The days are drawing shorter and there’s a very frosty bite in the air. The sun disappears that little bit earlier behind the mountains and the stars come out to play long before bed time.

This might not be the case in the Northern Hemisphere, but at the moment we are in the midst of a beautifully cold and rainy winter here in South Africa. As a committed foodie, winter signals the start of a proper food festival, filled with rich and indulgent comfort foods that warms the cockles of the heart and spreads joy through your veins, wrapping you up in warmth like a fluffy feather duvet.

It’s of course also the most dreaded season of the year for any foodie because we all know that summer follows the winter feast, and our overindulgence during the cold spell and hibernation means plenty of hard work and salads come the warm beach days. But alas, let’s indulge whilst the nights are cold and the fires are blazing! For all intents and purposes, this recipe does not count calories!

I’m not really a baker, but I always have this desire to bake something deliciously warm and extravagant to combat the winter blues. My fall-back winter treat is a family favourite. Biscotti might sound like a lot of hard work, but in fact its super easy to make, even for a non-baker like myself. Anything that pairs well with a steaming cup of hot chocolate, coffee or tea is worth the extra calories and I’m excited to share this one with you!

Though modern biscotti are associated with the Tuscan region of Italy, the popular Italian cookie traces its origins to Roman times. The word biscotto derives from “bis,” Latin for twice, and “coctum” or baked (which became “cotto,” or cooked).

For this recipe, I borrowed from Taste of Home’s recipe for “White chocolate-cranberry biscotti” and like with all things in life, I put my own unique twist on it.

I particularly enjoy the flexibility of the recipe; you can use whatever you have in the cupboard to fill the biscotti with extra deliciousness. You can experiment endlessly with flavour combinations, depending on your personal preferences.

After several tries, I ended up with my version of “chocolate maca-berry biscotti” – a gooey infusion of quality milk chocolate (from my favourite local chocolatiers, Afrikoa), chunky macadamias and tart dried cranberries. I added a good helping of lemon zest to break through the sweet of the chocolate and to add that extra zingyness to the biscotti.

For me, this baked treat is so elegant in it’s simplicity; it’s humble and unassuming, although incredibly more-ish and packed with fresh fruity flavours. It makes for a beautiful edible gift for your nearest and dearest; if you can resist not eating the whole batch yourself before it’s properly cooled! Wrapped in a colourful napkin or tea-towel with a piece of rustic string and you will most certainly be the coolest gift-giver of the year. And what spells out warm, winter love more than a homemade, edible gift?

So here goes, my slightly zhooshed up version of chocolate maca-berry biscotti – go on, you won’t regret it!

Chocolate maca-berry biscotti recipe

(Yields about 2 dozen)
Preparation time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 35 mins plus cooling 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (use the good stuff!)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup good quality white or milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped, unsalted macadamias

Directions

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. 
Combine flour and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. 
Stir in cranberries, chocolate chips and nuts. Divide dough into two or three portions.
Line baking sheets with baking paper. Shape each portion roughly into a 25cm x 12cm rectangle. Bake at 180C for 20- 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes.

Transfer to a wooden cutting board; cut diagonally with a serrated knife into 2.5cm slices.  The chocolate should still be gooey and the dough quite soft. 
Place cut side down on lined baking sheets. Bake for a further 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Please watch carefully at this stage that it doesn’t burn! 
Remove to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container once completely cooled. If you can resist, it can last up to 4 days in the airtight container.

Serve with a beautifully hot cup of coffee or your favourite tea.

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