Biscotti, more correctly known as biscotti di Prato, also known as cantuccini (little corners), are twice-baked biscuits originating in the Italian city of Prato. The biscuits are oblong-shaped almond biscuits that are baked twice to give them their dry texture and quintessential snap.
Due to their dry nature, they have an increased shelf life and were thus very useful for wars and long journeys.
Biscotti can be eaten as you would an ordinary biscuit but due to their dry quality the biscotti
come into their own as you resuscitate them back to life when dunked! Now where you dunk them is up to you – personally a sweet wine (vin santo) or an ice cold limoncello is best but if eating these for breakfast: coffee, not tea, is advisable.
Traditionally the mixture is composed exclusively of eggs, sugar, flour and almonds, however, modern variations of biscotti are easily found. Any variety of nuts are used as well as dried fruits and spices such as anise and cardamom. This mixture is then baked twice – first as a loaf and then each loaf is cut into oblong shapes along the diagonal which are then placed back into the oven to dry further. As a final flourish, some biscotti are also glazed with chocolate!
Having more time on my hands for baking than I would normally have and having a penchant for biscotti, I decided to spend my summer exploring various recipes.
So where to start? Using social media, I tweeted foodies asking if anyone had any sure fire recipes for biscotti. Nonni’s Biscotti replied back with a link to several of Martha Stewart’s biscotti recipes. Online, I also found a Jamie Oliver recipe for an almond and orange biscotti, and a pistachio and cranberry biscotti at http://www.joyofbaking.com. In “Desserts” by James Martin was a recipe for biscotti and limoncello (also found online).
Making biscotti is surprisingly easy and not much can go wrong (famous last words)! With the three recipes above I changed ingredients and cooking times/temps. The balance of sugar, flour and eggs were maintained but the actual flavours I adapted to suit the ingredients I had at home and or wanted.
With the joyofbaking’s pistachio and cranberry biscotti I didn’t have enough dried cranberries left so I added currants to make up the required weight.
With James Martin’s biscotti and limoncello, I don’t particularly like dates and I couldn’t get hold of dried strawberries so I added extra dried apricots and pistachios.
In Jamie Oliver’s recipe I didn’t have star anise so left this flavour out.
All three recipes have been tested with everyone picking different ones as their favourite. Some prefer them drier and crunchier than others. But what is for certain is that the test group want me to bake all of them again!
Considering the plethora of biscotti recipes out there I shall continue on my exploration. My only rule is not to use butter or oil, as traditional biscotti recipes were not made with this.
Let me know if you’ve got any flavour combinations you’d like tested.