The Biscuits of Prato

Otherwise known as ‘Biscotti di Prato’, or simply Biscotti (literally means ‘twice-baked’ in Italian). These long and hard cookies which originated from the City of Prato in Italy are very dry and are traditionally served with a drink, into which they may be dunked. I prefer to have my biscotti neat. You would too, if you follow the recipe below. It is too tasty to be dunked in coffee or any other beverage.

Recipe: Cinnamon Hazelnut Biscotti

Ingredients

  • 165 g all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 tsp fine salt
  • 80g butter, melted and cooled
  • 100g white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 60g hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Instructions

  1. Sift together the flour, ground cinnamon and baking powder in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  2. Whisk the eggs and salt together in a large mixing bowl with a handheld whisk until well-mixed.
  3. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Whisk in the melted and cooled butter.
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients with a spatula and mix until smooth.
  5. Fold in the hazelnuts and stir with a spatula until well distributed.
  6. Using a plastic bag (cut open save for one length), shape the dough on a tray or baking sheet into a rectangular strip to any desirous dimension. Place the tray or baking sheet to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  7. Preheat oven to 175°C.
  8. Remove the plastic bag from the chilled dough and place the dough in the centre of a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or baking paper.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the center is firm. Remove baking sheet from oven to cool on a wire rack. When loaf is cool enough to handle, use a serrated knife to slice the loaves diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slices. Return the slices to the baking sheet.
  10. Bake for an additional 10 minutes, turning over once. Cool completely, and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Yield : 18-20 slices

I have not been making time for baking in quite a while, and a group of friends who had once tasted my biscotti lamented about how they missed them. I took the opportunity to prepare several batches in advance and froze them till the day I needed to bake them. We had a dinner appointment but it was cancelled at the 11th hour because of a family emergency. Nevertheless I was able to present them each with a box of biscotti to bring home to enjoy.

Just a word of caution: don’t indulge too much in the biscotti. After all, they are baked twice and are thus what Chinese would term as ‘heaty’. Eating too much of them at one sitting would most likely result in a sore throat or a heaty constitution. Well, perhaps dunking them in some hot beverage isn’t half that bad an idea after all. And in any case, the biscotti keep for at least a week in an air-tight container at room temperature.

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