When I bought Jamie Oliver’s new book of Christmas cooking a couple of weeks ago, one of the recipes I thought I must try were his cantuccini, with the idea that I could package some up as little gifts. I bought the ingredients at the beginning of the week but life and Christmas shopping got in the way of actually doing anything with them. Then the lovely Mimi put a cantuccini recipe up on her blog a couple of days ago, which reminded me of my intention. So, I got baking yesterday.
Now, I’ve made cantuccini/biscotti before – click here – if not for a while, so wasn’t a complete novice. But the recipe just didn’t work. I think there was too much flour and they were heavy and floury to taste. I threw them away. I don’t like to ‘fail’ though. Even though there’s lots of Christmas cooking to do I couldn’t get those disaster biscotti off my mind. So I turned to Gino d’Acampo. His panettone turned out pretty well for me last year (click here). I know people who get a bit sniffy about Gino; don’t think he’s the real thing, but his recipes are straightforward and they work. They are even easy and his biscotti recipe was more or less an all-in-one preparation – plus of course a necessary second baking. I decided to combine the two recipes by sticking to Jamie’s almonds, hazelnuts and chocolate. But when I found I didn’t have enough hazelnuts and almonds left, I threw in some pistachios too. I also found I needed more cooking time than Gino suggests. But in the end, the recipe worked well and finally I’m happy – I have some biscotti for Christmas!
Mixed Nuts & Chocolate Biscotti
- 100g mixed skinned almonds, hazelnuts & pistachios
- 50g dark chocolate (at least 70%), roughly chopped
- 280g strong white flour, type ’00’
- 150g caster sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest of 1 unwaxed orange
- 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (or lemon! see below)
- icing sugar for dusting
Toast the nuts in a dry pan over a medium heat until lightly browned.
Remove from the pan and roughly chop. Chop the chocolate. Set aside.
Now make the dough. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the sugar, baking powder, eggs, vanilla extract and orange zest. Also add the prepared nuts and chocolate. Add the orange/lemon liqueur. I didn’t have any orange liqueur. It’s been a long time since I’ve kept any kind of liqueur in the house. I was considering whether brandy would be a bit overpowering when I remembered the bottle of limoncello lurking in my fridge door. Homemade limoncello, made by Jonathan’s friend Simon. Feeling pretty sure my son wouldn’t mind my raiding his limoncello supply, I took it from the fridge and was measuring it into the bowl when said son let himself into the house and was suddenly before me. ‘You don’t mind if I have some of your limoncello?’ I said. In the moment of unexpected confusion I forgot to take a photo of how pretty all the ingredients looked laid out in the bowl, and instead started mixing.
Oh well. That’s not a step I could undo. Once it’s all combined, divide the dough into two (yes I did actually use scales to get this exact. The things I do for the blog!).
Dust a surface with icing sugar. Many people use flour, but Gino uses sugar and I went with that. Well it’s Christmas; of course you dust treats with sugar. Carefully roll each ball of dough into a sausage shape and flatten slightly. It’s a very sticky dough but you can just about manage to roll it.
You’ll need two baking trays lined with greaseproof paper. Lay a ‘sausage’ of dough on each one. Bake in a 180C/Fan 160/Gas 4 oven. Now Gino said for 20 minutes but I left mine for 30 minutes to achieve a ‘lightly browned’ colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Use a serrated bread knife and cut into ‘biscotti’ slices on a slight diagonal. They should be just over 1cm thick. While you’re doing this, lower the oven to 150C/Fan 130/Gas 2.
Now arrange them in a single layer on the baking sheet, with a new lining of greaseproof paper.
Return them to the cooler oven. Now, this next stage has variations of how long they stay in the oven. Gino only leaves them in for 5 minutes; Jamie for 8-10. However, my ‘original’ biscotti recipe on the blog, an Ottolenghi one, leaves them in for 40 minutes. I kept checking and in the end, that’s how long I left them. Plus, I also followed Jamie’s suggestion of leaving them in the oven when you turn it off to dry right out while the oven cools. But then I had to try one too!
As Jamie says he likes, I ate one slightly warm, still a bit chewy, with an espresso. Delicious! However, I’m looking forward to the crunchy ones once they’ve properly cooled, which will keep nicely in an airtight jar for up to a couple of weeks and provide a nice treat with coffee over the Christmas holiday period. And, of course, a few can go into a smaller jar, decorated with Christmas ribbon, to make a nice gift.
***** HAPPY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!!! *****