Biscotti means "twice baked" in Italian and this is exactly how they are made.
In all biscotti recipes they are rolled into a log shape and baked, then removed from the oven, cut into slices, returned to the oven and baked again. It is this double-baking which gives them their crunchy texture, their long lasting quality and durability. Being easily transportable makes them ideal as gifts.
There are endless varieties of biscotti recipes with numerous ways of adding flavour and texture. The combinations are almost endless. Simply by adding different spices, nuts and dried fruit, new and interesting taste sensations can be created.
A favorite method of adding flavor is to add citrus zest or spices, such as aniseed, ginger or cinnamon.
Texture is usually created with the addition of nuts, dried fruit or even chocolate chips.
Yes, chocolate has even found its way into the humble biscotti. They can also be dipped into melted chocolate for extra oomph.
Almost any type of nuts can be added, from the traditional almonds, through to macadamias, hazelnuts and pistachios.
Dried fruit is another favorite. Some of the most popular are cherries, cranberries or candied peel.
Biscotti dough is fairly sticky, so wet your hands first before you start kneading the dough.
Work the dough gently into the desired shape. It doesn't require much kneading.
If adding nuts, always toast them first, not only for added flavor, but also to stop them from becoming soggy.
Don’t overdo the nuts. You need more dough than nuts, otherwise your biscotti will fall apart. A ratio of ½ cup of nuts for every cup of flour is normally the rule.
After the first baking, your biscotti should be firm and slightly browned.
The purpose of the second baking is to simply dry them out so they become crisp, not to cook them further.
Allow your biscotti to cool down slightly before cutting. Use a sharp serrated knife that cuts cleanly.
If you want long slices cut on the diagonal. Cutting straight across will give you shorter pieces.
Personally I refer thick, chunky slices that can be dunked into coffee or liqueur. Slices about ½ inch thick soak up the vino.
I can recall attending an Italian wine tasting where we were served thick, chunky pieces of biscotti which we eagerly kept dunking into our vin santo. As the evening progressed the laughter got louder, the grins wider and the eyes brighter. By the end of the evening we were a very merry group indeed.
Biscotti will store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks layered between sheets of parchment or waxed paper.
Once cooked and cooled they can be frozen for up to 6 weeks.
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Chop the almonds and set aside.
Place the egg whites, sugar and honey in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until frothy.
Sift together the flour, allspice and salt and mix into the egg white mixture. Fold through the almonds.
Turn out onto a floured board and, using floured hands, gently shape the dough into a 9 inch log.
Transfer to the baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 25 - 30 minutes, or until lightly browned and firm to the touch.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Wrap in tin foil and leave overnight.
Reheat the oven to 150°F / 300°F. Unwrap your log and, using a sharp knife, cut into ½ inch slices on the diagonal.
Arrange the slices, cut side down, on a baking tray and bake for a further 15 - 20 minutes or until dry and crisp.
Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container to keep crisp.
Try varying your biscotti recipes by changing the nuts, and adding different spices and dried fruit.
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