So, um, remember last week when I predicted that Marie would be in the final three? My prophetess skills clearly leave a lot to be desired. No one’s going to be starting a religion in my name any time soon.
Ah well. Goodbye, Marie. You will be missed. I very much enjoyed your warm, Scottish, grandmotherly vibe.
Cake week was always going to be my best week for this bake along; it’s a shame it came first, in a way, because it’s all downhill from here. I make a lot of cake. Really, too much cake. There is indeed such a thing and you can find it on my kitchen counter. And in my fridge. And the freezer. I am now realising that I almost never make biscuits, and next week is bread week, which will be… interesting. Not good interesting. Interesting in the way that it’s interesting to watch a drunken friend flirting with an inappropriate crush: you feel like you should stop it, but a small, mischievous part of you wants to sit back and watch the fun when someone does something ill-advised.
The biscotti were an obvious choice for me to bake this week, and I am betting that the majority of people taking part in the bake along will do the same. When I started this (er, last week), I wanted to try and bake the things from the Bake Off that I didn’t necessarily gravitate towards automatically, in an attempt to expand my repertoire a little. We’re a mere two weeks in, and I have already dropped those high and mighty ideals. I was short on time this week. The Arlette biscuits didn’t hugely appeal to me – they didn’t seem to be quite worth the faff, and there wasn’t much opportunity for creativity in the recipe. As for the biscuit box, it seemed to me like a bake focused far more on appearance than on taste, which is fair enough for a show-stopper. Don’t get me wrong: I like the things I make to look attractive, if at all possible, and I really was incredibly impressed by some of the bakers’ beautiful boxes. I don’t think anyone could have failed to be charmed by that fire engine. But I’d much rather something looked plain and tasted amazing than looked amazing and tasted plain. I just don’t think I’d particularly want to eat four walls and a roof’s worth of shortbread covered in icing. Anyway, any biscuit box I made would look rubbish.
So, I skipped Biscuitception (biscuit within a biscuit… no?), and more by process of elimination than anything, biscotti it was. In fairness, I’ve never made biscotti before, so you could argue it is expanding my baking horizons a bit. And it was actually trickier than I thought it would be, mostly because I am a massive idiot and initially added too much egg, turning the dough into delicious superglue. I then decided the best way to incorporate the egg would be to knead the dough with my hands. Spoiler alert: this was a bad idea. I ended up wearing huge, sticky, dough gloves. I mean, this wasn’t the worst thing in the world, because raw dough is delicious (come on, we all know it’s true), and it gave me a legitimate excuse to eat the spare scraps off my fingers, once I’d gotten most of the dough back together with a spatula. Anyway, I added a bit more flour and it all turned out okay in the end.
Source: It seemed only right and proper to start with a Paul Hollywood recipe but I went pretty off-piste after that.
Notes: I got a bit obsessed with the concept of a chilli and chocolate biscotti, but also wanted to include fruit and nuts in the recipe. I went for hazelnuts, as they go so well with chocolate, and dates for their deep – almost caramel – flavour. I thought I chocolate dough might be overkill with dates, so I decided to dip the baked biscuits in dark chocolate instead. As for the chilli, I simply added a teaspoon of hot chilli powder to the dry ingredients, with ginger as a slight accent. This gives these biscotti a lingering warmth in the mouth rather than a full on chilli kick, which was what I was going for. If you want them to scream ‘chilli!’ at you, then add an extra teaspoon of chilli powder.
250g plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp baking powder
250g caster sugar
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs, beaten
200g skinned hazelnuts
150g stoned dates
150g melted dark chocolate, for dipping
100g chopped toasted hazelnuts, for dipping
- Preheat your oven to 160C/ 140C fan/ gas 4. Line a baking tray – I have re-usable silicone mats, which I would really recommend. Get your largest bowl, and pop your dry ingredients in there: flour; baking powder; caster sugar; chilli powder; ginger powder; salt. Mix them all together so that everything is evenly distributed.
- Whisk your eggs in a small bowl, and then gradually add them to the dry mix. Really gradually. Far more gradually than I did. Make sure the egg is well mixed/ kneaded in after each addition. You are not going for a sticky dough here. If it does feel sticky, add a little more flour.
- Chop your hazelnuts roughly, leaving some of them whole. Knead them into the dough with your hands. Chop your dates and do the same – the dates will disintegrate and marble a little in the dough, which makes the biscotti all the better.
- Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for a moment, making sure it’s smooth and everything is incorporated. Divide it in half. Shape each half into a log about 4cm wide and as long as you can fit on your tray. Space them apart, as the dough spreads in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
- Take your tray out of the oven and leave the biscotti to cool for ten minutes, to help prevent cracking when you cut them. Slice the logs on the diagonal into 2cm thick slices, and move them back to the tray, cut side up. Put the tray back in the oven. Paul Hollywood would disapprove of my biscotti, because I don’t like them completely dry – I prefer them with a little chewiness in the centre. I baked my biscotti for another 15 minutes. If you want them completely dry, bake for another 20-30 minutes. Remember, they firm up as they cool.
- Once the biscotti are completely cold, dip them in your melted dark chocolate and then sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts to decorate.