To bake a batch of biscotti, you will need:
- 240g of cake flour
- 60g of self-raising flour
- 200g of caster sugar
- A quarter teaspoon of salt
- A level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
- 100g of hazelnuts
- 100g of almonds
- 100g of walnuts
- The zest of one lemon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 3 eggs
Why is there no butter? Sometimes, my friend, it is wise not to ask too many questions.
Trust me, this list is all you need.
Which brings me to the eternal mystery of lemon zest and the non-standard size of lemons.
Once, maybe a couple of weeks ago, I was cooking something Thai. It involved the zest of a lime.
I owned two at the time and on the assumption that more is always better than less, I dropped the zest of both limes into the mix. A terrible mistake. Measurements are not there to amuse us. Obey the recipe and the meal comes out right. And nowhere is this truth more evident than in successful baking.
1. So, using the zesting tool of your choice, remove the zest from the lemon. The zest consists only of the thin outer layer of the peel. Everything else is pith. Don’t even think about baking with it.
2. Break the three eggs into the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the caster sugar and the vanilla essence, then rev the machine to the red line and keep it there for a couple of minutes until the bowl is filled with a light, frothy mass. If you don’t have a stand mixer, use an electric beater.
3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl, combine and then add to the egg mixture. The tiny pinch of salt is essential since it enhances the sweetness.
4. Weigh the three types of nuts, taking care with walnuts, which can go rancid with age. Place these on a clean work surface, chop them coarsely with a heavy knife, then add them to the mixing bowl with the lemon zest. Run the machine at half speed until all the ingredients are adequately combined.
5. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
6. Shape the dough into three polony-sized rolls about 200mm in length, and arrange these on the baking paper with as much room as possible between each roll. Bake for 50 minutes, remove and wait for them to cool, then cut them into slices as thick as a slice of bread, or 8mm if you prefer to measure.
7. Return the slices to the still-hot oven and bake at 160°C for an additional eight minutes. Remove, cool and serve with your best coffee.
8. Finally, you don’t wanna mess with tough cookies, so put any leftovers in a well-sealed container.
David Basckin is a freelance journalist and videographer.