I had a recent dream in which I discovered the plans of a mad scientist to set off a bomb under the earth’s crust with the intention of throwing the earth from its axis, and only those who had purchased his home survival systems would be able to live. I had to trek through China and Mongolia into Russia in order to find the right place to set off another bomb that would counter the force of the first and keep the earth in place. I walked past many villages, seeking welcome, but no welcome would be offered, due to the great evil I carried with me.
For some reason, I woke up with the desire to make biscotti. Perhaps this was because on such a long trek, biscotti would be a long-lasting form of nourishment. Essentially, as S. suggested, biscotti is what you would get if lembas bread had been invented by Italians – a lighter, more flavourful version. Or maybe, as A. suggested, the two bomb blasts would bake any biscuits twice, hence forming an origin story for the twice-baked treat. But whatever strange connection my subconscious had made between the dream and biscotti, I did not need any further encouragement to make it.
First off, this recipe is a really calming bake; grated orange and almond essence make the kitchen smell amazing, even before this has gone in the oven. Whilst you do need to hang around waiting to take it out of the oven, wait for it to cool, and then cut it neatly, it isn’t overly demanding in all of these steps so you can just potter about, read a book, or plan your immanent trek through Mongolia. They are also still very tasty if you get them wrong – I ended up totally messing up a batch, but they turned very nicely into cookies to eat on a car journey. Essentially, these are incredibly satisfying. And I won’t lie – when I had the flu recently, I did nurse myself back to health by subsisting on these.
As baking the biscotti twice makes them very hard – they are meant to be like that – please, please dunk these in tea/coffee/hot water before eating. I don’t want to be responsible for emergency trips to the dentist.
Tea recommendation: These are beyond incredible with rooibos vanilla tea.
Cranberry, Orange and Almond Biscotti
The recipe is originally based on this one for almond, but I have adapted it slightly, partly because I love the biscotti to be really thin, and I didn’t want the whole almonds in it.
270g plain flour
150g caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
very small pinch of salt
3 large eggs
½ – 1 teaspoon almond extract depending on how much you like the flavour
½ – 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated rind of half an orange
1) Preheat oven to 150C, 300F.
2) In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
3) In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, the almond and vanilla extracts and the grated orange rind.
4) Gradually add the egg mixture to the flour, and beat until a dough forms, adding the cranberries in the final stages of beating. This dough doesn’t form into a ball and it is very very sticky. For a long time, I was convinced I was doing something wrong. I probably am, but given how amazing the end result is, I really don’t care anymore.
5) Spoon the dough onto a baking tray or tin, shaping it into a log or a square. The problem with this dough is that it spreads in the oven, resulting in biscotti that are too short. I have ended up using a square brownie tin, covering it in greaseproof paper, and then placing an old knife under the greaseproof paper to stop it from spreading. There we go, a top tip for surviving spreading batter.
6) Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top of the batter is firm to touch. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
7) Using the sharpest knife you own, cut the log into slices around ½ inch thick. Arrange these slices onto a baking sheet. I like mine this thin, as there is a genuine excuse to eat two. This has however resulted in friends refusing to believe that they were homemade because they ‘looked too professional’.
8) Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the slices and bake for another 10 minutes. They should be very firm, and lightly golden, but not crumbly.