Homemade Biscotti

Random smells

We are driving in Industrial Area, in the midst of the chaos that is Nairobi traffic and road construction dust. Matatus, motorbikes and people selling kitchen towels and bananas are everywhere. Suddenly we enter the twilight zone of smells. That yummy smell that can only be sugar, butter and baking. House of Manji factory. Breathe deep because we will soon be back to inhaling exhaust fumes.


Favourite smells

Ok, so maybe you don’t drive through Industrial Area. But you walk past the bakery at the supermarket or mall. Do you linger for a few extra seconds cause it smells so good?

The other day I realized that whenever I opened one of my kitchen cupboards, there was that delicious smell of vanilla and “bakery”. Every single time.


Italian cookies

True, I have made biscotti before, (sounds just like biskuti in Swahili) but after visiting Rome, I wanted to bake what I remembered. Random side benefit was that I had also stumbled upon how to bottle that bakery smell without the use of harmful chemicals.


Kenyan biscotti variations

Now almonds are plentiful in Italy but expensive in Kenya. What are our options? If you feel like splurging, perhaps substitute with cashew nuts or macadamia nuts.

A much cheaper option would be roasted peeled peanuts. They however have a very strong flavour. But why not if it floats your boat?

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 for 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 very dry and can break a tooth. Dunk them in tea, coffee, or sweet wine. Enjoy!


Homemade Biscotti


  • 2/3 cup butter (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 cups/ 375g all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups almonds (or nuts or your choice)
  • 1 egg white for egg wash


Toast the unsalted nuts in the oven for about 10 minutes at 160°C or 350°F.

Butter option: In a large bowl, cream 2/3 cup butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light. Beat in the 4 eggs and 1 egg yolk.  Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 teaspoon almond extract.

Non-butter option: In a medium bowl, pour in 1 1/2 cups sugar and using a whisk mix the 4 eggs and 1 egg yolk. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 teaspoon almond extract and continue whisking until the sugar dissolves.

Remove the nuts from the oven and leave to cool for about 5-10 minutes.

In a separate large bowl, mix the 3 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 heaping teaspoon of baking powder.

Butter option: To the creamed butter/egg mix add the dry ingredients and continue mixing.

No butter option: Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in egg-sugar mixture. Using a wooden spoon, mix. It is a dense and yet sticky batter.

Slice or chop the nuts. Add the 1 1/2 – 2 cups of nuts or nut and fruit mixture and combine it with the cookie batter.

Heavily dust the counter with flour and scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto the counter. Flour your hands and form the dough into a ball. Using a knife or a pastry scraper, divide in two and basically roll it in your hands until you have 2 logs. If it is the butter version divide into 3 logs. Make sure they are of equal length and thickness so that they can cook evenly.

Lift them onto a greased and floured baking tray. Place them some distance apart since they will spread. Bake for about 20-30 minutes until light brown. The butter biscotti may 40 minutes to bake. Halfway through baking time, rotate the tray.

Remove from the oven and cool for 5-10 minutes.  While they are still warm, slice them diagonally and return to the baking tray insides facing up this time.

Bake for another 15 minutes flipping them over halfway through baking.


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