I bake biscotti every Christmas (and a few times throughout the year as well) as they are so good to give as gifts – they keep for ages, aren’t too delicate so they travel well and are really versatile and adaptable, you can chuck whatever flavourings you like in there. Biscotti translates as twice baked, the dough is first shaped into a log and baked at a moderate temperature until it is risen and firm; the oven is then turned down to a low temperature and the log cut into slices which are spread out on a baking sheet and baked again until crisp.
Traditionally, biscotti dough contains no fat and the basic mix is simply flour, sugar and eggs to which you can add flavourings and spices and mix in dried fruit, nuts or chocolate. I went for one of my favourite flavour combinations – chocolate and ginger, there is a double hit of ginger, the dough is flavoured with ground ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg and I mixed in pieces of chopped crystallised ginger with chunks of dark chocolate and some blanched almonds.
Biscotti are very hard and crunchy which makes them perfect to dunk in tea or coffee for breakfast or a snack and also means that they keep well for at least a good few weeks, if not months. I will be giving them away as gifts at Christmas along with some jars of homemade jams, jellies and chutney and some other baked goods (I haven’t decided what yet). Just wrap them up with some cellophane and tie with ribbon and they make a great addition to a hamper. And considering how easy they are to make, they look quite impressive too!
Chocolate, Ginger and Almond Biscotti
- 350g (3 cups) plain flour
- 250g (1 1/4 cups) caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 100g (3 1/2 oz) whole blanched almonds
- 150g (5 1/3 oz) dark chocolate, chopped into chunks (or use chocolate chips)
- 80g (3 oz) crystallised ginger, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4, line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl and mix. Add the eggs and stir until the mixture begins to form clumps, tip in the almonds, chocolate and ginger then bring the dough together with your hands, knead until no floury patches remain and the nuts, chocolate and ginger are evenly distributed.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two equal pieces; with lightly floured hands roll each piece into a slightly flattened sausage approximately 6x27cm (2.5×10.5 in) . Place them on the baking tray, well spaced apart. Bake for about 30 minutes until risen and spread and the logs feel firm, they should still be quite pale.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack for ten minutes or so until cool enough to handle, lower the oven temperature to 140°C/275°F/gas mark 1. Using a very sharp serrated knife, cut the logs into slices approx. 1cm (4/10 inch) wide, slice the log at an angle. Eat the end bits for uh…taste testing purposes…
Lay the slices flat on the baking tray, you will probably have to do two batches, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, turn the slices over and bake for a further 15 minutes until dry and golden brown, repeat with the second batch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely then store in an airtight container. Keeps for yonks.