Steve Manfredi reckons a good biscuit beats a macaron hands down.
I’m sure the macaron craze that has hit Australia has a lot to do with how cute and colourful they look. Their popularity may also owe something to their cream filling, which comes without the kilojoule commitment a whole piece of cake would entail.
For me, however, the artificial colours used in many macarons are a huge turn-off. Give me a good biscuit any day. As Dan Lepard says in his new e-book, Short and Sweet, the perfect biscuit ” … has a crispness at the edges when freshly baked, a moist and slightly chewy heart and, most importantly, a rich, buttery flavour”.
Four classic drinks accompany biscuits but some are better matches for particular biscuits than others.
Dunking biscuits in creamy milk is an early childhood memory of mine. I still love dunking ginger snaps, holding them down with a spoon so they soften a little and soak up the milk. Milk is generally biscuit-friendly.
Coffee, either espresso or milk-based, suits big flavours such as chocolate, heavy spices and rich fruits such as date and fig but I find the endless nuances of tea even more interesting and versatile.
Try these pistachio and sesame biscotti with a fine assam or darjeeling tea and the richer flavours of the Nutella baci with a full-bodied Taiwanese oolong.
And let’s not forget the adults-only biscuit accompaniment. Sweet wine, such as Tuscan Vin Santo or Rutherglen Tokay and Muscat, is the ultimate biscuit partner. Macarons are far too sweet to go with these.
PISTACHIO AND SESAME BISCOTTI
Make a large batch and give them away as Christmas presents. They’ll last a few weeks in an airtight container.
Preheat oven to 170C. In a mixer, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Sift flour and baking powder together in a bowl. Mix in polenta, salt, pistachio and sesame seeds. Add mixed dry ingredients to creamed butter-sugar in a mixer bowl.
Use a paddle attachment to slowly combine ingredients, adding the beaten eggs a little at a time, until mixture is smooth. Shape dough into logs about 8cm wide and 2cm high. Make them as long as your baking trays can handle.
Place baking paper on each tray and logs on top. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove and let cool. With a serrated knife, cut the logs into biscotti about 1cm wide and return to baking trays. Reduce oven temperature to 150C. Bake biscotti for a further 8-10 minutes so they are dry and crisp. Remove from oven and leave to cool before serving.
Makes about 160 biscotti
Wine: Vin Santo or Rutherglen Tokay
Preheat oven to 160C. Place everything except Nutella in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Shape into a log, wrap tightly with cling film and rest in the fridge for at least an hour.
Roll mix into small balls the size of a 10¢ piece, working quickly with lightly floured hands, and place on a buttered baking sheet. Place back in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
Remove and allow to cool on tray. Once cooled, spoon a little Nutella between the flat sides of two baci and gently stick them together. Store in a well-sealed container in the fridge and they will last a week.
Makes 40-50 biscuits
Wine: Rutherglen Muscat or Pedro Ximenez