to soak up the wine by dipping the biscotti into the wine. It’s a perfect way to end a meal, or to while away an hour at a café! Tuscan biscotti were flavoured with almonds. From the almond recipe of Tuscany, the recipe expanded to anisette-, amaretto- and lemon-flavoured dough and to other spices; to biscotti with raisins and other dried fruits; to biscotti studded with chocolate morsels and with other varieties of nuts. Today, the flavourings are only limited to the imagination of the baker and the palates of the customer.