Sometimes all you need in life is a little pause, a break or respite from the everyday. Being British this usually means taking time to enjoy a cup of tea & a biscuit (or three). Tea & biscuits can help all sorts… it’s a little bit naughty & indulgent, it’s a moment of peace, it’s something that we offer to someone as a means of consoling or comforting them when in need. It’s a moment that’s as personal to each & every one of us as our taste in music or films.
To dunk or not to dunk & how long for? (always dunk!) To break into halves or drunk whole? Chocolate covered or plain? Cream or jam filled? Spiced or sweet? Much like the tea which accompanies our crumbly treats, each of us have our favourites based on our preference for flavor, texture or even size.
Personally I prefer a simple biscuit with excellent dunking durability such as a rich tea or a good old hobnob. The forerunner for a satisfying dunk however has got to be biscotti, a biscuit which will never commit cumbly suicide in the bottom of your mug (I’m looking at you shortbread!). These are simple, crunchy Italian biscuits usually made using almonds.
Biscotti owes its name to the way in which it is made, these crunchy biscuits are twice-cooked. The biscuit dough is baked in a log shape before being sliced into biscuits & baked again. The Italian word for twice is ‘Bis’ & ‘cotti’ means cooked… biscotti.
Being twice-cooked makes for a dry, sturdy, crunchy biscuit whose shape also makes it perfect for dunking into tea or coffee. In Italy it is traditionally enjoyed a dessert where it is dipped into a sweet dessert wine called Vin Santo (unfortunately though wine dipping is rather frowned upon in the office).
Biscotti are traditionally made using almonds or hazelnuts however this infinitely adaptable dunker is open to endless flavourings. One day, in a moment of sheer simplicity I thought why not combine this simple biscuit with the flavour of my favourite hot beverage accompaniment to biscuits… Earl Grey.
Earl Grey tea is blend of black tea which has been flavoured with bergamot oil. Bergamot is a variety of orange which is grown in Italy & France, it has a bitter citrus flavour with a slightly floral accent. It’s the addition of bergamot that gives Earl Grey its fragrant & unique taste.
In perfect marriage between two of my favourite cultures, a collaboration of British Earl Grey, flavoured of course with Italian bergamot, fused together with the traditional Italian biscotti. As with any tea infused baking, it does take a large amount of leaves to flavour these biscuits but don’t let that put you off. If you prefer, grind the tea leaves in a pestle & mortar, this creates less of a speckled effect & hints of large leaves in the biscuit dough.
Biscotti keep exceptionally well, this makes them perfect for gifting. Make a batch & store half into little ribbon tied gift bags for Christmas or birthdays & store the rest in a biscuit tin ready for when you next need a little pause.
EARL GREY BISCOTTI
(makes 22-24 biscuits)
- 350g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 7 tbsp loose leaf Earl Grey tea (use a mortar & pestle to grin them down if you prefer)
- 250g caster sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 100g sultanas
- In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, tea & sugar
- Make a well in the centre & add in the beaten eggs, mix until the mixture starts to look lumpy
- Use your hands to bring the mixture together (as you would a shortcrust pastry)
- Add the sultanas to the dough & knead until evenly distributed
- Divide the dough in half & roll each half into a log shape
- Please the logs on a baking tray with plenty of space in between them as the mixture will spread
- Bake at 180C for around 25-30 minutes, until the biscuits have spread & are beginning to harden
- Remove from the oven & set aside to until cool enough to handle
- Lower the oven temperature to 140C
- Once the logs are cool enough to handle, using a bread knife, cut the logs into diagonal slices of around 1cm thickness
- Lay the biscuits flat on the baking sheet & return to the oven at 140C for 15 mins
- Remove the biscuits to turn them over & return to the oven for another 15 mins, until they’ve hardened
- Leave the biscuits to cool fully on a cooling rack