As I sit at my proverbial kitchen table, I am in a bit of a daze. It seems that the month of February rushed by like a runaway express train. My mind has been elsewhere, wrapped in a cocoon; my thoughts stretched to distraction. Is this part of a late winter’s slumber I wonder? In direct contrast to the confused state of things, in just over two months since the new year, I have filled four notebooks with elaborate kitchen notes neatly written in block letters documenting a whirlwind of cooking experiments.
I had the publication of this recipe planned somewhere close to Valentine’s Day. It is painfully clear I was unable to keep up with that particular schedule. As the darkened days of February flew swiftly in the direction of March, time and opportunity slipped through my fingers. Out of the blue, I found myself momentarily frozen by what felt like writer’s block. Before I let complex questioning keep me further from my writing, I decided this lazy Sunday afternoon to do a quick and simple blog post for an equally simple recipe — the kind I go to when the day is threatening to derail and I need to bake something fool-proof to accompany an afternoon espresso.
Here’s to hoping that my plans for celebrating Easter won’t wait on the shelf until the Fourth of July. . . . .
- 375 grams organic spelt flour . the sprouted kind if available
- 200 grams of raw honey or date syrup
- 150 grams almonds
- 150 grams hazelnuts
- 100 grams of organic dark chocolate with 85% cocoa
- two organic oranges
- 2 whole organic eggs
- 2 yolks of organic eggs
- 10 grams of baking powder
This recipe makes biscotti similar to the better known cantuccini but with a modern twist on ingredients. I have replaced sugar with raw honey, added bitter chocolate and use by preference an organic spelt flour rather than soft wheat flour. While not essential to double bake them, this is what makes them biscotti, which means twice-baked in Italian.
Preheat the oven at 180°C degrees. Cover a flat baking sheet with parchment paper. Grind the almonds to a fine flour-like texture and put them into a large bowl. Grind the hazelnuts into a coarse, uneven texture by crushing them in a pestle and mortar. A food processor will do the job here as well! Grind the chocolate in the same fashion as described for hazelnuts; or pulverize the chocolate in the food processor. Measure the flour and baking powder and sift them into the ground nuts. Scrub the lemon and orange and remove the zest of both citrus fruits with a grater or a zester. Personally I prefer the thread like curls made by a zester, but both instruments will work.
Mix the raw honey with the eggs and extra yolks, adding the citrus peel and Marsala wine. If you don’t have Marsala on hand, just squeeze the juice out of your freshly zested orange, and add that to the eggs and honey. Mix the ingredients in a large mixing bowl with a whisk until the honey dissolves into the eggs and all becomes pale yellow and foamy. Pour the honey-egg mixture into the flour and ground nuts. Stir well with a spatula, until an even dough is obtained.
Dampen your hands with water and divide the biscotti dough into two equal parts. Shape the dough into similarly shaped loaves, using water- moistened hands to do so. (Make sure the height and the width of the loaves are the same, as this ensures even baking. )Place the loaves on the parchment covered baking sheet, with ample space between them. Chill the dough 15-30 minutes in the refrigerator as this helps the biscotti dough to keep shape while baking.
Remove the chilled loaves from the refrigerator and bake them 30-35 minutes at 180 degrees, with the baking tray in the middle of the oven. Check after 35 minutes to see if the bottom of the biscotti are light golden brown. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely before cutting them with a fine serrated knife diagonally in slices of 0,5 centimeters thick. Meanwhile, lower the oven temperature to 170 degrees. Place the sliced biscotti on a tray and bake until pale and golden — about 10 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and let the biscotti cool completely. As they do, they will crisp up, which is exactly what make them perfect for dipping into coffee or dessert wine.
♦ Suggested combinations
Serve the hazelnut biscotti standing straight up in a wine glass half-filled with whipped mascarpone or set a nice stack on your favorite plate ready to be served with a latte, an espresso or a Vin Santo.
For this particular batch of biscotti, I made rose petal honey. More about that adventure soon.