the red kitchen has been a veritable hive of activity over the last few days. even as i type, the oven is getting ready for my second batch of biscotti, and a tray (the third!!) of aniseed chräbeli are cooling on the balcony. all this biscuity goodness is because biscuits are the order of the day, around here at this time of the year. the swiss go bonkers over biccies at christmas. i used to think it strange when we lived i oz that bruno would go so crazy over biscuits, but having been here for 3 christmases now, i totally understand. you can’t look anywhere without seeing a stall full of guetzle (biscuits). people generally make (themselves! from scratch!) a few different types of biscuits then bundle them up in little cellophane bags with ribbons and give them to friends at christmas (weihnacht) time. how civilised! on the bus on the way home today a woman was telling me how her mother makes 16!!!! different types of guetzle every year. that’s amazing. i’d love a cellophane bag of goodies from her.
at our house we are much more restrained. the most we can manage is maybe 3 or 4 different types. last year we made mailänderli (a basic kind of butter biscuit, sweetly flavoured with lemon zest and kirsch, in all kinds of shapes), chräbeli (aniseed and kirsch flavour, shaped into a kind of ‘claw’ – these are bruno’s absolute favourite, hence the three trays), and not-very-traditionally-swiss-but-still-yummy almond biscotti. this year we will do the same, except we’ve upped the quotient of kirsch in both mailänderli and chräbeli for extra oomph, added orange zest as well as lemon zest in the mailänderli, doubled the amount of biscotti made, and perhaps will make some lebkuchen (gingerbread). oh, and maybe some spitzbuebe (2 mailänderli biscuits sandwiched together with jam), too, if we have the time (not to mention patience).
making guetzles is a fun thing to do with kiddies, too, as long as you don’t expect them to stick with it for the whole marathon making/baking session. on sunday morning when bruno was making the mailänderli and chräbeli max was happy to help with the mixing but soon got tired of the stamping and brushing with egg yolk. so we staggered the steps of the whole process and he got to help with all the fun bits without getting too bored. the best bit, of course, was eating warm buttery mailänderli straight from the oven. mmmm! lola has also uncovered her inner-biscuit lover, as i found when i discovered her hunched over the biscuit tin that she had somehow managed to pull onto the floor, stuffing as many biscuits into her little mouth as she could. busted custard, lolly!
the motherlode: bruno’s mum’s guetzle book, from which all good things issue forth.
sunday morning: max, bruno, chräbeli mix
here, then, is the recipe for biscotti. it’s easy peasy. tomorrow i’ll post the recipes for the more swissy bicccies.
almond biscotti, via jill dupleix, from ‘old food’
100g almonds, toasted in a hot dry pan, roughly chopped
240g castor sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs, plus an extra egg yolk
– pre-heat oven to 180°c
– in a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, vanilla, whole eggs and egg yolk together, until the mixture starts to form a ball and come away from the sides. this is easiest done in a food processor, or (if you are blessed) with a kitchenaid. i used a hand-mixer, as i have neither of the above.
– form mixture into a ball and turn out onto a floured benchtop. knead a little, then sprinkle over the toasted chopped almonds. knead for a couple of minutes until the almonds are mixed through. you might need to add soem more flour to prevent this from making a gigantically sticky mess!
– line a baking tray with baking paper. halve mixture and form into logs about 5cm cross and 25 cm long (i got about 3). arrange on tray, leaving room for spreading.
– bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until lightly coloured and firm to the touch. let cool a little. reduce oven temp to 140°c.
– cut the loaves into slices, diagonally. arrange slices on tray again, then bake again for 30 minutes or so until crisp. don’t let them get too brown, like i did with my first batch today!! (note to self: pay attention when baking!)
– cool, then store in an air-tight container.
– absolutely excellent with coffee.