Wednesday, 14 November 2012
We are dunkers!
I am new to dunking and for years I couldn't understand why my husband would do it. It seemed so wrong, and the mess at the bottom when it was all over was so off putting. If you don't know what a dunker is, think tea and biscuits. For a dunker, tea is simply too wet without a good biscuit to soak up some of that liquid. There is quite a ritual or rather an art to dunking and it all starts with the right kind of biscuit. Digestives and Rich Tea (or social tea) were made for people like us. Hard and plain, they are able to soak up the tea without changing it's flavour. Italians know how to dunk too, it's what the Biscotti was made for. I'll take you through my husbands process, he's had a good 40 years of dunking experience so knows a thing or two!
First, the biscuit must pass the tap test. He gently taps it on the side of his mug or cup, looking for any weakness. Tea time can be ruined by the failure of a biscuit which breaks apart and sinks to the bottom of a perfect brew. You thought the spoon was for stirring in sugar did you? No it's for emergency biscuit rescue!
Once the biscuit has passed the tap test it can be dunked, but this is where the art comes in. Each biscuit has it's own soaking time, dunk for to long and you risk having to perform biscuit rescue and mouthfuls of mush when you finally drink the tea. Dunk to short, and the melt in your mouth texture you're aiming for is instead wet biscuit. Nobody likes a wet biscuit. I wish I could tell you the optimal dunking times, but alas this is all in the eye of the dunker and only through experience will you know. It is a feeling not a science!
We typically have a packet of Digestives in the house, but occasionally I take a cue from our Italian friends and make a good firm Biscotti. This recipe was given to me by the first friend I made when arriving in Canada. I have used it as a base and switched out the almond and chocolate for many other combinations from Cranberry and Lemon, to mint choc chip and today's Pecan Spice.
Pecan Spice Biscotti
1 1/3 cups flour (feel free to use whatever type you like, spelt, oat, light whole wheat or even a light rye)
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans ( I like to chop the nuts small as it helps when slicing the biscotti but you can have bigger pieces if you prefer)
1/2 tsp ground all spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar (I used brown as that's all I had so my biscotti are dark looking, if you use white sugar they will be a pale, well, biscuit colour!)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg white (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
Combine flour, baking powder, nuts, all spice and cinnamon in a bowl.
In a separate bowl beat the sugar and eggs together until just blended. Stir in the melted butter.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined.
Divide mixture in half and shape each half into a 12" long log on your parchment lined baking sheet. Leave a small gap between each log, they will spread a little.
Brush with egg white (optional, I hate wasting an egg just for this and never do it, but it does produce a nice crisp glaze).
Place the baking tray in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, but leave oven on. Let the biscotti cool for 10 minutes or so, then cut with a large sharp knife (especially if you decided to add bigger chunks of nut) into 1" slices. Separate the slices and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
Once cooled store in an airtight container for several weeks.
Biscotti by the way comes from the Latin word 'biscoctus' which means twice-cooked or baked and refers to any kind of bread or biscuit that has been twice cooked and therefore dried and hardened to preserve it's shelf life. No worries about that with this recipe, I'm pretty confident you'll eat them all before there is any chance of them going off. One last thing, as we like to dunk our biscotti, the flavours here are quite subtle. You may want to up the spice factor if you prefer something with a bit more umph!