Hello again, oh readers o’ mine. I feel that I have to start this entry with an apology, I never did wish you a Merry Christmas! So Merry Christmas to you and yours and here’s hoping that between now and next year I will have being doing the blog long enough to remember to photograph, and blog about, all the fun Christmas things I make. Unfortunately for me, this year was not that year. I made Gluten-Free Chocolate Xmas Pudding, I made a mountainous Pavlova, and I made up jar upon jar of Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge sauce, along with slabs of salted caramel Peanut Brittle. And alas, I only managed to properly photograph one thing….the Biscotti.
Now I know that ol’ biscotti doesn’t sound like the most fascinatingly delicious item up there on the list, but give it chance, please! They may be unnatractive logs in the above photo, but what a transformation! AND keep in mind that these cookies keep for ages without losing any of their charm AND they are dairy free AND if you use dutch cocoa, and dark dark chocolate, like I did, they have a smoky, deep resonance that really hits the spot with a cup of coffee. The joy of the biscotti, as a Christmas treat is three-fold. One – they travel awesomely, without melting, warping, going stale or breaking and in Australia, that is no mean feat. Two – they make a great gift, because they look pretty and for all of the reasons above. And three – now, three may be a matter of personal opinion.
I don’t know about you, and this may sound a bit rich from someone who’s website it called thesugarhit.com, but a lot of Christmasses I get a little bit sugared out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to give up the sweet stuff, it’s just that around the holiday season, it seems that all the things you wouldn’t eat at any other time of the year come out of the woodwork. Things that don’t even taste good, just sweet. Like dusty old rum balls with a shelf life of a thousand years, and weird no-name brand chocolates that have a strange crumbly texture and all sorts of other sugary assaults on the tastebuds. I’m no calorie counter, but all I can think about is what a waste of calories this stuff is, when I could be eating something luscious and luxriant and delicious, that I made myself. So this year, I can’t tell you how grateful I am for biscotti. Because, back to number three – they give you a hard earned break from the overly sweet, one note treat.
These are a crunchy, smoky, cocoa rich biscuit, with depth and texture from roasted hazelnuts. They are a definite grown-up treat, but they are as delicious plunged into a bowl of vanilla ice-cream as they are next to a black coffee. Heck, why not tip the coffee onto the ice-cream and have an affogato? That would be my partner’s favourite ever dessert. Or, as I would reccomend to those with even more grown-up tastes, why not sip a glass of something a little harder, like a Drambuie or a Scotch, the smoky sweet flavours would work together a treat. So, a word to the wise, whenever you feel like you’re palate has been assaulted by innumerable strange sugars and fats…break out the biscotti.
P.S. – I did manage to take one shot of my Mountainous Meringue, isn’t it a beauty!
Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
Adapted from Matha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2005.
4 large eggs, preferably free-range or organic
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
2 +1/4 cups Plain Flour
1/4 cup Best cocoa powder you can find
1 tsp BiCarb Soda
1 tsp salt
300g Chocolate, chopped into pea sized chunks
200g Hazelnuts, chopped into pea sized chunks
Preheat the oven to 180C.
In an electric mixer, or a really big mixing bowl, beat the four eggs and sugar with your whisk attachment, or a handheld electric mixer until at least doubled in volume. If you lift your whisk out it the mixture should form a ribbon on the surface for a couple of seconds, before sinking in. If using an electric mixer, switch to the paddle attachment, or for handheld, get out a wooden spoon. Add in the remaining ingredients and slowly stir to combine them all, the mixture will be like a very thick batter.
Now, this is the tricky, sticky messy part. You need to shape this mix into three logs. I put down a heap of flour onto the bench, poured it out, patted it into shapes, and then with the help of a long knife, quickly transferred them onto a parchment lined baking sheet. If you can think of a better, less messy way of doing this, then I commend you, for you are smarter than I. Now slide your logs into the oven, and don’t worry if they meld together a bit, because mine did. Bake until they are just firm to the touch, or for about 20-25 minutes, and then take them out and let the cool on the tray. Once they are cool enough to handle safely, break apart the logs, and taking one at a time, slice them with a serrated knife into biscotti sied biscuits, about 1.5 cms thick.
Now, if you can, arrange a wire rack over a baking sheet, and lay the sliced biscuits onto that before placing them back in the oven to bake again, until they are dry and crisp and firm to the touch. If your wire rack does not fit in the oven, or is not large enough to hold all the cookies, just do what I did and put them straight on the tray, it did no harm to mine, just keep a sharp eye that they don’t burn. Mine took about 12 minutes. Once they are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.
Now, let your taste-buds enjoy this welcome respite from the sugar onslaught of the season. Merry Christmas!