Tag Archives: Biscotti

Chocolate almond cookies

7 Dec

I’m not going to lie to you. I screwed up with these cookies. Just ask my friend Joe, he’ll tell you. For days he’d helped me to unravel the mystery of, well, let me just show you.

This solid brass die fits onto an extruder known as a torchietto, one of several fine pasta-making tools gifted to me on a recent trip to Italy. As it turns out, this particular die, which I purchased separately and without first investigating, is not designed for making pasta at all. 

I discovered this the hard way, of course—after preparing a batch of my tried and true fresh pasta dough and then running it through the torchietto. I mean, just look at those giant things, would you! Pasta this ain’t.

Turns out the die is for making this Piedmontese biscotti (photo not mine) known as Quaquare di Genola. Neither Joe nor I were familiar with the exact term; we just knew that we liked the cookies. And so the next day I brought out both the torchietto and the die again and set out to make a chocolate-and-almond version of the Quaquare di Genola.

Which brings us back to me being such a screwup—one who probably ought to stick to pasta-making, not baking. The cookie dough came out of the torchietto looking a little like the Piedmontese biscotti but in no way would the forms hold together well enough to get onto a baking sheet.

Which is too bad. Because once I ditched the torchietto the cookies turned out to be really excellent—totally worth giving a try, I think.

Though considering my now well-documented deficiencies as a baker I wouldn’t blame you for looking the other way.

Chocolate almond cookies
Makes 70 cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup high-quality Dutch cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3/4 cups sugar
Zest of 2 oranges
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon orange liqueur
1/2 cup almonds, run through a food processor until fine but not powdery
Mix the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda in a bowl.
In an electric mixer blend together the butter, sugar and orange zest until fluffy. 
Add the egg, egg yolk, orange liqueur and almonds and mix thoroughly.
Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.
On a floured work surface divide the dough in four and roll out each piece into a log around 1 1/2-inch around. One at a time slice each roll into pieces that are around 1/4-inch thick, then lay the pieces out on baking sheets covered in parchment paper.
Bake for around 9 or 10 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.

Chocolate hazelnut biscotti

10 Mar

You don’t have to be a great baker to make respectable biscotti. I’m living proof of that. Besides, it rained all day today. I needed something to do.

In a large mixing bowl add the following: 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (a full teaspoon is fine), and a pinch of sea salt.

In a separate mixing bowl add 4 large eggs, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon brandy. Mix until the eggs are somewhat thickened.

Gradually add the egg mixture into the dry mix and incorporate.

Add 1 cup of lightly crushed toasted hazelnuts and 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and mix until fully incorporated. (If the mix seems too dry add a little milk; I used a couple tablespoons.)

Divide the mix in half. On a floured surface take each half of the batch and form a log around a foot or more long and three or so inches wide.

Place both logs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush with egg wash. Place in the oven preheated to 350 degrees F for around 25 minutes, rotating the sheet at the halfway mark.

Remove the logs and let them cool for 15 minutes.

With a serrated blade cut the logs into 1- to 1 1/2-inch slices.

Place the slices on a baking sheet and bake for around 10-15 minutes, then turn the slices over and bake for another 10-15 minutes. (Ten minutes each side should be fine for 1-inch pieces; thicker slices like these will take longer.)

When the pieces are nice and firm to the touch they’re done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool thoroughly, then place in an airtight container. The biscotti will last a couple weeks.

It’s always best to wait a couple days before eating the biscotti. No matter how many different kinds I’ve made over the years, the flavors always are enhanced over time. I usually wait at least 48 hours before serving. This batch is for Saturday night, after the osso buco I’ve got planned (today’s Thursday, by the way).

See, you’ve got plenty of time.

How to make biscotti

9 Nov

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. A baker I am not. Baking requires exacting procedures and measurements, which I’m way too undisciplined to abide. Patience is another useful virtue — and I never had much of that either.

That’s why I like biscotti so much. They’re about the only baked good that I have no fear of attempting. No matter how many different things I try, or combination of ingredients I experiment with, my biscotti always come out okay. Better than okay, actually.

I have to figure that it’s the biscotto’s (yes, there’s a singular) twice-baked nature that saves me from making a complete fool of myself. We’re talking about a dry, hard biscuit here, people. How difficult can it be? (Sorry, Josephine, I didn’t mean your biscotti. Please, please, please bring me some of the Best Biscotti on Earth this Christmas Eve!)


Anyhow, so here’s the batch of Almond & Cranberry Biscotti that I made the other day. I can assure you that the basic method is sound, but feel free to mess around and make the recipe your own. I know I would.

In a large mixing bowl place the following: 2 1/2 cups flour (I experimented with 00 here but normally use all-purpose); 1/2 teaspoon baking powder; 1/2 teaspoon baking soda; a pinch of sea salt; the zest of one large lemon; 3/4 cups chopped unsalted almonds; and 1/3 cup chopped dried cranberries. Mix thoroughly by hand. Note: the nuts and fruit, as well as the zest, are the easiest places to experiment. One of my favorite combinations is pine nuts with candied orange peel.

In a separate bowl add 1/2 cup of sugar, 3 extra large eggs, and a teaspoon of whiskey (I used Maker’s Mark here, but an Amaretto liqueur would work well, as it’s almond flavored and sweet). Using an electric mixer, mix at high speed for around 5 minutes, until thick. Note: I like very subtle-tasting biscotti; a lot of people would add more sugar to this recipe, so please do if you like.

Fold the egg mixture into the flour mix by hand. When they are thoroughly incorporated add in one stick (8 tablespoons) of melted unsalted butter (shown) and mix by hand.

Roll the mixture out onto a work surface and knead for a minute or two, then form a single ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about an hour. During this time preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces, then form logs that are around 2 inches high by maybe 10 inches long. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, brush on a light layer of egg white, and bake for around 20 minutes, rotating the pan once during that time.

When the logs are golden remove and allow to cool for around 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Here’s where the twice-baked idea comes in. Cut the logs into slices that are around an inch thick, line them on a baking sheet, and return to the oven for around 20 minutes, or until crisp. Remove from the oven, allow the biscotti to thoroughly cool, then place them in an airtight container and — this is very important — make believe that you never even made the things! I mean it. Biscotti never taste as good as they’re going to taste if you eat them right away. Trust me. It’s just one of those things.

Two or three days later go ahead and crack into your stash. You’ll be very happy that you exercised that portion of your brain that controls patience.


Chinatown meets Little Italy

7 Nov
I’m man enough to admit that, under the right set of circumstances, I can be pretty damned childish.
Such was the case but a few evenings ago, when a Chinese-style banquet was to take place at my very own home and I was politely informed that my kitchen skills would not be required.
At all.
This took me by surprise considering how many dishes needed to be prepared: close to a dozen by my count, many requiring a fair bit of prep work.
Instead I was told that I might “pick up an appropriate dessert” should I want to “help out.” I was told this, mind you, just a day before the banquet was to take place. A banquet that was weeks in the planning.
I’m no genius, okay. But I know when I’m being dissed. Bad enough that I was not to so much as slice a water chestnut or wash a mustard green. I couldn’t even make a dessert, I had to “pick up” one.
It was when my utter lack of necessity sank in that the inner (willful) child emerged.
“Think I’ll make some biscotti,” I said to nobody in particular. “Yeah, that’ll work.”
The cupboard was open in mere nanoseconds so that I could ponder which ingredients to use.
“Did you just say biscotti?” (I may have failed to mention that my associate was in the room at the time.)
“Candied orange peel. Perfect,” I sang out, removing a container of the sweet citrus rind from beneath a honkin’ mess of dark Swiss chocolate.
“You’re making an Italian dessert for a Chinese meal?”
I reminded the person with the giant spatula in hand how oranges and crispy cookies are ubiquitous after-dinner treats at Chinese restaurants throughout these United States, and wondered what could possibly be unacceptable about the dessert idea that I had advanced.
“If that doesn’t do it for you, then think of it this way,” I went on, perhaps too far, I’ll admit. “How many times have I dragged you across Canal Street after eating in Chinatown so that I could grab a pastry in Little Italy?
“C’mon, orange biscotti makes total sense.”
Suddenly I found myself alone in the kitchen, I do not know why.
Communications between associates can be sometimes difficult, I find, don’t you?
Anyway, so I made what I damn well pleased and everything managed to turn out just fine. The candied orange peel made for a really great biscotti, and with a lovely Alsatian dessert wine, it was a splendid end to a pretty amazing meal. Which, as it happens, I’ve got a few frames of, if you’re interested.
After all, nobody showed up that night for the biscuits.
Nope, not olives. Quail eggs marinated in soy sauce.
There were a couple different dumplings but these were the best: Homemade turkey and mushroom shu mai topped with carrot puree. (Both the dumplings and the quail eggs, along with steamed Chinese sausage and soy cucumbers, got washed down with Champagne and other sparklers.)
Szechuan pork and preserved cabbage soup. (We switched to a Riesling here.)
The main meal (which is where we moved on to a Kerner from the Alto Adige) was comprised of five different items. Spicy Napa cabbage and mushrooms was the vegetable dish.
Then there was the steamed pork and water chestnuts with salted duck eggs.
Shrimp and cucumber with cloud ear.
Chicken with walnuts.
Salt fish fried rice.
And, well, y’know…
Buon appetito.