A Hard Life for Biscotti

Biscotti disappoint me often. They occasionally arrive aside a cup of tea or coffee as a sad, beige, fossil from a time gone by. Biscotti are supposed to be completely hard but they are intended to still yield a palatable crumb. In my experience I have too often attempted to bite down on one only to be so alarmed by the rigid texture that I’ve had to remove it from my mouth and realign my bite to get a better purchase, much as one does when attempting to open a packet or bottle with ones teeth. I’m quite convinced that, when I finally manage to snap the thing in two with my teeth, it shouldn’t cause a nosebleed-inducing reverberation around my skull. Once I’ve got a reasonable chunk in my mouth I’ve found the flavour to be musty and mumbling; somewhere a faint echo of almond extract, the texture so dry that it sends me flailing for my tea and fussing to clear my mouth of the debris. I do like the idea of biscotti, it should be a little dry, a welcome relief from the under-baked, over-sweetened doughy discs that can be bought in coffee shops. I want a biscotti that works to its strengths; it should be crisp and nubbly and delightful in its confident textures.

The methods of making biscotti are very, very simple; beat some eggs and sugar, add dry ingredients and mix. No need for anything to rise or chill or sit or to be laboriously folded. The only quirk is that they must be twice baked so once they come out of the oven the first time you have to hop about, negotiating the slicing of scalding hot dough. There was definitely a sweet point where the dough had cooled enough to hold its own as I sliced it. I cut the biscotti too thick but a positive outlook persuaded me that I had intended to do this; no more the stale, sad crescents of processed biscotti! Live on uneven, chunky, boisterous biscotti from the home kitchen!

The mix is basic so can be played with fairly broadly. I saw some candied ginger in the super market and threw it in my basket. I followed a Pumpernickel Biscotti recipe from my big, pink book of Patisserie and went overboard with the addition of dark chocolate and ginger; almonds, cinnamon, dark chocolate and ginger produced the most divine, dark, flavourful biscotti. The little pieces of candied ginger add a delectable chew to the dry crumb and the melting, dark qualities of the chocolate wrap themselves around the toasty pieces of almond. These are big, crisp, crumbly biscotti with personality; the kind I’ve been missing all of my biscuit-eating life.

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