As the only Australian in the village, I am always looking for ways to shock the natives and fly the flag for international cuisine. So a couple of weeks ago, I tried my hand at making crystallised ginger. I wasn’t trying to show off. I legitimately had no choice. You can’t find crystallised ginger in my country Tuscan supermarket. I remember a time (read 5 years ago) when you couldn’t even find fresh ginger. Whenever I’d go to the city, I would buy a kilo’s worth, freeze it and then have poor Giulio hack me off pieces whenever I need some, risking both his fingers and our granite work bench.
My homemade crystallised ginger was beautifully sweet and spicy and definitely moorish, but I got a little sick of eating it after about the 300th cube, so I started looking for some way to use up what was left. I immediately thought of biscotti. Your traditional almond biscotti is a little bland, a little crunchy and a little Nan-ish. A few gorgeous slivers of ginger mixed into the dough would cut through the gumminess and give the tastebuds a definite zing. Chuck in a few cranberries for colour and sweetness and you’d have the sort of gourmet biscuit you normally pay €5 for at a fancy cafè. Oh, and I kept the almonds because I couldn’t bear to drift too much from nonna’s recipe.
This is my culinary dessert version of east meets west. Middle East that is. The bright flavours of the ginger and cranberry are very Ottoman Empire, while the base of the recipe is completely unchanged from how my nonna used to make it in her tiny Calabrian kitchen. To be frank, if you’re looking for a truly traditional biscotti recipe, just cut out the ginger and cranberry and hey presto! You have yourself a faithful Italian classic. The sort of biscuit my nonna eats as she yells out the bingo numbers at her local Italian club, helping the old biddy next to her who can’t hear the numbers anymore, a tiny espresso on hand for dipping.
It all sounds very romantic, but I prefer my version. The additional fruits are simply gorgeous in this. They add such earthiness, depth and flavour that you’ll have people clamouring for the recipe next time you pull out the biscuit tin. Try it and I’ll even let you pretend it’s your recipe! 🙂
On that note, you won’t find an easier biscuit recipe. All you have to do is dump all the ingredients in a bowl and mix. A word of warning though, the secret to perfect biscotti is to make sure they are cook all the way through during the first bake. If you undercook your logs, you will have a hell of a time trying to cut through half cooked biscuit-half raw dough and your finished biscotti will end up looking bloated and sad. To check if your log is cooked, just insert a knife and check if it’s clean. If it’s not, put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
Crystallized ginger, cranberry & almond biscotti
300g plain (all-purpose) our 150g caster sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
50g butter, melted and cooled
1 lemon, finely grated rind only
100g almonds (or other nuts)
50g crystallized ginger, diced
50g dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Combine the flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until the dough comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.
Shape into 2x1cm-wide logs and flatten slightly. Place on a lightly greased baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Allow to cool completely before using a bread knife to slice into 1cm-thick slices. Return to the tray and bake for 15 minutes or until crisp and golden. Allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes 30.
Hello new school lunch favourite!