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Spiced Almond and Date Biscotti

My recipe for spiced almond and date biscotti is completely inspired by Ka’ak Asawir (which I believe are also referenced as  Ka'ak bi ajwa (biscuits with dates), and adjacent to ka'ak bi ma'moul (filled butter biscuits). Ka'ak Asawir (bracelet biscuits) are most popular in Palestine and are a ring biscuit dough which contains a ring of a spiced date paste through the centre. The dough can be made with semolina in place of flour. After I had read about these last year, I was fascinated by the flavours of the spices used in them. Unsurprisingly it was during a usual food craving that I decided to try these flavours in a different form of biscuit, namely the biscotti. The short of it is that I wanted a thick crunchy biscuit and was really not enthusiastic for what I would call the typical flavours used in biscotti (chocolate, citrus, etc) at the time. I kept thinking about the spices used in Ka'ak Asawir, along with the idea of dates providing a nugget of sweetness. Needing an extra crunch I thought I would use chopped almonds given they won't try and drown out or affect the other flavours. I've used a bit of trial and error with respect to the spices, and opted to use both star anise and fennel seeds. Despite the use of both, they do not overpower and don't taste of liquorice. Instead, the combined spices give what I can only describe as a comforting heady fragrance. They are truly moorish and I can't keep them long as I scoff them far too quickly.


Given this is very much my bastardisation of a recipe (I'm not going to sugar coat it), it's in no way authentic, and would definitely feel inappropriate to simply name them as Palestinian Biscotti for example. Instead I want to fully acknowledge the inspiration behind these, especially in a time where it's unlikely Ka'ak Asawir are being made in Palestine, although I hope they are once again (and soon).

Makes 14-16 (large)

Hands-on Time 15 minutes plus cooling

Baking Time 50 minutes



Ingredients

4 Cardamom pods

2 Star anise

1/2 tsp Fennel seeds

120g Caster sugar

250g Plain flour (plus extra for dusting)

1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1/4 tsp Ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp Fine salt

1 tsp Baking powder

2 Eggs, large

150g Dates, dried & stoned

100g Almonds, blanched & whole


Equipment

Baking sheet

Parchment

Coffee grinder/bullet blender (or pestle and mortar)

Mixing bowl

Spatula

Scissors

Knife

Serrated bread knife

Wirerack


Preheat your oven to 180°C/160°C(Fan)/350°F/Gas mark 4.


Line a baking sheet with parchment.


Crack open the cardamom pods and remove the seeds. I use the bottom of the spice jar to split them open. Discard the shells and any husk.


Add the cardamom seeds, star anise, fennel seeds, and sugar to the grinder/blender. Pulse until you have a fine powder.


You may need to give the grinders/blender a shake occasionally should pieces of anise still be visible.


Add the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking powder to a bowl.

Carefully tip the spiced sugar on top (it will be like icing sugar). Stir with a spatula to combine.

Add the eggs and gently cream together until you have a thick mixture.

Snip the dates over the bowl into slivers using scissors.


Chop the almonds and also add them to the bowl.

Give the dough a final stir under the dates and nuts are evenly distributed.


Tip the mixture onto the lined baking sheet. Try and form a long and wide sausage shape (about 35cm long by 5cm wide).

It’s okay of you pat the sides so they are flat rather than round, they will spread when they bake.


Pop the sheet into to the oven on a middle shelf for 25 minutes.


Once the time is up remove the sheet from the oven and lower the temperature to 150°C/130°C(Fan)/300°F/Gas mark 2.


Leave the biscotti log to sit for about 5 to 10 minutes until it’s cool enough to touch.

Slide the log onto a worktop (or chopping board), keeping the parchment on the sheet.


Using a bread knife slice diagonally along the biscotti loaf, spacing each slice by about 2 cm.

Place the cut biscotti back onto the parchment, laying them on their sides.

When you’ve sliced all of the biscotti pop the baking sheet back into the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden. Take the sheet out, carefully turn the biscotti over and pop the sheet back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes.

When both sides of biscotti are lovely and golden remove the baking sheet from the oven.

Transfer the biscotti onto a wire rack and leave to cool before tucking in.

Enjoy!


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