As far as it goes I think the Italians are the bosses of festive food. Nothing beats a lavish spread of wafer thin parma ham and melon, olives and antipasti, a main of slow cooked osso bucco with risotto, followed by doorstop hunks of pillowy panetonne.
One of my favourite recipes around the holiday time to eat and make is biscotti. The classic Italian biscuit made with almonds and egg whites. Easy to do, it lasts longer in tupperware than cake and unlike make other sweet treats, it is light and perfectly healthy. I often make a big batch around the festive period to share with family and win over the neighbours.
If you want to make the recipe gluten free, you can, a white gluten free flour blend works perfectly well in place of normal white flour. I would however recommend adding a pinch of xanthum gum, to improve the overall crumb.
Classic Italian Biscotti Recipe
The key to successful biscotti is getting the biscuits to dry out enough after you add them back to the oven that they last in tupperware for at least a week.
(Makes about 30)
- 150g skin-on almonds
- 250g caster sugar
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- Grated zest of 1 unwaxed orange
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 250g white spelt flour/plain white flour
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 3 small eggs, lightly beaten
- Icing sugar, to dust
Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark six. Spread the almonds out on a baking tray and bake for about seven minutes. Allow to cool a little, then roughly chop.
Meanwhile, put 1 tbsp of the sugar in a pestle and mortar with the fennel seeds (if using) and bash them together. Stir this, along with the zest, into the remaining sugar (if you’re not using the seeds, skip this step). Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Mix the sugar with the flour, baking powder and salt, then stir in the eggs, followed by the almonds. Bring it all together into a dough.
Dust a work surface lightly with icing sugar or flour, then divide the dough into two. Roll into sausages about 5cm in diameter, then arrange well apart on the tray and flatten slightly. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and firm on the outside. Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little, reducing the heat to 150C.
Transfer to a chopping board and, using a bread knife, cut into diagonal slices about 1cm wide. Lay the slices on the baking tray and bake for a further 20-25 minutes, or until golden, then turn over and repeat (they’ll probably need less time on the other side). Allow to cool, then store in an airtight jar.