Let me paint a picture for you, a picture that is still so vivid in my mind, it was as if I was there yesterday.
The warmth of the Sicilian sun was just starting to soak into the earth and the air was becoming thick with humidity, as we meandered through the shadows of the tree lined Corso Vittorio Emanuele.
Street vendors were beckoning and offering samples of their local produce; sun dried tomatoes so sweet they resembled candy, deliciously crisp and creamy almonds and the darkest of chocolate, a speciality in the area known as Modican Chocolate. Strong, bitter sweet notes followed by crunchy sweet sugar grits swirled through our mouths exploding with flavour.
After taking our time to savour every flavour of the local area we made our way to the infamous ‘Cafe Sicilia’ to sample the pistachio flavoured delights on offer.
Espresso, pistachio and almond gelato and pistachio biscotto were quickly ordered, as the hustle and bustle of the busy cafe started to gear up for the midday rush. I quickly downed my espresso, bagged the biscotto and made my way outside to inhale the quickly melting gelato in the heat of the sun.
After wandering the streets and exploring the gorgeous city of Noto, I settled myself onto a bench in the shade and took out my biscotto.
The sage green of the pistachio had carried through the cooking process and the crisp outer shell of the biscotto studded with a whole pistachio looked like an emerald jewel atop a cushion of deliciousness. I bit into the biscotto and discovered a chewy, sweet macaroon style centre, with the richness of pistachio dancing across my taste buds.
It was at this moment in time I knew I had to have this recipe, as I couldn’t come back to Australia and never have this flavour again.
So, after much research and many trials, I bring to you ‘Biscotti di Pistacchi’, the flavour of my Sicilian dreams.
BISCOTTI DI PISTACCHI
200g ground pistachios
300g almond meal
50g – 100g whole shelled pistachios, for studding the tops of each biscotto
350g caster sugar
4 egg whites
1. Preheat oven to 170 degree celsius and line a couple of baking trays with baking parchment.
2. In a bowl, place ground pistachios and almond meal and mix together. (If you can’t find ground pistachios, simply use whole pistachios, roast them by dry frying them for a minute or so and then let cool. Then place pistachios in a food processor or a mortar and grind until it resembles fine crumbs.)
3. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then slowly add the caster sugar as you continue beating the whites. After a few minutes all your sugar should be incorporated into the egg whites and stiff peaks be formed.
4. Fold the egg yolks and pistachio and almond mix through the egg whites. The batter should be thick and firm enough roll into balls and hold their shape.
5. Take spoonfuls of mixture (size is dependent on personal preference, I prefer a heaped teaspoon size biscotto) and form into balls (moisten your hands before rolling to avoid sticking). Place the formed balls on the baking parchment, allowing room to spread and place one whole shelled pistachio in the middle of each biscotto, pressing gently to secure.
6. Place biscotti in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes at 170 degrees celsius, rotating the tray halfway through the bake to ensure an even temperature.
Biscotti should be lightly golden when ready.
7. After baking, remove the biscotti from the oven and leave to cool and set for 10 minutes.