When it’s time to stake a claim

It was big news in the foodie world last month when the US magazine Cook’s Source reprinted a blogger’s story about apple pie without her permission. In fact it was big news on all sorts of levels that together combine to create a rather juicy narrative: first, the discovery; then the “apology” (in which the now much-maligned editor of Cook’s Source made the mistake of suggesting that the original author ought to have compensated her for fixing a piece which was ‘in very bad need of editing‘), and finally the dramatic finale: “The Internet Has Killed Cook’s Source. Lessons learned: don’t underestimate the power of the interwebs, aka don’t believe for a second that you can get away with anything as stupid as stealing in a glass house.

(Bonus irony: apple pie is apparently one of those recipes that is not, by law, copyrightable because it’s as American as, well, apple pie, and therefore, like the blue sky, is regarded as common property).

All of which is a roundabout way of seizing my (self-appointed) title of biscotti queen, more about which shortly. But first, my adventures with “Trevor’s” infuriatingly ubiquitous moist cappuccino cake. I still can’t figure out where Cell C (yes, the mobile phone company) is going with this, but whenever I do a recipe search (never for a moist cappuccino cake, by the way), somewhere on the page is a link to “the moist cake“. Click it, and you are directed to this silly photograph, plus a recipe for…a moist cappuccino cake.

Well it looks like a pretty nice moist cake, so with the Philosophe’s birthday coming up, I thought it the perfect opportunity to get Trevor out of my system.

Except, this is of course not Trevor’s cake at all – as the recipe rightly states, it originates from BBC’s Good Food magazine (and a brief Google search will take you to that very fount). Fair and well, but half the reason I wanted to make this cake is because of what it looks like in Trevor’s hands. In real life, however, it should look more like this:

(Naturally you should never trust a mobile phone company to provide you with correctly represented recipes).

Undaunted, I forged on and got on with my own version of the Good Food cappuccino cake. Important tweaks: soak cake layers in Ponchos “tequila coffee” instead of boring old coffee; fill cake with icing of mascarpone and orange-scented dulche de leche instead of boring old mascarpone with coffee; slather cake with Lindt’s fabulous Twist of Sea Salt chocolate. And then build an android munching an apple out of marzipan:

It was moist and boozy, like a good cake should be. Thanks to Trevor and Good Food, I think this was some of my best work yet.

To the biscotti. Unlike my various misadventures down the elusive brownie hole, I’ve only ever used one biscotti recipe. I am sorry to say I don’t remember where I found it, but it was something that I photocopied and then cut out to stick in my then-little private recipe collection. I’ve used the recipe so many times that I should know it off by heart, yet I return to that grubby page every time I make them – which is doubly silly given that I think I started tweaking the recipe the second time I made them (approx. 500 batches ago).

So here it is, “my” (tweaked) recipe for the best biscotti:

– Toast a 100g of almonds, set aside to cool, then chop roughly

– In one bowl, mix 240g flour + 180g sugar + 1 tsp baking powder + pinch of salt

– In another, lightly whisk 3 eggs + 1 tsp vanilla

– Add eggs to the dry stuff, mix a bit, and then add almonds just before it all starts coming together nicely. Now take off your wedding ring and get your hands in there to knead until all the dry stuff is just incorporated (tricky timing: overknead and it will become too sticky to form into nice logs)

– Form into two nice logs and bake at 150C for 50 mins. Turn oven down to 140C. Cool logs for 5 mins, then slice horizontally into pieces that look like biscotti. Place back in the oven for 15-17 per side. Cool, store, eat.

Uhm, as a final note, it should hardly need saying that the buck obviously does not stop at almonds. Go crazy. Add aniseed. Chocolate chunks. Cocoa powder for a full chocolate monty. Caramelised ginger. Pistachio and cardamom. Cashew and coconut. Add some bran and raisins, if that’s what you need. Just don’t blame me when someone tells you they are no longer biscotti. I do think these babies need nuts. I also think they need to be thick and hard enough to deliver a satisfying mouthful of crunch.

In fact I am apparently such a snob about this that a well-known restaurateur in this city has instructed his staff not to offer me the wafer-thin, nut-free “biscotti” they offer everyone with their coffee. I think he means to punish me. That’s pretty funny.

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