Biscotti are long and hard cookies that many enjoy by dipping into coffee, hot chocolate, or wine. As fancy coffee shops become more and more popular in the United States, biscotti have also become more fashionable (and expensive). It turns out, biscotti is easy to make, and a whole batch costs the same as a single biscotto at Starbucks. Here's my recipe for an Almond and Orange Zest Biscotti that can be enjoyed as is or chocolate dipped.
The name "biscotti" is Italian and literally means twice baked - which is exactly how we'll prepare it. Biscotti can be found in all sorts of flavors, but the most common contain anise, hazelnuts and filberts, and almonds. In this recipe we'll join the flavors of almond and orange (and chocolate). (I should probably also mention that the singular form of biscotti is "biscotto".)
Start by assembling the ingredients: 1 cup (200 g) sugar, 2 large eggs, 3/4 cup (80 g) slivered almonds, 2 tablespoons minced orange zest (about half an orange's zest), 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 cups (250 g) flour. [IMG]
For removing the zest from an orange, I find that when using a Microplane Zester upside down (with the orange under the zester), the zest stays in the device making it much easier to judge how much you've collected. If not using a Microplane (or a zester that produces comparably fine zest), you'll need to mince the zest for this recipe. [IMG]
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. [IMG]
Select a mixing bowl that is large enough to hold all the ingredients and still provide enough room to fold them together without making a mess.
Break two large eggs into the large mixing bowl and add the sugar. Whisk to combine. [IMG]
Continue whisking the sugar and eggs until the color has lightened to a pale yellow. I like using a spare piece of mesh cabinet liner to keep the bowl from shifting while I'm whisking. [IMG]
Add the vanilla extract, almond extract, and slivered almonds to the egg and sugar mixture. Using a spatula, stir once or twice to combine. [IMG]
Working in batches, pour enough of the flour mixture to cover the surface of the egg mixture. Use a spatula and fold in the flour using as few strokes as possible. Add more flour and fold until all the flour has been integrated. Folding is performed by using a spatula to scoop from either the side or the middle of the mixture and lifting and "folding" (basically movign the spatula laterally and then flipping it over to drop the mixture) onto another part of the mixture. Rotate the bowl each fold. [IMG]
The key is not to stir or mix the flour with the liquid too much. Gently folding helps prevents the formation of too much elastic gluten. The presence of too much gluten will defeat the delicate and crisp texture we are trying to achieve and result in a possibly chewy product. [IMG]
Split the batter in half and place the two rough balls onto a non-stick baking sheet (such as a silicone baking mat or parchment paper set in a half sheet pan). With your hands, form the batter into two loaves of approximately 10-in. (25 cm) by 2 in. (5 cm) each. Wetting your hands just a bit may help with molding the loaves since the batter will be fairly sticky. [IMG]
Bake the loaves at 350°F (175°C) for 40 minutes (rotating the pan once after twenty minutes). The loaves should have just started to crack. (Don't wait for big cracks or you might overcook the biscotti.)
Remove the loaves from the pan and place them on a wire rack to cool for at least ten minutes. This cooling step is extremely important to your non-dominant hand as it will be holding the loaf while you cut it in the next step. [IMG]
After some cooling, move a loaf to a cutting board and cut diagonally into 3/8-in. (1 cm) thick pieces. Do the same to the other loaf. The interior of each biscotto should still be just a little moist (while the exterior is nice and hard). The crust of the loaf will probably be quite hard, so use a large serrated knife such as a bread knife for this job. [IMG]
Place the biscotti with a cut side facing up on a half sheet pan and bake for 8 minutes. Remove the pan and flip all the biscotti over so the other cut side is now facing up. Bake for another 7 minutes. Set all the pieces on a wire rack to cool making sure that none of the biscotti are touching each other. If the biscotti are placed too close together, they could get a little soft or soggy as they cool. [IMG]
Once the biscotti have fully cooled, they can be consumed as is, or chocolate dipped. To chocolate dip, simply break up the chocolate of your choice (dark chocolate is Tina's favorite) and place in a large metal mixing bowl. I find it easier to dip biscotti in large quantities of chocolate, so I usually make two batches of biscotti (4 loaves), and melt about 500 g (a bit more than 1/2 pound) chocolate. For one batch, 250 g (about 1/4 pound) chocolate should be enough. Using a flat bottomed mixing bowl also makes it easier to dip (otherwise you may need to transfer the chocolate to another container after melting to dip the biscotti). [IMG]
Place the mixing bowl with the chocolate over a saucepan containing about an inch of water (but not so much that the mixing bowl will actually make contact with the water). Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Once the chocolate begins to melt, you can turn off the heat and let the residual heat and steam continue to heat the bowl and melt the chocolate. [IMG]
Stir occassionally to check when the chocolate has completely melted. Once the chocolate has melted, you can leave the mixing bowl over the hot water to keep the chocolate warm and melted as you dip the biscotti. [IMG]
Dip each biscotto in the chocolate by inserting the flat bottom into the chocolate. Use a spatula to remove any excess chocolate and then lay the biscotto (chocolate side down) on a silicone mat or sheet of parchment paper. Repeat until all the biscotti have been dipped. The biscotti can then be left to cool on its own or placed in the refrigerator. [IMG]
The biscotti tastes best during the first few days, but will keep for up to a month in a sealed air-tight container.
Almond & Orange Zest Biscotti (makes about 20 cookies)
whether 500gms or 1lbs(good for 2 batches of biscotti), 250gms or 1/2lbs(single recipe biscotti), is irrelevant to this recipe as it's only used for dipping. depending on the chocolate's viscosity and the hand that dips, more or less chocolate can be used. the weight given here is just a guideline in approximating.
alternatively, you can melt chocolate in a microwave in a tall measuring cup. then just dip in half or just the ends of the biscotti in. if you want a nuttier biscotti, while the chocolate hasn't set, roll biscotti in additional chopped nuts or rice crispies.
re: not liking almonds
you can use other chopped nuts like filberts/hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia, or even dried fruits. others often pair macadamias with white chocolate. but i'm a strict follower of the dark variety. preferably 65% cacao.
as for omitting nuts totally, that is also acceptable. but if the resulting batter is a little too wet, maybe a bit more flour in in order. alternatively, you can substitute rolled oats for an extra crunch!
Joined: 10 May 2005 Posts: 1622 Location: Austin, TX (USA)
Posted: Fri Jan 13, 2006 5:03 pm Post subject: Re: Chocolate quantities
Cookin' Engineer wrote:
There is a bit of confusion with the quantity of chocolate specified in the recipe. 500g is a bit more than a pound, not 1/2 pound, so which is correct metric or standard?
I've corrected the recipe. I use 250 g to dip one batch (2 loaves) of biscotti. (I buy 500 g bricks and was thinking that I split them in half first so I got the 1/2 pound correct, but forgot to divide the metric mass in half as well...)
this basic biscotti recipe can be altered easily, (lemon walnut, or dates an saffon are excelent alternate flavors.)
chocolate biscotti require a slight re-engineering of the recipe, (or find an chocolate recipe to start) and make it special with the addition of 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper per 1.5 cups of flour. (some recipes are larger/smaller, 1 teaspoon per 1.5 cups of flour is a good ratio. it make them picant.
Posted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 6:34 am Post subject: Singular of Biscotti
Thank you, thank you, thank you, for using biscotto correctly in a sentence. As a person who cares about grammar and knows rudimentary Italian, I cannot stand asking for a single "biscotti" at the cafe. But they always look confused when I ask for a biscotto. And then I feel like such a pedant explaining it. But to ask for "one biscotti, please" makes my skin crawl.
Yes, it would be cheaper to bake a batch of them, but then I'd eat the batch. Not good.
Posted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 3:52 pm Post subject: Biscotti
This is without a doubt the best biscotti I have ever made! I made two minor changes. I doubled up on the Vanilla extract, and eliminated the almond extract and I used walnuts instead of almonds. It was a hit at a family party!
Posted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 5:44 am Post subject: tempering chocolate
I don't tempering the chocolate is necessary in this case-- tempering chocolate, as I understand it, is mainly relevant when the chocolate will be standing on its own.
I usually encounter this issue when baking cookies or other goodies that have chocolate kisses. Kisses are perfectly tempered in the bag, but once they've melted inside a cookie (or one of the Surreal Gourmet's "Chocolate Kiss Wontons"), the kiss usually re-solidifies but doesn't have the same hardness as before. I'm speaking only of the milk chocolate ones, because I haven't cooked with different varieties.[/quote]
Joined: 10 May 2005 Posts: 1622 Location: Austin, TX (USA)
Posted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 8:25 pm Post subject: Re: tempering?
I've read that melted chocolate should be tempered in order to resolidify correctly. Does it matter when you are using it for dipping?
The chocolate will resolidify without a problem, but, without tempering, the chocolate won't be as hard or nice looking. Generally, for something like biscotti, I don't bother (since it gets consumed in a relatively short period of time). Not tempering the chocolate does not affect the taste, but it can affect how shiny the chocolate looks and how quickly it develops bloom. If you're serving the biscotti in a warm environment, you may want to temper the chocolate. I'll put tempering on my list of articles to write.
From Merriam Websters Dictionary:
Main Entry: bis·cot·to
Inflected Form(s): plural bis·cot·ti /-E/
Etymology: Italian, biscuit, cookie, from (pane) biscotto, literally, bread baked twice: a crisp cookie or biscuit of Italian origin that is flavored usually with anise and filberts or almonds
Posted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 7:20 am Post subject: Gluten Free
I notice in your recipe you have a caution about over activating the gluten in the wheat flour. I noticed you had a brief description of wheat flour and the gluten in it - I'm wondering if you have ever considered attempting to cook gluten free (besides the occasional flourless cake).
You see, a little over a year ago, I had to go to a gluten free diet. I used to bake quite a bit; only recently after finding a few authors dedicated to the subject have I rediscovered baking.
Putting aside the inconvenience and cost of cooking gluten free, there are some benefits - besides my health and well being - such as learning a bit more about the chemistry of cooking, and having some recipes where gluten is a negative turn out far better.
For instance, I used to turn out a mean pie crust (there are two secrets to a consistently excellent crust made with wheat flour... but that'd be telling). Still, I'd occasionally have an off day where I had inadvertently overworked the gluten in the wheat flour and made a tough crust. Since going gluten free, this simply never happens anymore, and the gluten free recipe is just as tasty as my old recipe. (While obviously I am unable to tell the difference myself, none of my friends could tell the difference. Some thought I had gone back on my diet just for this one thing.)
Apologies for the length. My question is, have you or will you ever consider attempting gluten free cooking? There is approximately 1 in 150 (possibly more and including myself of course) people who would be very interested if you did.