Friday, January 21, 2011

The Classic Italian Biscotti

Classic Italian Almond Biscotti
Originally made as a long-shelf-life food  for travelers and carried by the Roman Legions, today’s biscotti are a popular accompaniment to cappuccino .

The modern biscotti however is associated with the Tuscan region of Italy, this I assume is because of the plentiful almond groves you will find in the Prato region where these are still known as Cantucci.
Almond Blossom in Tuscany

This popular Italian cookie traces its origins to Roman times and was the staple diet of the Legions.. The word biscotto derives from “bis,” Latin for twice, and “coctum” or baked (which became “cotto,” or cooked). The Roman biscotti were more about convenience food for travelers rather than a pleasurable treat for diners.

The cooking mechanism of this unleavened, finger-shaped wafers  is first baked and this sliced and toasted is a second time  second time to completely dry them out of their moisture, this increases its shelf life and can be stored for upto a month in an airtight container,

 During the Renaissance European cuisine when through a change, and with it Biscotti re-emerged in Tuscany, where it was once again  served with not only coffee but also with the local sweet wine ( Vin Santo)Centuries later, many still agree that dipping biscotti into Vin Santo is a perfect way to end a meal, or to while away an hour at a café.
From the almond receipr of Tuscany, the recipe has today expanded to anisette-, amaretto- and lemon-flavored dough and to other spices; to biscotti with raisins and other dried fruits; to biscotti studded with chocolate morsels , dipped in chocolate and with other varieties of nuts. Today, the flavorings are only limited to your imagination ... and whats more the Biscotti recipe calls for no butter or oil. Its virtually fat free !!!

Ingredients :
225 gms Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Almond extract
1 tsp Vanilla extract
3 eggs
A pinch of salt
400 gms Roasted Almonds (chopped coarsely)
125 gms Sugar

Method :
Bake almonds in oven for 10 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade. Sieve together baking powder, salt and flour. Mix in a bowl the eggs vanilla, almond extract and sugar. Beat well and knead a dough with the eggs. On a lightly floured surface roll dough into a log about 14 inches (35 cm) long and 3 - 4 inches (8 - 10 cm) wide. Transfer log to the prepared baking sheet with butter paper and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until firm to the touch (log will spread during baking). Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.

Transfer log to a cutting board and, using a serrated / bread  knife, cut log into slices 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thick on the diagonal.   Arrange evenly on baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes, turn slices over, and bake another 10 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool. Store in an airtight container.  I like to dip one side of the biscotti with melted dark chocolate. They taste heavenly !!!

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