I’m still slogging through my backlog of pictures from the holidays. Next up is Alida’s and my second annual biscotti bake-a-thon. Just to be clear – this is separate from the cookie party. Last year we made biscotti on a whim and then handed it out as Christmas presents, and this year my stepmother specifically requested them, so that was easy.
With the rise of the coffee shop, biscotti are venturing out of obscurity and into ubiquity. When they pop up in bags at your local grocery chain, you know something has gone mainstream. Before I go about making something from scratch, I often weigh whether or not it would be easier or tastier for me to buy it at a store, compel someone else to make it for me, or go to a restaurant. I think that biscotti truly deserve to grace your kitchen, because of two main reasons: 1) they are easy and 2) I don’t like the gum-scratching shattery biscotti that are mass produced. If I make them myself, I can underbake them slightly and enjoy a more sensuous cookie that still holds itself up to my caffe latte.
While biscotti are surprisingly easy to make, they do take a little bit of a time commitment, so don’t try any before-I-go-to-work-I’ll-just-try-this-out-ness. Traditional biscotti are made with olive oil instead following the usual American urge of butter; this way they don’t spoil as quickly and linger around your kitchen for dunking into coffee at any time of day or night as the urge springs upon you. However, the rise of butter in biscotti is upon us, and two of the three recipes we used do indeed use butter. It’s a flavor thing, I think. Just go ahead and store those suckers in the fridge and they’ll keep nicely.
Basically you par-bake (not a real word, but you get my gist) a log of dough, then slice them and slowly dry out the cookies. When they are fully dry you can eat them up or dip them in chocolate. We decided to do both, because the chocolate ones are rather too intense to dip in your coffee, but excellent for dessert with ice cream.
We made three types of biscotti, but I’m not going to post the orange-almond recipe, because it wasn’t exactly what we wanted. I’ll post the pictures of it to show you generally how biscotti should look along the way, but it had very little orange flavor and way too much cinnamon. A bit pedestrian. On to the biscotti!
Candy Cane Biscotti
Very festive, and perfect for Christmas. Recipe taken from this blog
Since I was cooking with Alida, we followed her Uncle Gary’s cooking mandate: step 1 to any recipe: make yourself a mimosa.
2 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tbsp softened butter
1/2 c sugar
2/3 c finely crushed candy canes – about 6 canes. Warning: This was a very, very loud process. I had to go outside before my family murdered me.
Chocolate and extra crushed candy canes for dipping purposes, optional.
Preheat oven to 350˚.
Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt, then set aside.
In a mixer or other bowl, beat together the butter and sugar. Add your eggs one at a time mixing to fully combine after each egg. Add the dry ingredients slowly and again mix until just combined, then stir in the candy canes.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces on a lightly floured surface – the dough will be super sticky, and the flour just helps you keep your sanity through this process. Shape each piece into 9″ x 1 1/2″ log. Shimmy those logs onto a lined cookie sheet, about 3 inches apart.
Bake until the tops have cracked and ends are just starting to brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. At any time, don’t be afraid to extend the time a little. We underbaked our candy cane logs and had to extend the second session of oven time a lot, and they were much more fragile throughout. So bake by doneness rather than time.
Remove the pre-biscotti from the oven and reduce it to 325. Cool logs 10 minutes on cookie sheet.
Ours oozed rather intriguingly. Don’t touch them! Hot hot sugar!
Cut each log diagonally into slices about 1/2 an inch thick with a serrated knife. Eat the ends. Return the biscotti to the baking sheet, cut side down and stick them back in the oven. They won’t expand any further, but leave some space between them so they can dry out properly.
Bake until cookies are light golden brown and crisp on both sides, about 12 to 15 minutes. We had to extend our time to about 25 minutes. The centers may still be a little soft, but will firm up as they cool; soft, not doughy. Otherwise, send them back to the hotbox. Place onto a cooling rack and leave them alone until they will stop burning your mouth when you snitch one.
If you’d like, go ahead and dip those suckers. Melt chocolate of your color choice in a double boiler – just until melted, no further, so the chocolate will harden nicely again. Sprinkle the wet chocolate with your extra crushed candy cane to instigate jealously in other crafty person’s hearts. We also put a little extra molten chocolate in some snack-sized ziplocks with the barest corner snipped off, then piped stripes on them.
Pistachio Cranberry Biscotti
Hands down my favorite – almost obnoxiously flavorful and salty-sweet. Recipe taken from All Recipes.
Step 1: Make another mimosa.
1/4 c olive oil
3/4 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract (potent stuff, be careful)
1 3/4 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 c dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups pistachio nuts
Preheat the oven the oven to 300 degrees.
Mix together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder) in a bowl and set aside.
Mix together the oil and sugar until well blended. Again, we busted out the stand mixer. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, then the eggs, one at a time.
Gradually stir in the dry mixture, then add the nuts and berries by hand when it has all come together. Divide the dough in half, then make two logs of about 12 by 2 inches on a lightly floured board (or oil your hands up and do it that way), slip onto a lined cookie sheet and bake for 35 minutes. They’ll be light brown when they come out.
The following pictures are not of this biscotti, but they show you the transformative magic of baking
Cool the logs for about 10 minutes or until they are cool enough to handle. Reduce the oven to 275. Cut the biscotti on a slight diagonal, about 1/2 inch wide. Lay them cut side down and bake again for 8 to 10 minutes. If they aren’t quite ready, flip them and stick them back in for a minute or two. Cool on a wire rack, then decorate as you will.
We made quite a few biscotti.
Which looked lovely on the cookie tray that my brother John arranged ‘against his will’ but surprisingly tastefully. Better than I usually do. It’s the engineer in him.