It’s time to be thinking about Christmas again. This year has whizzed past so fast, it’s enough to make one dizzy. While many of you are pondering Christmas puddings, sugar cookies in the shapes of angels and stars, and all the globally recognised traditional Christmas fare … nothing screams Christmas louder to me than
TORRONE … PANETTONE … PANDORO …
This is the stuff of Italian Christmas fantasies 😀
Around this time last year, I made a panettone as is my usual wont. This year I’m skipping it. As much as I’d love to do it, it takes some time and effort to make. While it’s definitely worth the effort, I have two things working against me this year: a distinct lack of free time and uncertain weather conditions (warm, cold, humid, dry, it’s all over the shop). Neither of these are conducive to good panettone outcomes 😦
So I’m going back to EASY. FAST. FABULOUS. Baked goodies that can double as gifts, are universally loved, and won’t kill me in the process!
First up are these beautiful biscotti. I love biscotti. I’ve ALWAYS loved biscotti. Does anyone remember when biscotti were all the rage?
Before the Cupcake Craze
the Macaron Mania and
the Era of the Éclair that I swear is on the horizon … although, hey, I love éclairs … I’m a big fan of choux. There will definitely be more choux here …
But biscotti! Biscotti are wonderful because they are crunchy, delicious, easy and quick to make, and lend themselves to so many flavour and texture combinations. Still, the classics are often people’s favourites. It’s hard to go past the crunch and flavour of fresh roasted nuts in a biscuit. Maybe a little chocolate 🙂
I wanted to keep these simple but with a traditional Christmas flavour, without resorting to the usual colourful pistachio and cranberry combo (although it’s wonderful, I love it). So I crushed up some crunchy Italian nougat and added this to flavour the biscotti instead of plain nuts. I used a hazelnut nougat and added in a little Triple Sec liqueur. Just because …
WOW. They have a lovely sweet honey, nutty, slightly gooey nougat crunchiness. Divine. Perfect with an espresso or even a hot chocolate. Amazing served with gelato. Or go totally traditional and serve with a little Vin Santo.
They make a lovely Christmas gift too. Place them in pretty glass jars or in clear cellophane bags, tied with ribbon. Voilà!
Come to think of it, they make a lovely gift any time.
I hope you enjoy them. If you are stuck for something to serve with coffee on Christmas day and want something quick and easy you can make ahead, this might be just the thing. I guarantee everyone will love them 🙂
Makes 4 dozen
125 grams (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
150 grams (2/3 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
15 millilitres (1 tablespoon) Triple Sec or Grand Marnier liqueur
25 grams (1/4 cup) almond meal
250 grams (2 cups) plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
100 grams torrone friabile (hard nougat)
NB: I used Flamigni torrone with hazelnuts (the blue edged bar) for this recipe:
Preheat the oven to 165℃. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper or a large silpat sheet.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and liqueur and beat until smooth.
Mix together the almond meal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and beat the dough until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.
Chop the torrone finely. You can do this by hand with a sharp knife, or in a food processor. If using a processor, use the pulse action so you don’t grind it too finely. It should not be powdered but you also don’t want large chunks. That said, some unevenness is a good thing as it adds texture.
With floured hands, scooped the dough out on to a lightly floured board. Divide into two even portions.
Roll each into a log. Transfer to the baking sheet and shape each in to a log about 36cm x 4cm, leaving space between the two as they will rise and spread as they bake.
Bake for about 25 – 30 mins until golden. You may need to rotate the tray halfway during baking to insure even browning. Remove from the oven and place the tray on a wire rack. Let the logs cool for about 5 mins.
Using a sharp serrated knife, cut each log diagonally into slices about 1 1/4 cm in width. Transfer to the baking tray standing up. It is OK if they are fairly close together but allow a little room for air to circulate.
Bake for a further 10 minutes or so. Remove from the oven. Let cool on a wire rack. They will crisp up a little more as they cool.
They keep well, stored in an airtight container, in a cool, dry spot.