Fig, Pistachio & Dark Chocolate biscotti

Biscotti.  A relatively new biscuit treat on my food scene.  Before marrying my Italian husband I had only ever heard of biscotti whilst watching my favourite childhood sitcom The Nanny.  To an aussie girl growing up in what sometimes could be referred to as a ‘three veg and meat’ kind of home, biscotti sounded like a very exotic biscuity treat...at that age is was hard to imagine any biscuit being more fancy than the good old Arnott’s Assorted Cream selection!  Through watching episode after episode of my favourite sitcom star with that crazy nasal voice I discovered I understood one very important thing about the nanny named Fran...she loved food so I figured this ‘biscotti’ thing must be pretty good.  Years later, I discovered just that.  Biscotti are indeed quite wonderful.

My love affair with biscotti began when I started to enjoy coffee...real coffee, an espresso; not over frothed lattes drowned with vanilla (yes I went through that stage).  Discovering the delights of a true Italian espresso was an eye opener.  The moment I enjoyed my first sip of espresso with its gorgeous crema and smooth coffee flavour I felt a sense of deep regret knowing I had spent so many years aboard the Americano ‘coffee’ train continually trying to escape any taste of real coffee through the means of creamy, over frothed cow’s milk and sugar in any form possible, syrups, sugar, artificial sweetener.  Ah what a waste.  If I only I had this lesson earlier.  But my regret soon turned to pleasure when I made my second discovery... there was a fantastic tasty treat that came along with my newly loved beverage, biscotti.  Biscotti are sweet Italian biscuits, perfectly constructed for dunking into espresso as they have made two trips to the oven ensuring they are indeed crispy and crunchy.   Biscotti are the only biscuit I know that have the stamina to hold their own whilst being plunged into a hot freshly brewed espresso.  They are perfectly shaped for an espresso cup and can even be used as a spoon to swirl your sugar through the coffee for an extra kick of sweetness.
Once I understood the amazing synergy of the espresso biscotti experience, I speedily turned my attention to baking my very own biscotti.  I decided very quickly that these amazing treats must take up permanent residence in our home and that meant I had to get baking.  And along with this came a world of possibilities for me, I could add anything I liked to the biscotti mixture and although I kept my biscotti flourishes quite straightforward at the beginning (simple orange and almond) I have since moved into more exotic realms and my latest experiment has been dark chocolate, pistachios and dried figs.  And thus far, this combination of flavours has proven to be one of my favourites.  The dried figs work so well because they add a chewy, sweet dimension against the crunchy texture of the biscotti.  The dark chocolate works because...well its dark chocolate and when plunged into a hot espresso the chocolate begins to melt and form molten pockets of chocolaty goodness.  The green and purples hues of the pistachios also add some much needed prettiness to the biscotti as well as a different kind of crunch experience. 
Biscotti are as easy to make as they are to devour.  There is no need for heavy kitchen equipment like electric beaters or a food processor...nope this process is as easy as adding wet ingredients to the dry.  And I love it!  There is such a great sense of satisfaction knowing you’ve created a wonderfully tasty treat that will keep for weeks using very little effort. 
 The secret ability of the biscotti’s long shelf life lies in the double baking process.  Once the biscotti mixture is combined, you form four logs (approximately 10cm x 4cm) and bake for 20 minutes.  Then the fun begins.  Once the logs are cooked and cooled slightly you take a long serrated knife and thinly slice each log, creating the biscotti.     

The only things left to do is to bake for a further 5 to 10 minutes, depending of course on how crunchy you like your biscotti and enjoy the biscuity aromas wafting from the oven.  Then you must prepare yourself an espresso, take a fresh from the oven biscotti and plunge immediately.  You will be glad you did.  Enjoy, K.

Fig, pistachio and dark chocolate biscotti
Adapted from Italian Food Safari
600g plain flour
600g castor sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
100g dried figs
100g dark chocolate
100g pistachio, shelled
1 vanilla bean, sliced and insides scraped out
Zest of 2 oranges
Zest of 2 lemons
Zest of 2 limes
4 eggs + 2 egg yolks
60 ml Grand Marnier
Pinch salt
In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients - flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, nuts, figs, chocolate, vanilla and the citrus zest.  Mix ingredients well.
Add wet ingredients and mix until well combined and forms a soft dough-like mixture.
Separate into individual logs 10cm x 4 cm.   Wrap and refrigerate until required.
Bake each log in a moderate oven – 180ºC  until golden brown on the outside.
Allow to cool. Thinly slice biscotti crosswise, place on a baking tray and re- bake until each biscuit is cooked through- approximately 5 minutes.

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