The Art of Life: Apricot & Masala Chai Biscotti

Apricot & Masala Chai_insertHello, I’m Clementine the Baker Cat. The other day I invited my feline friends Gia and Pari to tea. Gia is from Italy and Pari is from India. They moved to London a few years ago. They always complain about the same things…

‘I went to this new coffee shop,’ said Gia. ‘Time Meout said they do the best coffee in London, but it was nothing like Italian coffee.’ She shook her head dramatically. ‘Outside Italy no one knows how to make proper coffee and how to drink it! People here drink cappuccinos after 11 am! Non capisco!’

‘I made fish tikka masala last night,’ said Pari. ‘But again, it didn’t taste quite right with the supermarket fish. In India, markets are open everywhere and everyday and you can get the freshest ingredients.’

Since Gia moved to London, finding coffee that satisfies her high Italian standard has become her mission. She visits new coffee shops everyday, sometime ten a day. At one point, too much caffeine intake gave her insomnia. Similarly, Pari has been struggling to recreate Indian dishes as exactly as they are in her home country without much success. She nearly starved to death once because she missed real Indian food so much. She wept when she dined in Brick Lane with disappointment and she has never gone back since.

As you might know, cats are creatures of habit and hate it when there is any change in their environment: litter, food, collar, new furniture, new house or new city. It is always hard for many people to start a new life in a new place.

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Every time these topics comes up, I usually say, ‘Have some tea. It will make you feel better.’

This time, I offered them my Apricot & Masala Chai Biscotti with the tea. My double-baked Italian biscuits (biscotti means ‘twice-cooked’ in Italian) are made with chopped dried apricots and chunky almonds, flavoured with masala chai spices and ground tea leaves, and covered with white chocolate and coconut flakes.

‘These biscotti are gorgeous, Clementine!,’ said Pari. ‘So crunchy and lovely flavours! I’ve never tried masala chai flavoured biscuits before but I love it!’

‘Me, too!’ said Gia. ‘I usually have my biscotti with coffee, but these ones go really well with this milky tea. This tea is buono! What is it?’

‘It’s good old Yorkshire Tea,’ I said. ‘By the way, did you watch last week’s Great British Bake OffBiscuit Week?’

‘Of course! it’s our favourite show!’ cried Gia and Pari in unison. Then, we continued our tea and enjoyed talking about GBBO, a new fish and chippy shop we had found and our next pub quiz night etc etc.

Change is scary, but we eventually adjust ourselves and adapt the changes. It’s a great survival skill.

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The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.

– Kakuzo Okakura, The Book of Tea

*****

APRICOT & MASALA CHAI BISCOTTI
Makes about 20 biscotti

INGREDIENTS
250g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
200g brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
⅓ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
A pinch of ground clove
A pinch of ground nutmeg
2 black tea bags*
2 eggs
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
120g dried apricots, chopped
200g blanched almonds, chopped into halves

150g white chocolate, broken into small chunks
30g desiccated coconut

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas 3.** Line 2 x baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, spices and ground tea leaves from the bags in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Combine the eggs, almond extract and vanilla extract in a separate bowl or a jug, then add to the dry mixture. Mix well until all combined with a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon. Stir in the chopped apricots and almonds.
  4. Knead the mixture gently and then divide in half. Roll each piece of dough into a long log. Place the logs on the prepared baking trays (one each tray). Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes.
  5. Leave the logs to cool slightly for 10 minutes, then cut into 1.5cm thick slices.
  6. Place the slices, cut side up, on the baking trays. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes, turn over and continue to bake for another 15 minutes until golden-brown and dry throughly. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
  7. When the biscotti are cold, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water). Then dip each biscuit halfway into the melted chocolate, shake off excess, and place on wire wrack. Sprinkle the coconut over the chocolate and leave to set.

*Cheap and strong, standard black tea, such as PG Tips, works well against the strong spices.
**Every oven is unique. Know your oven and adjust the temperature and baking time.

"Hello, Mary." The best TV show!
“Hello, Mary.” The best TV show!

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