Posts Tagged ‘homemade Christmas presents’

This year we’ve decided to add biscotti to our Christmas baking. They’re fun to make and keep well in the freezer, making them a perfect bake ahead treat.

Our biscotti recipe is butter-free and results in a crispy dryness that I find particularly appealing, regardless of whether or not I have a cup of coffee to dunk them in.  After trawling the internet and cookbooks for ideas, I was surprised by how consistent the formula for basic biscotti is in terms of ingredients and quantities.

This recipe can be adapted in a myriad of ways, which means the biscotti you bake can be uniquely yours!

Here’s my recipe, with grateful acknowledgement to Mark and Bruce’s recipe from The Ultimate Cookbook, David Lebovitz’ Chocolate Biscotti recipe, Paul’s recipe at the Mellow Bakers, and a recipe I read online which was attributed to Carol Field’s The Italian Baker.

The biscotti can be made using an electric mixer, or by hand.  I’ve outlined both methodologies below, but I usually make them by hand – I really enjoy getting my fingers into the dough.  One point to note – I prefer to bake the cookies until they’re very dry and hard, and then I store them in an airtight container for a couple of days before eating. They soften up a little over time to a perfect dunking consistency.

All the biscotti freeze brilliantly, even the ones coated in tempered chocolate, which makes this a great do-ahead gift for the festive season.

  • 2½ cups (375g) plain (AP) flour (see note #1 below)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt (preferably sea salt)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (220g) white sugar
  • 3 large (59g) eggs
  • 1 cup (140g) coarsely chopped nuts (I used slivered almonds)
  • 1 cup (180g) inclusions (see note #2 below)
  • 1 egg, beaten,  for eggwash
  • demerara or crystallised sugar

Note #1: for chocolate biscotti, substitute 2 cups (300g) plain flour and 75g (¾ cup) sifted cocoa, preferably dutched.

Note #2: I usually include ½ cup (100g) dark chocolate chips and ½ cup (80g) dried fruit – in this case, a mix of cranberries and chopped Turkish figs.

. . . . .

Hand Mixed Method

1. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper, and preheat oven to 175C/350F or 160C/320F with fan.

2. Whisk together the flour, sifted baking powder, sifted bicarb (baking) soda and salt.

3. In a large mixing bowl, use a whisk to beat the 3 eggs and sugar together until combined.  Whisk in the vanilla extract.

4. Gradually add the flour mixture, whisking to incorporate.  When the mix becomes too thick for the whisk, switch to a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.

5. Stir in the nuts and other inclusions.  Knead the inclusions into the dough by hand, mixing well to ensure that everything is evenly combined.

6. Divide the dough into two, and turn each half onto a well floured bench.  Roll the dough into a long thin log.  Place each log on the lined baking tray.

7. Gently flatten the top of each log, then eggwash the tops and sides of each and sprinkle generously with demerara sugar.  Bake the logs for 25 – 30 minutes, rotating once during the baking time.  The logs will be firm to touch when baked.  Allow to cool on trays for at least 15 minutes.

8. With a sharp serrated knife, slice each log into 1cm / ½” slices.

9. Lay the slices onto the parchment lined tray – they won’t spread any more – and bake for 20 – 30 minutes at 175C / 350F or 160C/320F with fan.  Rotate the trays halfway through the baking time to ensure the biscotti bake evenly.

Electric Mixer Method

1. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper, and preheat oven to 175C/350F or 160C/320F with fan.

2. Whisk together the flour, sifted baking powder, sifted bicarb (baking) soda and salt.

3. In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the 3 eggs and sugar together until well combined, then gradually add the flour mixture, beating until all the flour has been incorporated.  Turn the mixer to low and gradually mix in the nuts and inclusions.

4. Continue from step 6 in the hand mixed method above.

If desired, the finished biscotti can be given a coating of tempered chocolate, as the chocolate and ginger version below has been.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe

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Only a week to go…how are you all travelling?

We’re doing pretty well – Pete has our Christmas jams made (apricot, nectarine and raspberry, strawberry and chilli) and my various fruitcakes are maturing in the fridge.  There’s not much room in there for anything else at the moment!

If you’re slightly daunted by the looming “deadline”, maybe these last minute gift suggestions will help.  They’re all easily made in the kitchen, and much less intimidating than trying to navigate the shops at this time of year!

1. Chocolate chip cookies: these never, ever fail to please and the recipe we use results in over three dozen cookies. If you can’t find good choc chips at this late stage, try chopping up blocks of good quality chocolate (Lindt is particularly nice). Once cool, these cookies freeze brilliantly, so you can keep a stash in the freezer and package them up for gifts as needed.  Click here for the recipe.

2. Butterscotch bars: if we had a recipe de casa, this would be it.  It’s an absolute breeze to make, but its success is contingent on the quality of the chocolate you put in it.  We use Callebaut, but we’ve also had great results using Lindt bars and balls from the supermarket.  One batch will cut into 32 small pieces, giving you lots to share around.  The recipe is here.

3. Lemon or lime curd: make this in the days leading up to Christmas, and keep it in your fridge as a ready gift.  It only takes a few minutes in the microwave.  If you buy a bag of lemons, butter, sugar and a carton of eggs, you can make three batches (about nine jars worth) in under an hour. The original lemon curd recipe is here, and the lime variation here.

4. Amaretti: these are super-quick to make, and they’re nutty and Christmassy and look lovely in a cellophane bag with a colourful ribbon.  This gluten-free recipe doesn’t even need a mixer!

A packaging tip: baked goods look gorgeous and rustic wrapped simply in a sheet of parchment paper and tied with ribbon or raffia.  Added bonus – it’s foodsafe packaging!

. . . . .

Please see our Christmas page for more gift ideas!

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