These crunchy, twice-baked biscuits are the Italian dunking biscuit of choice, traditionally served with coffee or a sweet dessert wine at the end of a meal. Originally from the Tuscan city of Prato where they are often served with the regional sweet wine Vin Santo, here they are more commonly known as Cantucci or Cantuccini. The word biscotti is used in Italy more generally to refer to many types of biscuit, but here in Britain, it refers specifically to these firm, nut-studded slices.
Biscotti literally translates as 'twice-cooked', referring to the method in which the biscuit dough is baked firstly as one large log, which is then sliced, and the individual portions are then baked a second time to really crisp up. This results in a very hard, crunchy texture, making them ideal for dipping in drinks so that they soften slightly.
Although highly adaptable to different flavours and additions, the main feature of a biscotti dough is the lack of any fat. The traditional recipe calls for the flour, sugar and nuts/fruits to be bound together with only eggs, resulting in a stiff dough that can easily be rolled and shaped into logs. The lack of fat and firm texture also mean that these biscuits keep very well, and are therefore a perfect choice for giving as gifts, particularly at Christmas.
When it comes to additions, almonds are the normal nut of choice in Tuscany, but any nuts, seeds and dried fruits can be incorporated into the dough to add texture and interest. Adam Byatt's cranberry and pistachio version are particularly festive with their jewel-like colours. Flavour can be added with spices or citrus zest, such as in Theo Randall's orange-scented biscuits. Chocolate chips could be rolled in the dough, or the finished biscuits could be dipped in a layer of melted chocolate for extra indulgence.