Sourdough biscotti

This idea sprouted a few months ago as an attempt to use up some of the ‘discard’ from my sourdough starter — in my experience the biggest challenge of a novice sourdough baker. (The ‘discard’ is the part of the sourdough mother that is not used for baking but needs to be cast aside so that fresh flour and water can ‘feed’ the mother.)

It’s now become a joke that everyone started baking sourdough during ‘lockdown.’ I am guilty as charged, and, like everyone else, faced the existential stress, for my fledgeling sourdough mother, of finding flour in April (when, naggingly, every shop was laden with the most beautiful breads) — I even had bags shipped directly from a mill, until that source dried up too. Having (re)embarked on this adventure I was quite resolved to follow through, unlike an attempt from six years ago which miserably petered out.

I am happy to report that my starter has survived, and thrived, since March. It crossed the channel and hung out in Brittany with us for a month, it came back with us, it has even had babies who, as far as I know (and hope!), are still alive and kicking in the neighbourhood. I will write more about my experiences with sourdough, but today I am baking these biscotti. It’s not exactly starting backwards, since the trickiest aspect of sourdough has been to find the rhythm of the starter, the bread, and especially the discard, without ever having to throw any away. It is safest to embark on a sourdough adventure with a few of these ‘discard’ recipes under one’s hat.

After some attempts and fine-tuning, these biscotti have just the right texture — the ideal balance of a hard crisp outside but ever so slightly yielding inside.

Sourdough biscotti
NOTE: This recipe should be used as a template, with many possible variations in the combination of nuts, fruits, and spices.
I particularly like walnuts/dried figs/fennel seeds and also almonds/anise, and I’m sure pistachio/apricot would also be great.

40g olive oil or melted butter
3 eggs
120g sugar
Zest from one lemon
50g sourdough discard
350g white spelt flour
Generous pinch of salt
This part of the recipe is the variable:
75g nuts (coarsely chopped almonds or walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, …)
50g dried fruit if using (dried figs, apricots, …)
1 Tbsp fennel or anise seeds

Method:
In a smallish bowl, whisk together the olive oil (or cooled melted butter) with the eggs, sugar, and lemon zest. Stir in the sourdough discard.

In another, larger bowl, mix the flour with the nuts and fruit, spices, and salt. Create a well and pour in the liquid ingredients. With a wooden spoon, using circular movements, mix to combine thoroughly. Finish by hand, knead a few times, and shape into a flat ball. => If the dough is so sticky that it seems impossible to gather into a ball, add a little flour.

Cover with a tea towel and let the dough rest at room temperature for at least 2 hours, until it feels risen and puffy (it doesn’t need to have noticeably increased in size).

Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Shape the dough into two flat oblong logs and leave them to rest, covered, for another 30 min or so, until slightly puffy.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Bake the logs for 25 minutes at 200°C, then lower the temperature to 175°C and bake for another 15 minutes. The logs should be slightly coloured.

Remove from the oven, let cool enough to be able to handle, slice the logs, and return the slices to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes on one side depending on how thin you’ve cut them. Turn the biscotti over and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes => watch and check and bake to the desired colour.

The biscotti keep well in a sealed jar for a week.

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