Before I went vegan, biscotti were one of my favourite kinds of cookies. With their crisp texture and subtle citrus flavour, they embodied elegant munching, with a small espresso on the side. As I loved my shop-bought ones, the thought of baking them myself never occurred to me. A pity, really, because everybody knows EVERYTHING, including biscotti, tastes better homemade. A fact I was happily reminded of, when I recently set out to make an egg-free version of this old favourite. And the good news is, making these delicate treats at home is actually quite easy!
“Biscotto” is the Italian word for “twice baked”, which is what gives these cookies their characteristic crunch. First you make your basic cookie dough with flour, sugar, a binding agent and flavouring of choice. You roll it into a log and bake it until dry on the outside, then you cut the log into slices and bake these a second time for them to crisp up completely. That’s it!
The fun part of a basic recipe like this, is that starting from there you can get creative, adding flavours and tweaking ingredients until the resulting biscotti are completely after your fancy. This is what I did in my recent baking venture and I’m very happy with the result!
As a binding agent I used aquafaba, that miracle egg replacing ingredient you can so easily get your hands on, by simply draining a tin of chickpeas. I sweetened the dough with raw cane sugar and added grated orange zest and some bashed fennel seeds to give the biscotti a warm and zesty flavour. And then for the base I used a mixture of my favourite baking products, buckwheat flour and almond flour. The almond flour gives the baked cookies a slightly courser crumb, which I personally love, whereas the buckwheat flour adds a lovely depth of flavour.
To make sure I wasn’t standing alone in my preferences, I baked two versions of these biscotti, one with the gluten free flour mixture above and another using plain white wheat flour. After subjecting all my helpful family members and friends to a blind tasting test, I was happy to find the buckwheat biscotti coming out on top, so I think a new favourite is born!
The plain flour variety wasn’t all that bad either, though. So if you want to give that one a try instead, because white flour’s all you have at hand, or because you prefer to stay close to the original, I can heartily recommend that too. Simply swap the flour mixture with an equal amount of white flour, and keep in mind you’ll need 1 to 2 tablespoons less of the aquafaba for the mixture to start holding together.
I hope you’ll be as happy with your home-baked biscotti as I am and if you try them, I’d love to hear!
Buckwheat biscotti with orange and fennel seed – makes about 15-20
- 100 g buckwheat flour *)
- 50 g almond flour
- 100 g raw cane sugar
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- grated zest of 1 orange
- 2 tsp. fennel seeds
- 50 g unsalted almonds
- 6-7 tbsp. aquafaba, drained from a 400 g tin of chickpeas (use the chickpeas to make hummus, harira, couscous or crisp-roasted spiced chickpeas)
*) If you prefer, you can replace the mixture of buckwheat and almond flour with an equal amount of plain white flour. In this case, you’ll need 1 to 2 tablespoons less of the aquafaba for the mixture to start holding together.
Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
In a large bowl, mix the buckwheat flour, almond flour, cane sugar and baking powder. In a mortar, bash the fennel seeds until coursely ground. Add the orange zest, ground fennel seeds and almonds to the flour mixture.
A tablespoon at a time, stir the aquafaba through the dry ingredients, until the mixture holds together when lightly pressed. When too dry, add another spoonful of aquafaba, when you’ve added a bit too much and the mixture gets sticky, stir in some extra buckwheat flour.
Shape the dough into a log and transfer it to a lined baking sheet.
Bake the dough for 30 minutes until lightly browned and firm on the outside.
Take the baking sheet out of the oven and let the dough cool slightly until cool enough to handle. Using a serrated knife, cut the log into 1 cm thick slices, either at a straight angle or diagonally for more elongated biscuits. Return the slices to the baking sheet, cut sides up.
Bake the biscotti for another 15 minutes until browned and dry in the middle.
Leave to cool on a wire rack; the biscotti will crisp up as they cool down.
Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days.