A few days ago I was hunting in the cupboards for something crunchy to nibble on for my mid morning snack, but nothing really appealed. I suddenly got the image of biscotti drifting into my head and I realised that was exactly what I’d been craving. Biscotti! I hadn’t made or eaten those for ages. They used to appear on blogs almost on a weekly basis and yet I’ve not seen them around for a while. I checked my blog and realised that the last time I baked biscotti was December 2009!!! Yikes! It was certainly time for a biscotti revival.
I decided to try a new recipe, and the one that most appealed to me was from Prue Leiths Baking Bible, a wonderful book that I really don’t use often enough. The reason it caught my attention was that it used some cornmeal/polenta as well as the flour in the dough. As biscotti and polenta are both Italian this seemed quite fitting. I used the base of this recipe but changed the flavour of the dough and add-ins to be my own.
I had open bags of both dried cranberries and walnuts sitting on the counter and so they seemed the ideal additions to my biscotti dough. My hand was reaching for an orange to zest into it too, when I spotted a red grapefruit lurking at the back and decided to use this instead. Red grapefruit has a stronger, sharper citrus flavour than orange, but I loved the idea of it with the sweet cranberries.
The cornmeal gave the dough a very sunny yellow colour that made the glossy red cranberries shine out. I used a gluten free flour mix in place of wheat flour and realised that biscotti are the perfect gluten free cookies. Biscotti’s very characterises call for it to be crispy and crunchy rather than soft and chewy, the latter can often be hard to achieve with gluten free baking.
After baking, slicing and baking again I was rewarded with a tray of delicious biscotti. The cranberries and walnuts looked so pretty scattered throughout the dough and the cornmeal had retained some of its golden colour and lent a pleasant light texture to the biscotti along with a slight grittiness. This was a good sort of grittiness though, similar to the grains you get in shortbread, rather than nasty “I’m eating sand” grittiness!
The cranberries stayed wonderfully chewy and the chunks of walnut were soft and nutty, providing a great contrast in textures and flavours.
The aspect of the biscotti that most surprised and pleased me was how strongly the red grapefruit flavour came through. At first there was just a hint of zestiness, but once you were more than two nibbles in this developed into a really intense zingy grapefruit flavour that danced across the tip of my tongue, lingering on for several minutes even after I’d finished munching. Woooh it was definitely zingy!
Biscotti are so addictive; I’ve been finding myself nibbling at them at all times of the day. The great thing about them is that they keep for several weeks in an airtight container meaning they make great gifts for friends and even survive trips through the post. Come on everyone, its time for biscotti revival!
Zesty Red Grapefruit, Cranberry & Walnut Biscotti
(Recipe loosely based on a recipe from Leiths Baking Bible)
200g gluten free flour* (I used Doves brand, a mix of rice, maize, potato, buckwheat and tapioca flours)
55g fine ground cornmeal/polenta
100g caster sugar
40g dried cranberries
Zest of ½ red grapefruit
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Heat the oven to 180C. Line a large baking tray with baking parchment or a silicone sheet.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and zest of the red grapefruit together until well combined.
Roughly chop or break up the walnuts into large chunks and add to the bowl along with the cranberries. Stir briefly.
Scatter the flour, cornmeal and bicarbonate of soda over the top and mix it all together using a spatula. It should be quite soft and sticky.
Wet your hands before transferring the dough to the lined baking tray and shaping into a thick long log shape.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until puffed and lightly golden brown.
Remove from the oven, dampen a tea towel (it should not be too wet) and drape over the top of the biscotti and leave for 10 minutes (this keeps the top soft and makes slicing easier – my own discovered tip!)
After 10 mins, remove the towel and slice the biscotti into 1cm slices on the diagonal.
Arrange the slices back on the baking tray, laying them flat.
Bake in the oven for a further 15 minutes before removing from the oven and transferring to a wire rack to cool.
Store in an airtight container. Keeps well for around 3 weeks!
Make great gifts, packed in little boxes or bags.
Makes around 25 biscotti
*If not making gluten free then replace with an 170g of plain flour