Saturday, 31 December 2016

Croquants au chevre et aux noix

We anglophones tend to think of biscotti as an Italian classic, but actually these hard crisp biscuits exist in other European culinary traditions too. In France they are called croquets or croquants by people in conversation and by artisan bakers, although in the supermarket they will often be labelled 'biscotti'. A friend made some to hand round after a botany outing. She was bemused by me apparently suddenly switching from French to Italian, and told me the biscuits were called croquants.

The recipe below is my savoury take on the subject, using local tourangeaux ingredients.

Savoury Goats Cheese and Walnut Biscotti (Croquants au chèvre et aux noix)

125 g walnuts
2¼ cups flour
60 g mature dry goats cheese
¼ cups maize meal
1 tbsp sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1½ tsp salt
¼ piment d'Espelette
2 eggs
150 ml buttermilk
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

  1. Turn the oven on to 180°C.
  2. Roast the nuts in the oven for about 8 minutes.
  3. Grate, crumble or chop the cheese, depending on its consistency.
  4. Remove the nuts from the oven and allow to cool. Leave the oven on.
  5. Mix together the flour, cheese, maize meal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and piment d'Espelette.
  6. Roughly chop the walnuts and add to the dry ingredient mix.
  7. In a separate bowl beat the eggs with the buttermilk and thyme. 
  8. Pour the wet mixture into a well in the dry mixture and work it with a fork and then your hands until it forms a fairly stiff dough.
  9. Divide into 4.
  10. Roll each quarter into a sausage about 25 cm long and put on an oven tray lined with a silicone sheet or baking paper. If it is a bit sticky, sprinkle the work surface with a little flour. Space the logs about 10 cm apart and use two trays.
  11. Bake for 20  minutes, then remove and cool for a couple of minutes.
  12. Turn the oven down to 100°C.
  13. Using a bread knife, cut the logs into slices. Angle the knife diagonally to get long oval slices.
  14. Put the slices back on the lined oven trays and put back in the oven for 30-40 minutes.

Substitutions and Notes
  • You could replace the walnuts with pine nuts. 
  • Any cheese will work so long as it doesn't have too high a moisture content. 
  • Maize meal is a flour made from ground maize (corn) that you might use to make tortillas. It is sold under a variety of names but it is not 'cornflour' (aka cornstarch) or polenta. If you can't get it, just use extra wheat flour. 
  • Piment d'Espelette is a mild chilli powder from the Pyrenees. It's expensive and not available everywhere, so use hot paprika instead if you want.  
  • If buttermilk (lait ribot or lait fermenté in France) isn't available where you are, use plain yoghurt. 
  • The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that it is rosemary in the photo, not thyme. That is because I don't have a thyme plant at the house and getting some for the photo would have involved going down to the orchard to cut some thyme. Rosemary is very nice in this recipe as well.
  • The biscotti (as us anglophones would call them) will not be as brittle as the classic sweet version, because of the cheese. They are very savoury and moreish though.


Ken Broadhurst said...

Looks very good. When you say "¼ maize meal" do you mean ¼ cup? In the U.S. corn meal comes in fine, medium and coarse grinds. In France I use quick-cooking polenta as coarsely ground meal. And the salt I assume is 1½ teaspoons?

Susan said...

I've corrected the recipe to show the measures I'd missed. Thanks for picking that up. The maize meal I use is Francine brand 'préparation pour pâte à tortillas de maïs'. It comes as a 400g sachet in a cardboard box, and is actually half maize and half wheat flour. Francine is a widely available brand who do all sorts of flours, but probably not all supermarkets stock the tortilla flour. I've also used Kabato brand 100% maize flour, which I found in Noz and seems to come from the Ivory Coast. Thinking about it, you probably could use polenta.

melinda said...

looks great...happy new year!

chm said...

My late partner's daughter used to make sweet biscotti with almonds and, probably dried, cranberries. They were extremely good.

Susan said...

Thanks, and the same to you too.

Susan said...

I love almond biscotti. I've never made them with dried fruit of any kind though.

Ken Broadhurst said...

I wonder is the Francine brand is actually masa harina + flour, or if it is actually corn meal + flour. There is a difference. I've always understood that you can't make Mexican tortillas with corn meal.

Ken Broadhurst said...

They're good with raisins or dried cranberries. Diced up dried apricots would be good too. Prunes maybe...

Susan said...

I wondered about masa harina too, but it doesn't indicate that it is on the packet. It does say to rest the dough before forming the tortillas, to allow the maize meal to absorb the moisture and swell. I've never actually used this Francine flour to make tortillas though, so I don't know how fit for purpose it is.

local alien said...

These look delicious. I'll try them in the next few days .

Happy new year

Susan said...

Great! Let me know how they turn out and any feedback you think would be useful.

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