Out of curiosity, I have been experimenting with vegan baking lately. Most efforts went into the bin, lacking any real good flavour and/or texture. I then had a eureka moment when I remembered the traditional ciambelline al vino from Rome. They are sweet, crunchy, little pastry rings, made with whine (red or white, it does not matter), olive oil and anicini (aniseed seeds) – here a good version I tried. They are really moorish and una tira l’altra, as we say: you cannot stop eating them. I decided to play around that theme, substituting few ingredients here and there and after few experiments I came up with these almond biscuits, which are, delicious, authentic and vegan, at the same time – no mean feast. They are flavoured with fennel seeds (but aniseed seeds would work too, of course), lemon zest, vanilla and a hint of cinnamon. They are not too sweet and ideal for dipping into caffelatte or just for nibbling whenever you want something sweet that is not too heavy.
I am not one for nimble tasks and I decided to turn my dough into easier, traditionally shaped biscotti, rather than into small, time consuming, ring-shaped ciambelline, but do feel free to follow tradition, of course.
I baked these biscuits using both baking powder and baking ammonia: the former yields softer (but still crunchy) biscuits, the latter crispier and drier ones.
I rarely have a bottle of white wine that is open when I need it for cooking, but I always have a bottle of extra dry white vermouth and this is what I use these days in lieu of white wine, but you might be better organised than I am.
Biscotti di mandorle al vino e olio (almond, white whine and olive oil biscotti)
150 g whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
50 g wholemeal flour
400 g 00 flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoon baking powder or baking ammonia
120 g caster sugar
the grated zest of 1 lemon or 1 orange
2 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and coarsely chopped
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
100 ml dry white vermouth
150 ml oil, half extra virgin and half neutral tasting (vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
Mix the dry ingredients together.
Mix the wet ingredients together.
Pour the wet onto the dry ingredients and mix with a fork, until a soft dough is formed. A little more extra flour or vermouth might be needed, if the dough is too wet or too dry.
This is a forgiving dough and you do not have to handle it too cautiously. Knead it until a fairly cohesive mass is obtained, even if the nuts will prevent it from being completely smooth.
Pat it into a thick rectangle, divide into into two and roll each part into a log, approximately 30 cm long and 5 cm wide.
Transfer the logs onto a lined tray; if they break up, do not worry, just pinch them back together.
Bake in a 180º C preheated oven for 30 minutes.
Remove them from the oven and allow them cool them for half and hour. Meanwhile bring the oven down to 110º C.
Cut the logs by the bias into biscotti, using a serrated knife and transfer them back onto the tray (at this point you might want to split the biscotti into two trays, actually).
Bake them for a further 40 minutes, turning them once.
Cool them on the trays, transfer them into a tin when completely cold.
The keep for ages