These biscuits make a great edible gift and they’re lovely dipped into a glass of vin santo or another sweet dessert wine. Dunk them into tea or coffee if you like. An Italian chef I met in Tuscany would give you a sharp rap on the knuckles for that but it’s your house, your rules.
I’ve made two versions here – one with hazelnuts, preserved ginger and candied orange peel, the other with bright green pistachios and dried cranberries for a bit of Christmas colour. Both are warm with sweet spices: ginger, cinnamon and allspice.
If you don’t have time to make your own candied orange peel, try to get whole candied fruits, available from some good grocers. They’re expensive, but so much better than those little pots of dessicated mixed peel available in supermarkets.
And please forgive the blatant plug, but another edible Christmas present you might like to consider is a cookery class here at Mrs Portly’s Kitchen. Gift vouchers are available – a postable version up to December 18 and via email right up to the last minute – something to bear in mind in a week or two when you’re panic-buying. 🙂
Christmas Spiced Biscotti
250g plain flour
1 tspn baking powder
1/4 tspn fine salt
1 tspn ground ginger
3/4 tspn ground cinnamon
1/2 tspn ground allspice
250g golden caster sugar
75g shelled pistachios
75g shelled hazelnuts (I don’t bother skinning them)
30g candied orange peel, diced
3 chunks of preserved ginger, rinsed of syrup, patted dry and diced
40g dried cranberries
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Icing sugar or flour, to dust
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Scatter the nuts in a single layer on a baking tray, keeping the sort types separate, and cook for about six minutes. Cool slightly then chop the hazelnuts roughly if they’re a bit chunky (not all hazelnuts are created equal).
Put the flour, baking powder and spices in a large bowl and whisk gently to get rid of any lumps. Stir through the sugar, then mix in the lightly beaten eggs. Work it into a crumbly dough then halve it and put one half in another bowl.
To one bowl, add the hazelnuts, chopped candied orange peel and orange zest.
To the other, add the pistachios, cranberries and lemon zest.
Work in the added ingredients until the doughs come together in shaggy balls.
Dust your work surface lightly with flour or icing sugar and roll each one into a fat sausage about 5cm in diameter. Arrange them well apart on the lined baking tray – they spread quite a bit – flatten slightly and bake for about 25 minutes until golden and firm on the outside.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit. Reduce the heat to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2. When the logs are cool enough to handle and have set a little, but while they’re still warm, put them on a chopping board and cut into 1cm diagonal slices. A serrated bread knife works best.
Put the slices back on the baking tray and cook for a further 10-15 minutes, until golden and depending on how hard you’d like them. Then turn them over and give them 10-15 minutes on the other side. Remember they will harden more as they cool. When they’re done, cool on a wire rack then store in an airtight tin.
Here’s one I made earlier – hazelnuts, walnuts and candied orange peel. I definitely think the preserved ginger is a good addition, but feel free to swap out the ingredients as you wish. Just keep the overall proportions the same.