Saturday, November 9, 2013
How to make biscotti
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.