I hate to be a cliché, but I’m here to tell you a story about the combination of Italy and biscotti.
Yes, it’s like talking about the British with tea and scones or the Irish with a four leaf clover and Guinness, but I think the notion of cliché should make room for cultural pride.
I don’t think it’s a cliché when Welsh people (like myself) are associated with the daffodil, Tom Jones or lamb stew.
The sheep jokes sometimes are a step too far, but we’ll address that on another day.
This recipe is all about the wonderful combination of biscotti and the streets of Italy – a combination that will stay with me forever.
When I studied in Florence for a bit last year, something I have brought back with me is the craving for a proper biscotti. Not the brick like offerings that we have here masquerading as the buttery treat, but a real authentic, sexily crunchy yet comfortingly pillowy biscotti.
Every day I went to the café on the Arno river in Coverciano, where I was staying, for a swift coffee and biscotti before my 9am cookery lessons. The coffee, like many family owned coffee shops in Florence, came with no fancy marketing or café name on the cup, just a humble paper cup with a lid and a deep, rich coffee that I can still taste it to this day but can never recreate.
With this I would always order biscotti.
The biscotti came in a bundle. Three simply crunchy slices wrapped in brown paper that would be tied by a piece of brown spring. No plate.
It was served to me by a lovely lady who always commented on both the length of my beard and my height, because to her I was a giant. She’d pass my order to me laughing every day because I always ordered the same thing. ‘Again, again, again!’ she laugh at me.
On my last day in Florence she gave me a hug and gave me four biscotti instead of three. I intend on seeing her again some day.
I would sit riverside in the burning Tuscan sun as I dunked each biscotti into my coffee, listening to my iPod and scratching notes in my notebook. This was my routine every morning for the entire trip.
Except when I was hungover once and I actually cried in the shower, but that’s neither here nor there.
One of the notes I made in my notebook was that I wanted to make my own biscotti when I got home. I researched a few different recipes (from authentic Italians as well as admirers like myself) and speaking to a waitress at the riverside café, I was told that while the recipe for biscotti can vary, the only thing that must stay is that it must be baked twice. Once to set the dough, the other to dry out eat individual biscotti slice to give it it’s famed crunch.
I was nervous that I was missing a trick and that I didn’t want to dry out the dough, so I decided to play about with my recipe and introduce some lemon curd for two reasons. The first being to make sure the dough doesn’t dry out too much, but secondly, to introduce a fresh zing to the biscotti, which is very welcome with such a short, experience (biscotti’s as small, after all).
These biscotti’s are a far cry from Florence, with their traditional recipes often being spiked with nuts, dried fruit and sometimes drizzled in chocolate and this decadent approach is very much welcome this side of the sea – but for me, these fresh, delicate biscotti slices are a perfect accompaniment to a coffee in the morning when you have a busy day ahead.
Now if anyone else has a recipe for a burning hot sun and an Italian lady making fun of my height and beard, link me up.
Preheat the oven to 190c and chuck a piece of baking parchment on a big roasting tray.
In a bowl, drop in 100g unsalted butter and 80g of white sugar. Cream these together so that the butter softens.
Drop in 100g of lemon curd and grate in the zest of 1 whole lemon. Mash these into the butter and sugar mix.
Drop in 225g of plain flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and a snowy throw of sea salt. Mash these into the batter.
Once everything comes together into a ball, take the ball out of the bowl and toss it back and forth between your hands to tighten the ball.
Rip it into two even sections and place both on the baking tray, a good hand length apart.
Now form them into two logs, push each side in to tighten them up. Press down on the log so that they make 1cm roughly in height.
Slide into the oven for 15 minutes.
Once this is done, take them out and let sit for about 5 minutes to cool, only slightly. While they’re still warm, transfer them to a chopping board and slice up the logs diagonally.
Now carefully transfer these back to the baking tray and place them back in the oven for 5-8 minutes so that each piece can bake once again.
Remove carefully, allow to sit for about 15 minutes and serve with some banging coffee.