Turning off Mombasa Road, driving through Industrial Area to Jogoo Road, there’s matatus, motorbikes, and people selling kitchen towels, world maps, and bananas everywhere. This is no sterile environment. The senses get a serious workout, and the nose is not to be left out. Road construction dust, exhaust fumes, overripe bananas. But then suddenly, you wonder if you have entered the twilight zone. The scent of warm, freshly baked biscuits and cookies wafts towards you from the House of Manji factory. And as the traffic crawls forward sadly the nose workout continues.
Ok, so maybe you don’t drive through Industrial Area. But you know the smell I’m talking about. Remember walking past Paul’s Cookiemans in town, or the supermarket bakery, or your mum’s kitchen? That smell of warm vanilla and sugar? That’s the one I mean.
These cookies have that warm heady smell. This is not the first biscotti (sounds just like biskuti in Swahili) recipe on the blog, but after visiting Rome, I wanted to bake the drier, more brittle cookie different from the regular butter cookies.
Kenyan biscotti variations
Almonds are plentiful in Italy but expensive in Kenya. What are our options? Perhaps cashew nuts or macadamia nuts. Roasted and peeled peanuts would be a pocket-friendly option.
What about chunky slices of coconut meat lightly toasted? I should patent this because I think it is an amazing recipe waiting to be unleashed on the world. Watch this space …
Are you like Suzie?
Suzie doesn’t like nuts in her baked goods. So if you are like her, substitute the nuts with raisins, sultanas, cranberries, chocolate chips, or grated coconut. This recipe is a basic guide, so go ahead and mix whatever makes your taste buds sing. And please share your ideas!
Cookies that can be made without this one important ingredient
Butter. As a result they are dry and can break a tooth. Dunk them in tea, coffee, or sweet wine. Enjoy!
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 4 eggs and 1 egg yolk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 3 cups/ 390g all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups toasted almonds (or nuts or your choice)
- 1 egg white for egg wash
DirectionsPreheat the oven at 160°C or 350°F.
In a medium bowl, whisk 1 1/4 cups sugar, 4 eggs, and 1 egg yolk. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 teaspoon almond extract and continue whisking until the mixture is light in colour and foamy (one to two minutes).
Add 3 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon of baking powder to the egg mixture. Mix using a wooden spoon because it is a dense and sticky batter.
Add the 1 1/2 – 2 cups of nuts (or nut and fruit mix) to the cookie dough.
Heavily dust the counter with flour and scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto the counter. Flour your hands and bring the dough together. Use a knife or a pastry scraper to divide the dough in two.
Lift transfer onto a greased and floured baking tray. Pat and shape with your hands until you have 2 long rectangles or logs. It helps them cook evenly if they are of equal thickness.
Place them some distance apart since they will spread. Bake for about 25 minutes. It still looks quite pale, like it’s not done. That’s fine.
Remove them from the oven and cool for 5-10 minutes. While they are still warm, slice them diagonally and return to the baking tray with their “insides” (not the crust side) facing up this time.
Bake for another 15 minutes.