Biscotti, as you may not know is Italian word for ‘twice baked’, They are also known as’ Cantucci’ in Italy. These oblong shaped cookies were made in Prato and are super crunchy and dipped in tea or coffee to consume. The crunch factor depends on personal preference, some like it crunchier than others and like to dunk it more, so if you like a bit of a crunch, you can put those biscotti back in oven again for another round of baking. The longer the Italian biscotti are baked the cruncher it will become. Another well-known fact is that biscotti will last forever, well not technically, but they have a long shelf life. Biscotti are low moisture cookies and this will allow you to store them at room temperature.
The objective behind making this cookie was to make a long shelf stable food for sailors and to be carried by Roman army. Originally flavoured with almonds, today you’ll find biscotti in a dozen flavours and are a popular accompaniment to cappuccino. Since it is a hard cookie biscotti I like to dip it in coffee, tea and milk before eating. Italians eat biscotti for breakfast and as a snack with coffee. Eventually with every popular local food there will be variations depending on people’s preference. The almond recipe of Tuscany expanded to anisette, to lemon flavoured dough and other spices, to biscotti with raisins and other dried fruits, to biscotti with chocolate morsels and with many other variety of nuts. Today the flavourings are not only limited to the imagination and palates of the customers.
As a kid I loved eating variety of biscuits and rusks. I strongly believe that there is nothing comparable to the taste of a freshly baked cookie. I consider myself lucky to have lived near a bakery which baked these fresh cookies and other such baked goodies. The bakery even baked whole wheat cookies as per our request and would call us informing about the freshly baked items. The world of biscotti is not difficult to make. All that is required is some creativity and you are all set. They can be half baked and be stored in the fridge, so that you can get to taste freshly baked biscotti whenever you desire. They do not require special baking equipment and you can easily control the amount of sugar and the flavours you want. Once you have combined the ingredients, it’s time to shape the mixture into logs. You can make the logs as wide or as narrow as you want. I usually make the logs 3 inches wide. To make the logs, place the batter on cookie sheet and press and shape the dough mixture into logs with damp fingers. You can prepare the logs and keep them refrigerated. Bake the logs and then allow them to cool down and refrigerate, Slice the logs in the desired thickness before you bake it and then make it twice to make it crunchy and delicious.
Al purpose flour 3 cup
Whole almonds 1 cup
Fennel seeds 1 tbsp
Baking powder 2 tsp
Salt a pinch
Castor sugar ½ cup
Brown sugar 1 cup
Eggs 4 nos.
Vanilla extract ½ tsp
Lemon zest 1 tsp
Preheat the oven at 325-degree Fahrenheit and spread the almonds on the baking sheet and toast for 10-12 minutes to make it crunchy
Coarsely chop the almonds and keep aside
Sift flour, baking powder, salt in a bowl and add sugar and fennel seeds, keep aside
In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and add vanilla extract and lemon zest and combine well
Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, combine well with a wooden spoon
Fold in the chopped almonds and divide the dough into half
Place each half on baking tray and with damp fingers, shape into a 3” wide log shape
Line a baking sheet with baking paper and place the logs on the sheet
Bake for 30 minutes or until they are golden brown in colour and firm
Allow the logs to cool down and refrigerate for 30 minutes
Using a serrated knife, slice cookies at an angle about ½ inch- ¾ inch thick
Place slices back on the baking sheet and return them into the oven for about another 15-20 minutes
The longer they stay in oven the crispier will be the biscotti, you can choose the baking time depending on your preference on crunch
Allow them to cool down, store them in air tight containers and serve with tea/coffee
Note: The basic dough and recipe remains the same, but you can customise the dry fruit as per your choice and the flavourings. Sometimes I roll the logs in oats which gives it more crunch after baking and enhances the taste too.
* Chef Tarun Kapoor, Culinary Mastermind, USA. He may be contacted at [email protected]
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