I had a slow start to my baking day this week. It was raining and getting the children to nursery took hours. I blame two things; one, Peppa Pig and the delight a three-year old takes in jumping into every puddle, shadow of a puddle, and anything that may or may not have been a puddle in a former life, and, two, snails.
“Snail,” yelled Naomi every time we saw one (and there were dozens). I heard her the first three times and we stopped to watch the snails having a chat on the wall. I’d developed selective deafness by the time we reached the fourth snail and started pushing the buggy a bit faster.
I got home (without jumping into any puddles, or doing any snail watching) and, continuing my Great British Bake Off theme, started on my Biscotti for Biscuit Week . They’re not something I would usually make. To be honest, I’ve only ever bought them as very last-minute Christmas presents when I can’t think of anything else to buy. There are two biscotti recipes in the Great British Bake Off Big Book of Baking; praline biscotti and lemon. I went with lemon. It was only one spoon on the difficulty scale, but I was a bit wary of this because the Bake Off on Wednesday evening they seemed pretty complicated to me.
The first step was to make the biscotti mixture. I put some softened, unsalted butter into the KitchenAid and beat it until it was creamy. Then, added caster sugar, lemon zest and almond essence and beat the mixture again. I slowly added two eggs, sifted in plain flour and baking powder, and mixed in some lemon juice. Now, this is where watching the Bake Off came in really useful. The recipe says that, as soon as the flour is worked in, you should get your hands into the bowl to bring the mixture together. Left to my own devices at this point, I would have added a lot more flour, because the mixture I had was really sloppy. Having watched the Bake Off, and seen how wet the contestants’ mixtures were, I left it as it was.
I lined a baking tray with baking paper and, as per the recipe, scattered almonds over it (a departure from the Bake Off biscotti, where the contestants worked nuts and other lovely stuff into their mixture before shaping it). I floured my hands and tried to get the mix into a rectangular shape. I couldn’t pick it up in one piece because it was so wet, so I tipped it out of the bowl onto the baking tray and tried to shape once it was on the tray. The recipe says that the rectangle should be around 30x9cm, and 1.5cm thick. I think my rectangle may have been a bit wider and thinner. It was very sticky and rough around the edges.
I put the tray in the oven at 160° fan. The recipe says that the first bake should take between 30 and 35 minutes, and the biscotti block should be golden brown and firm to the touch. I kept a careful watch, because, on television, they said that the block should be just set so that the biscotti didn’t burn during the second bake. My biscotti mix seemed to be set golden after just 23 minutes, so I took it out of the oven and then started to worry that it was underdone.
The recipe says that the block needs to cool for five minutes before it’s cut into biscotti shapes. The Bake Off advice was that it needed to be cold before it was cut so that the biscotti didn’t crumble. There was a lot of wafting going on in the tent on Wednesday. The contestants had a strict time limit which I could never have kept to.
Once my biscotti block had cooled (I gave it a lot longer than five minutes), I cut it into biscotti shapes. The recipe says I should have had twenty four biscuits. I had twelve long ones. Should have made my rectangle thicker. I put the biscotti cut-side up onto a baking sheet and put them into the oven at 150° fan for 25 minutes. I left them to cool and made some icing from icing sugar and lemon juice which I drizzled over the biscuits once they were cold. This is the end result.
Taste-wise, they were fine, although the almond flavour didn’t really come through. They did, alas, lack that all-important snap. The absence of a crunch could have been down to many things. Perhaps the mixture was too wet. Maybe the first bake wasn’t long enough – I don’t know. Mary and Paul would have raised their eyebrows, shaken their heads sadly, and moved on.