I know it’s too early for Christmas, but at the same time I feel that Christmas excitement is beginning to build around Cyprus. The city decorations are beginning to go up (including the revolving Santa Clause head in Limassol), and stores have begun decorating their shops. Alpha Mega has begun selling Christmas trees. I don’t know why people around the world have begun celebrating Christmas earlier and earlier. You know how as you get older you begin to enjoy meals earlier during the day? Dinner at 8, then 7, 6, 5 then the early bird special at 4pm. Well it’s like the entire world’s population is aging and we have decided to celebrate Christmas one week earlier every year. In ten years we will be singing “12 days of Christmas” and roasting chestnuts around summer camp fires. It’s weird. Having moaned a bit about that, I still have to say that I LOVE Christmas. I love getting into the Christmas mood, and come November I am always ready to begin to get into the festive season – particular because as a Canadian we celebrate Thanksgiving in October, so come November there is no reason to wait for American thanksgiving before switching festive gears.
One of the things I love doing most around Christmas time is to make Christmas cookies. Christmas time also means more visitors than usual, and it means having to have more goodies around the house to offer guests. I love making biscotti for this reason, because if you store them properly – in air tight containers – they can last you up to two weeks. When you make biscotti, it is also easy to make a good amount – around 40 pieces. So you always have something on offer for surprise – or planned – visits. The key behind this chocolate biscotti is using good chocolate. I used Green & Blacks organic cocoa powder. (Incidently, the best store-bought chocolate ice cream I have ever had is “Green & Blacks Chocolate Ice Cream”). If you don’t use good chocolate, the biscotti will taste bland. I also found that for a proper chocolate taste, it is best to dip these in chocolate afterwards. But, you have to remember that when dipping the biscotti in melted chocolate, it may go “dull” when it dries, (unless you are able to properly temper the chocolate).
Nonetheless, the taste is still fantastic – dull or shiny chocolate. Because I was excited about Christmas, I also added some “Christmas” charm to this biscotti. I crushed a bit of peppermint candy cane (or other peppermint flavoured candy) and sprinkled it on top of the melted chocolate. But it’s great without too.
recipe very slightly adapted from the incredible David Lebovitz’ Chocolate Biscotti
2 cups flour
3/4 cups high quality cocoa powder (like Valrhona cocoa powder (100%) or Green & Blacks organic cocoa powder)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and very coarsely-chopped
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and very coarsely-chopped
3/4 cups chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. Sift and stir together your dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt).
3. In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla, almond extract.
4. Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips.The mixture will feel a bit sticky and clumpy.
5. On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough into a long roll that takes up the width of your baking pan. Place the roll on top of baking paper on your baking pan. Do the same with the rest of the dough.
6. Gently flatten the tops of the rolls. You can make your rolls flat, or more curved – whatever your preference. Sprinkle some demerara sugar (it doesn’t easily melt) on top if you have some.
7. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, and with a serrated knife (the kind you use to cut bread), slice the rolls into 1/2 inch diagonal biscotti pieces. Place the biscotti pieces on their sides. Place back in the oven for a further 20-25 minutes – keeping an eye on the biscotti, as you don’t want it to burn.
8. Optional: once cooled, dip each piece of biscotti into melted chocolate. Crush a few peppermint candy canes (or candies) and sprinkle on top of the melted chocolate. Leave outside to cool and harden.