With semana santa upon us, and all lenten fasting thrown to the cross, we can now indulge in all things naughty and delicious. This morning's accompaniment to coffee was biscotti, a fitting crunch that originated in Italy, where semana santa celebrations will no doubt be in full swing, with the new Pope in residence.
We followed Carol Field's recipe (Italy in Small Bites), but in the absence of any Cointreau or Curacao, we improvised slightly and used water. So we could call these the 'poor man's' biscotti. They are easy to make, and you can kid yourself that they are healthier than other tempting crunchy things because they don't require butter. However, I'll leave that to the nutritionists to decide, and suffice to say that they are utterly delicious. Make sure there's a padlock on your biscuit tin or they might all be gone by lunch time.
50g raisins or sultanas
6 tablespoons Cointreau or Curacao (we didn't have any, so just soaked our raisins in water)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (we used vanilla pod)
200g unblanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
450g plain white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarb of soda
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Soak the raisins in water for 20 minutes and drain. They will absorb the liquid and swell beautifully. Separate your eggs and beat the yolks with all but 2 heaped tablespoons of the sugar, until satisfyingly pale and thick. Beat in the reserved liqueur (or water!) and the vanilla extract. In another bowl, beat your egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks, and slowly add the 2 remaining tablespoons of sugar, beating until they hold stiff peaks.
Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it and then fold in the rest, delicately! Finally fold in your swollen raisins and toasted nuts.
Mix together the flour, bicarb of soda, and salt. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the rest, 1/4 tblsp at a time.
Butter your swiss roll tin. Gently spread the mixture to cover the base - as evenly as possible. Bake for 20 -22 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven, and give it ten minutes of cooling time before gently easing out of the baking tin. Then use a bread knife to slice it into 4cm strips, 2cm wide. Arrange them on the baking sheet and bake for another 7 - 8 minutes on each side. Cool on a wire rack.
Demolish, with coffee, as gracefully as an Italian siren.