Almond biscotti is a deceptively simple thing to make. While you’re mixing up the batter, you’re thinking, “well, this is all very easy, it barely calls for any special technique or wrist action, hand skills or wild hand-eye coordination”. It starts getting complicated right after this. The initial assembly takes about half an hour, but at the end of a 134 baking minutes (a loose 150 counting the spaces between sticking things in the oven, taking them out and rearranging) I figured that this didn’t qualify for the “easy” category anymore.
I’ve converted the recipe for smaller ovens and also into metric, because this is the way of the new, civilised world. If you’re more inclined towards cups and ounces, you can still use the recipe from the source listed above with the small orange juice adjustment I’ve made.
One day I’ll have a house stocked with Cointreau and Grand Mariner to use in recipes like this where orange liqueur is called for, but until then, I’m using a mixture of brandy and orange juice instead. I’m sure the strength of orangyness offered by the liqueur would be greater, but I didn’t want to mess with the consistency of the mix by increasing the amount of orange juice.
This is a recipe that makes you think on your feet. It’s fairly easy, but you have to make small corrections as per how the first batch turns out to get it just right. And you’ll know when that happens. I’ve made some corrections myself in the recipe, so this should help you get there without too much of the error part of trial and error. There are hot ovens and cool ovens (usually when the heating elements are too close or too far from the baking area), so there’s a good chance you’ll have to adjust the bake times accordingly.
If you have a very large professional or sort-of-professional oven I’d advise you to go with the Smitten way, with her bake times and methods.
Another edit I made to the process was in the actual laying of each bar of biscotti. Deb suggests rolling and shaping the dough into a 13½” x 2½” (342.9mm x 63.5mm, sorry, I really do like my metric measurements) logs, but I found the dough too wet and difficult to work with (this might be because I used maida, which I suppose might be slightly different in consistency from American all purpose flour). I chose instead to divide the batter into two and use a piping bag to pipe a length of batter onto the baking tray. Instead of measuring out an exact dimension, I decided to go with simple division to make the logs, by dividing the batter into exactly half (you can do this visually, or if you want to be more precise, by weight) and filling them into a pair of piping bag.
I overdid the first piping, and ended up with an extremely squat log. We learn from our errors, so the next three came out perfectly.
Another reason I edited the recipe was because most Indian homes don’t have massive built-in ovens that can accommodate large loaves and trays. There’s no way a pair of 342.9mm biscotti batter logs are going to fit in little counter-top ovens. The oven I used had a tray with a workable dimension of 240mm x 201mm (roughly 9½” x 8″) and quite neatly fit the batter in two batches, with two logs piped into the tray for each batch.
Is “Biscotti” Italian for biscuit?
Not exactly. Biscotti means twice-baked, which is what gives it a characteristic dryness and snap. Incidentally, the word biscuit might have been a derivative of this, which means that the difference between a cookie and a biscuit might be in the baking. A twice baked cookie could qualify as a biscotti…and is probably a biscuit. This is my own idle speculation. You can quote me, but do add, “I think this might be idle speculation on the part of Magic Marinade”.
What is so complicated about this?
The recipe isn’t exactly difficult, but it is tedious. Most of the tedium comes from having to portion the batter into two batches and then to slice the biscotti up for the second bake, which might call for four batches in total. You could avoid the complication by making a third (using one egg and one third the ingredients), two thirds (using two eggs and two thirds the ingredients (multiply everything by 0.66)) or if you’re clever enough to use an egg and a half (you could weigh out three eggs and remove half), make half the amount.
This recipe yielded around 45 biscotti. I didn’t mind the numerous batches because it allowed me to fine tune the bake times and remove some of the guesswork for you, when you try this. However, it did exhaust me quite thoroughly.
Don’t let this lessen your enthusiasm, because this is a recipe that makes you think on your feet and will make you a much better baker for it.
This post marks the end of my month of wandering. I’m heading back home today; in fact I’m typing this out from my phone as I pull out of Chennai and pass Basin Bridge Junction. This will also be the first post from my phone.
I can’t wait to get back home to the usual routine, espeically since this break helped lose some of the lethargy and apathy that tends to set in after living by yourself and doing the same thing every day. This recipe wasn’t exactly a frontier living recipe, because I wasn’t on that imaginary frontier anymore, I was home. And now, at the end of this journey, I’m heading back to my other home with much to look forward to, recharged, and ready.
390g Maida (all purpose flour)
10g baking powder (1tbsp)
5g salt (⅓ teaspoon)
142g unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
1tbsp vanilla extract
1tbsp orange juice
1tbsp orange zest
1 cup whole almonds (135g), toasted, roughly chopped*
1 egg white, for brushing
- Butter and line two 9″ square trays with parchment paper, butter the paper also (alternatively, if you only have one tray, you could do this twice. Watch out for hot trays).
- Roast the almonds gently in the oven and chop them up (see note at the bottom).
- Sift the dry ingredients (salt, four, baking powder) into a bowl.
- Whisk together the eggs, butter, vanilla extract, orange juice and zest, brandy with the sugar. It should form a smooth and even consistency.
- Add the dry ingredients bit by bit into the eggs and butter mix and stir using a wooden spoon or spatula till smooth and evenly incorporated (see picture above).
- Preheat the oven to 177ºC.
- Add the chopped almonds and incorporate evenly.
- Divide the batter equally into two large piping bags.
- Cut a large opening (about 20mm) at the end of the piping bag and pipe two equal lengths and quantities of batter into the tray.
- Whisk the egg whites till foamy and brush evenly all over the piped batter. A second coat would yield an even better gloss.
- Bake for 35 minutes, or until the batter turns a golden yellow.
- Remove from the oven and cool (usually this is when the second batch goes in) for 25 minutes.
- Slice diagonally into 12mm wide slices (a serrated knife is recommended, but I used my extra sharp Santoku knife in quick, confident strokes— if you have the same or a chef’s knife, make sure it’s blindingly sharp and use that) and bake flat on the same parchment paper for about 10 minutes with the tray placed on the uppermost level in the oven.
- Remove from the oven and flip onto the other side; bake for another 6 minutes or until an even darker golden brown all over. If it gets too dark, reduce the bake time.
- Let it cool before serving.
* I chopped each almond into approximately three or four bits, depending on its size. I did this instead if slivering it the Smitten way because I wanted chunky bits of almond in the biscotti.