Nadia's selection of delicious Italian recipes really does take the biscotti
Eleanor Gaskarth is able to savour to sweet taste of success when she meets a biscotti baker.
After tucking the young children into their beds, cleaning up the carnage of their playtime and making a start on the many missed chores of the day, most mums finally get a chance to sink into the sofa. But in a kitchen near Padstow, Nadia Pendleton's night times are her opportunity to get out the mixing bowl.
The nocturnal baker founded her business, Nadia's Biscotti, last year after she and Cornish husband Rob decided to leave London so that their sons could be closer to family and "get grubby faces and sand between their toes".
The half Italian mother-of-two is no stranger to the food industry, having been duty manager of nine of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants in London, taught cookery alongside executive and celebrity chefs, appeared on the UKTV Food Channel and reviewed over 250 cafés, restaurants and pubs in the capital for the Going Out guide. She also founded and ran a Community Kitchen social enterprise for vulnerable groups in the East End and had a cookbook, The Melting Pot, published in 2006.
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Now, however, it is all about biscotti. Nadia uses adaptations of family recipes (her mother is Italian) for the twice-baked, oblong-shaped biscuits. She said: "Traditionally biscotti are very hard and crunchy, but after tastings here people generally said they prefer them a little softer. The Italians would shout at me because for them there's only one way, but the British palette is different and the feedback has been great. Also, if a customer likes them a particular way I can very easily cater for that."
The origins of biscotti can be traced back to Roman times, when they were a durable staple for soldiers and travellers. During the Renaissance they became fashionable dipped in sweet wine, and Nadia says there are English recipes for biscotti from as long ago as 1534. "Booze and biscuits has always been the combination of kings," she said. "Britain is a nation of biscuit eaters and they did it the same as the Italians – dipping them in alcohol. If you think about trifle, it used to be about using up old cake and bread and then putting a load of other stuff in too. Nowadays we're more likely to dip them in coffee or hot chocolate than sherry and I have so much fun coming up with new flavours."
Aside from the classic almond and pine nut variety, Nadia's creations include hazelnut and dark chocolate, macadamia and white chocolate, walnut and coffee and – in what she calls her "nod to Padstow" – the Harbour Spice biscotti, made with saffron, ginger and anise. Biscotti are simple to make and, once you have the hang of it, the cook states you can add whatever you like. When I visit her she is whipping up a batch of pina colada cantucci (another term for biscotti) with coconut, dried pineapple and a lime drizzle. They look and taste fantastic, sprinkled with vivid lime zest, and make an impressive alternative to a plate of generic biscuits. While they are going through their two rounds of cooking, she produces a couple of trays of lemon and orange flower polenta biscuits and presents me with a tiny cup of cioccolata – the richest, most delicious hot chocolate I have tasted.
After moving to the Duchy and deciding to found the company, Nadia entered the Ignite Cornwall business competition and, although not scooping the £100,000 prize, came away with invaluable contacts and mentoring advice. Lacking the resources to start an industrial kitchen, she approached the award-winning Chough Bakery in Padstow and they now allow her to make any large batches of biscotti on their premises after hours. Nadia said this was typical of her experiences doing business in Cornwall: "People are so open and amenable to offers," she said. "Not just in terms of finances, but in building working relationships and reputations. I haven't found that anywhere else – and I've lived and worked all over the world."
Nadia's Biscotti can now be found in dozens of cafes as well as selling online. The business is also launching a range of baskets and packages to suit corporate customers looking for a stylish way to cater breakfast meetings. These are exciting times, but for Nadia everything revolves around the product: "Food has always been very important in my household and I love that I am taking something from my family's past and passing it on to a new audience," she said. "It makes me happy to think of somebody taking a moment during their day to sip their coffee and savour a biscotti. It's the Italian way."
For more information visit: www.nadiasbiscotti.com
Makes about 30
2 large organic eggs
60ml light olive oil
125g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
large pinch salt
60g dessicated coconut
100g dried pineapple, chopped
Preheat the oven to 150C (300F, gas mark 2).
Line a baking tray.
Whisk the eggs until light and fluffy, combine with oil and sugar. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold the dry mix into the wet mix and add the coconut. Fold in the pineapple until it comes together as a thick dough.
Scoop the mix on to the tray in two thin lines. With wet hands shape it into two long thin loaves. Bake for 35 minutes.
Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 130C(260F). When still warm, slice the loaf diagonally into 1cm thick cantucci, lay on their sides and bake again for 10-15 minutes.
Allow to cool.
(In an airtight container these will keep for about a month, if you can resist them)
150g icing sugar
juice and zest of 2 limes
Zest the lime and then squeeze the juice into a bowl, add sugar until you have a relatively thick paste, use a spoon to drizzle over the cantucci