Some days, I like to base my heritage around whatever I might be cooking that day.
Like a little girl playing dress up, I like to immerse myself in the culture, sounds and feelings of whatever food I’m craving.
I could be Cypriot one afternoon, my window no longer showing me scenes of Gatley but rather the crashing waves on my favourite beach in Paphos as my kitchen fills with rich, succulent smells of Kleftico.
I could be French, visiting my local fromagerie (the cheese aisle in Aldi – Waitrose if I’m feeling flush). Filling my basket with Brie for the cheese board of dreams.
On this particular Sunday, I was Italian, a far cry from my actual Welsh Roberts roots, but today I wasn’t Francesca Wilson or Francesca Roberts, I was Francesca Giuseppe (I use the name of my favourite pizza at the time to determine my surname – twas either this or Francesca Quattro Formaggi ) and I was baking biscotti for my famiglia.
Biscotti is a gloriously crunchy Italian biscuit, diverse and delicious and wonderfully simple to make. A fabulous dessert, but also great for gifting a loved one or when you want to fill your biscuit tin extra fancily.
To make my biscotti, you’ll need:
150g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
100g white chocolate drops
100g shelled pistachios
200g dark chocolate
First, preheat your oven at 180c and set up a music station, any album by Il Divo or Pavarotti will work on this occasion.
Start by combining the flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl.
Gradually add the eggs and mix together (get your hands in there for the best results).
Add the white chocolate drops and pistachios – (maybe eat 2 or 3, just to make sure they’re safe) and continue to combine.
By now, you should have a sticky ball of dough in your hand. Lightly flour a surface and continue to knead the dough here.
Separate your ball of dough into two. Roll both into long sausage-like logs, flattening them out so they’re approximately 4 inches by 10 inches (or thereabouts!)
Get ’em comfy on a lined baking tray and pop into the oven for 30 minutes.
Take this time to perfect your high notes; really feel it in your belly and sing to your biscotti, trust me – they love it.
Once your timer rings, remove the dough from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 160c.
After 10 minutes, using a sharp knife, cut the biscuity-dough into finger-like strips. Turn them on their side so the inside of the biscuit is now facing upwards.
Place them back in the oven for a further 15 minutes (or until they have dried completely and have turned golden).
Once out of the oven – melt the dark chocolate slowly over a bain-marie. Once melted, take each individual biscotti and coat the velvety-smooth chocolate over half of the biscuit, using a spoon to ensure it’s completely covered. Sprinkle over crushed hazelnuts and place back on the baking tray to set, an hour or so should do it!
Ready to indulge mio amico? Biscotti is best enjoyed in good company with an espresso and vanilla bean ice cream; (for extra Italian points, combine the two to make an Affagato).
The joy of cooking, is that you never know where it might take you! Okay, so you might not be able to transport yourself straight onto a gondola complete with questionably-striped skipper – but do it right and it’ll be just as delicious.