We loved all of the entries into our latest Cook-Off Competition and it was great to see such a wide range of dishes. We received everything from pastas and biscuits to breads and cakes, but there can only be one winner. And that winner is:
Alexandra McDermott from The Lass in the Apron
We were blown away with Alexandra’s Tuscan Panforte Biscotti, a twist on the classic festive treat, and decided to catch up with her after the win.
What gave you the inspiration for the Tuscan Panforte Biscotti?
“Since the cook-off took place in mid-November and I was already in the midst of planning my Christmas baking, I naturally turned to looking up Italian Christmas specialties. My research showed that panforte was clearly the most iconic Christmas sweet in Tuscany, and particularly in the town of Siena, which lays claim to inventing the spice-and-nut-laden fruitcake.
“I was immediately intrigued by the tradition of including seventeen ingredients in panforte recipes, as a tribute to the seventeen contrade of Siena, but I wanted to do something a little more creative than just making my own version of the recipe. So I decided to work out a recipe for biscotti that would mirror its flavours instead. I did manage to get seventeen ingredients into the biscotti and all those dried fruits and spices give the cookies a rich, complex flavour that is quite exciting to taste.”
Has Italian cuisine influenced your cooking in any way?
“I enjoy studying world cuisines as a way to learn about nations’ cultures and histories, and have always found Italian cuisine fascinating because it varies so widely from region to region. It really seems to showcase local produce and the influence of the ethnic groups that settled the various areas, which I think is wonderful. I haven’t actually ever visited Italy before, although I love its food, so am very excited to finally be traveling there and hope to learn some interesting local recipes that I can bring back and recreate in my own kitchen!”
What are you most excited about doing when you visit Italy?
“This is my travel technique wherever I’m on vacation: climb every tall building you can find, so that you can then enjoy exploring the local cuisine and eating lots of sweets without worrying. I intend to spend one day of my trip to Italy climbing to the very top of Florence’s Duomo before embarking on a tour of the city’s best gelaterias. Delicious!”
Alexandra has won a beautiful weekend away in one of our Florence villas. To see her winning recipe check out on her blog, The Lass In The Apron. Of course, we extend a great thanks to everybody who entered the Tuscany Now Cook-Off Competition!