So we just got back from Israel last night and I am beat. As incredible as it was, it was physically and mentally exhausting. We barely ate, slept or stopped walking. On top of that I had food poisoning while we were on a bus tour in Jordan and nothing says fun like rushing to the communal bathroom at 2am in the middle of a Bedouin desert camp.
Today I’m back at work and I thought I would make something that was comforting and familiar after so many exotic treats. I mentioned a couple of days ago that my grandmother was unwell and since I can’t be with her, I wanted to bring a little bit of her into my Tuscan kitchen and remember the good times while we all pray for her to feel better.
These biscotti are one of my family’s most beloved recipes. You’ve probably had Italian biscotti before. They’re crunchy, nutty, vanillary treats that are perfect for dipping into coffee or drinking with a cup of milky tea – we don’t discriminate in my family!
As you can see, I’ve photographed two different kinds of biscuits. The dough recipe is the same for both. The oval shaped biscuits have a 1/2 cup of whole almonds folded through them, while the doughnut biscuits are coated in an icing that we call ‘naspro’. It’s basically an Italian meringue.
300g plain (all-purpose) flour
150g caster (superfine) sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
50g butter, melted and cooled
1 lemon, finely grated rind only
100g almonds (or other nuts)
FOR THE NASPRO (ITALIAN MERINGUE)
1 egg white
½ cup icing sugar
Preheat oven to 180°C. Combine the flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients except the almond and mix until the dough comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.
Shape into 2 logs. Flatten one log slightly. Place on a lightly greased baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.
Divide the remaining log into 3 equal pieces and roll each piece into a 1cm-thick rope. Divide into 15cm pieces. Bring the ends inwards and cross over once to plait or simply shape into doughnuts. 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 the flattened log into 1cm-thick slices. Return to the tray and bake for 15 minutes or until crisp and golden. Allow to cool completely.
Prepare the Italian meringue for the remaining biscuits by placing the egg whites in an electric mixer and whisk until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the icing sugar, whisking, until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Dip the cooked biscuits into the icing and place on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Reduce the oven to 120°C and bake for 10 minutes or until the icing is set to the touch.
Store in an airtight container. Makes 30.
These biscuits are really versatile. You can add nuts, dried fruit or chocolate. They’re twice baked, which means they last for a lifetime. My grandmother makes huge batches of these and then keeps them in a container with a handful of sugar cubes. These help keep the biscuits fresh.