It’s time for another bake and if you’ve been paying attention, you’d notice that I’m jumping ahead a section.
Now that I’ve evened out the number of remaining recipes in each of the six sections of this bakebook, I’ve been going through them in order. That particular order is as follows: biscuits and traybakes, breads, cakes, sweet pastry and patisserie, savoury bakes, and puddings and desserts.
My last bake was the failed crab soufflés, which means my next bake should be a hopefully successful pudding and/or dessert. But due to the must-serve-warm nature of a pudding and/or dessert, they’re really difficult to share at work.
I decided, then, to save puddings and desserts for when I have friends over and skip ahead to biscuits and traybakes, the easiest of all the bakes to share in an office.
The first thing you need to make praline biscotti is praline. And praline is something I’ve struggled with in the past.
Mary and Paul want me to put sugar and hazelnuts into a pan. Hazelnuts are a new purchase for me. (Thought you should know that I’ve never had cause to buy them before. Riveting stuff, I know.)
And once in the pan, I’m just supposed to put them on low heat until the sugar melts.
And here is where we come to the same issue as my other praline experience: how does sugar melt with just heat? Shouldn’t there be a liquid with it? Last time I accidentally put it on high heat and crystallized it, so I figured I’d try to do it right this time around. So I waited.
So I added water.
And then I waited again.
According to Mary and Paul, after the sugar magically melts with no heat (I mean this may be a valid scientific process that I am completely disregarding as fiction), I’m to turn it up to medium heat and “let the syrup bubble away until it turns a chestnut brown.”
And so we wait again.
And we wait some more, being sure to avoid the temptation to stir constantly.
What exactly is chestnut brown?
Since there’s so much waiting with this, I thought I’d start putting away dishes and prepping things for dinner, which turned out to be a really stupid thing to do.
Because before I knew it, the thing above turned into this:
Which turned into this:
A crystallized, sugary mess when it should be a goopy, syrupy mess.
I would redo it like I redid the walnut praline, but hazelnuts are expensive and I’m lazy, so instead I told myself that crumbled ruined praline will still taste just as good as crumbled successful praline. It’s not like it’s a topping that has to look good or anything. Once it’s cool, it’s getting pulsed in a food processor and stirred into biscotti dough.
So a choice was made to let it be.
*about half an hour later*
With the failed praline cooled, I could pulse it to within an inch of its life.
Or, if you’re Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood, pulse until it’s “coarse crumbs with a few larger lumps.” I guess that’s a more professional way of saying “within an inch of its life” but I like my way better.
Oops, I forgot to take a photo of the nearly dead failed praline.
The recipe says the butter needs to be softened, so I left it out for several hours and thought that was good enough.
Then I grabbed my electric mixer and attached the whisk attachments, as the recipe says.
And then this happened:
This is the second (or third?) time this has happened with my mixer.
I scooped the butter out of the whisks and switched to the beaters to try again. It barely worked better but it was a lot easier to scoop out the butter, so I added the sugar.
If you have a keen, Sherlockian eye, you’ll have noticed something about the sugar I’ve added, both to the praline and to this.
Do you see it?
Can you spot the clue?
You know how I try to add less sugar to all of my recipes now? Well both times I’ve added sugar today I’ve put in way too much. Like, an alarming amount.
So I had to scoop sugar out and get back to the required amount. This may be a sweeter bake than usual, but I can live with that (and I think my co-workers can too).
With the correct amount of sugar added, I could mix things up until light and fluffy.
Time to add the room temperature egg and room temperature egg yolk. And of course by “room temperature,” I clearly mean cold, fridge-fresh eggs run under warm water.
Add to that some vanilla and beat to mix.
Mary and Paul told me to add a bit of egg at a time, beating well each time. As we’ve discussed, the viscosity of eggs made this tricky, but I got through it.
With the egg thoroughly mixed in, I measured out the flour and baking powder…
…and to be honest, the ratio seemed off.
With some not-so-careful stirring (and flour down my leggings and socks), I ended up with this:
Mary and Paul say to mix until it’s incorporated, but I don’t know if it’s incorporated. It feels like it should be more binded together, you know? Less crumby?
Time to add the praline.
At this point, I’m supposed to put my hands in the bowl and bring the dough together into a ball, but that was tricky for two reasons: (1) my bowl isn’t big enough to do that; (2) the dough is too crumby to do that.
So I improvised.
I got a dinner plate involved, scooped half of the mixture onto said plate, and tried to form it into a ball (because I wasn’t sure how clean my counters were), then I formed it into a brick on the lined baking sheet and did that twice, because you’re supposed to do it twice, one ball into two balls into two bricks, and ended up with:
I should stop being so passive and saying “ended up with.” I created these misshapen, crumby biscotti bricks! And I should be proud of that.
Time to bake them.
*half an hour later*
I found a mistake in this bakebook.
Kind of a big one actually.
I would say even bigger than the time the banana bread recipe forgot to tell me what to do with the walnuts.
I am 98.5% sure that’s supposed to say 150 degrees Celsius or 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Take note for your second edition, Mary and Paul!
With those temperatures clarified, then, I can get back to the recipe. Mary and Paul want me to remove the bricks when they’re golden brown and firm. Sure it’s golden brown, but they are not yet firm. The bottoms are browning quite a bit, but I don’t want to have a mess to deal with when I slice them up, so I put them in for five more minutes.
*five minutes later*
Then I took them out to cool for 10 minutes.
Then I turned down the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (not 150) and a little bit maybe forgot about these.
But then I remembered! And sliced them up into what I would say is a biscotti size. I did not use a ruler or tape measure to make them exactly 1.5 cm thick.
It’s a new me.
With both bricks sliced, these are ready for their second bake, which is what earns them a name of a twice-baked cookie.
*20 minutes later*
For this round, Mary and Paul want me to bake them until they’re crisp and golden brown and, again, the colour was there, but not the texture.
So I waited a little more.
*a little more later*
Oops, that was French. These are Italian cookies. In a British bakebook.
Si signore! The-a biscotti-a are-a cooked-a! Imma Mario!
(I apologize to all Italians everywhere.)
I didn’t try one tonight because I need to eat these with coffee, but I will say they smell truly delicious.
And the crumbs were scrumptious! (Albeit a little sweet.)
*the next day*
UPDATE: Everyone liked them! They weren’t overbaked! I even had someone tell me they were the perfect crispiness for dunking.
Even with a failed praline these turned out to be a success.