Biscotti as we know, means 'twice-baked'. At first, these typically anise scented Italian cookies did not seem as enticing as the other cookies I wanted to try. But since then, I have come to like these crunchy treats. I like eating them as is or dipped in milk/ coffee. Before the Italian Nonnas kill me, let me tell you, the really dry versions of biscotti are traditionally meant to be dipped in wine.
Depending on the ingredients and their proportions, the amount, presence or absence of fat, these cookies can be either very hard, dry and crunchy or tender crunchy or even slightly cake-y. Versatile, easy to bake, these keep well and are sturdy enough to be shipped.
You can find recipes with part whole wheat or oats, cornmeal or with just plain flour. Simply stir in some cinnamon/ nuts/ citrus zest/ coffee or chocolate chip - walnuts as you please. You could make some with cocoa or dark chocolate or even marbled ones. Dip one side of the biscotti in melted chocolate to masquerade as dessert. You can make simple everyday versions great for snacking or the more luxurious versions for gifting. Oh, did I mention savory biscotti? With all these possibilities, these are worth a try I guess?
So, how are these different from other cookies? These are baked not once, but twice, their texture usually extra crunchy, hard and toasty. Some recipes need just simple mixing, some need creaming, some need the eggs to be whipped. The usually sticky dough is typically shaped into a skinny log or a flat 'loaf' and baked till it is firm to the touch. The log is then cooled and sliced either cross wise (for shorter biscotti) or diagonally( for longer biscotti). The slices are baked again to the desired texture. You could make them crisp or crunchy or extra crunchy depending on how long you bake them the second time.
These are quite forgiving unless you under bake to get a doughy or wet log. Over baking the log may make it crisp and difficult to slice.These are even friendlier as you can just bake the log and forget it till the next day, come back at leisure to slice and bake .
Here is a simple recipe for tender-crunchy Orange Biscotti. You could stir in some finely chopped toasted almonds or chocolate chips into the dough, but for ease of slicing I would suggest you save these add-in's for the next round of biscotti baking.
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I have made a third of the original recipe. Feel free to make the full batch if you have an oven big enough for to bake 2 big logs simultaneously.
Ingredients: (to make about 15 biscotti)
All purpose flour : 162 grams
Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
Salt - a tiny tiny pinch (take 1/3 of a teaspoon of salt, use 1/3rd of it!)
Sugar, powdered - 100 grams
Unsalted butter - 46 grams, weigh, melt and cool to room temperature.
Egg - 48 grams / 1 large
Vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon
Orange zest, really fresh - 1 teaspoon (from one orange)
White of one egg, whisked. For brushing on top.
YOU WILL NEED : A whisk, spatula, a citrus zester, a dough scraper, a silicon brush, a sharp serrated knife apart from the usual tools.
PROCEDURE: Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 F. Line a baking sheet or tray with parchment. I have used a 10'' x 12'' tray, use a bigger one if your oven can accommodate. Or halve the above recipe to make a tiny batch in a 9'' square tin.
Mise en place.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt twice. Keep aside.
- In another large bowl, take the sugar, melted butter, egg, orange zest and vanilla. Gently whisk to incorporate. No need to work up a volume.
- Stir in the flour mixture gently in two additions. When you can still see some flour here and there, add the nuts or chocolate if you wish to. Stir them in gently till you have an uniform mixture. This will be quite sticky. Do not add more flour.
- Now comes the relatively difficult part. Scrape the dough onto the center of the lined baking sheet. Wet your hands lightly, elongate the dough to form a rough log. Pat so that it is 1/2'' tall ( that would be about 3'' wide and 12'' long for the recipe above. If halving the recipe, the log can be 3'' wide and 6'' long). Am not very sure about this but read that the log should not be way taller as it may have plenty of cracks, meaning lots of crumbly slices. So stick to dimensions mentioned in a recipe! If I am not sure, I think 1/2'' tall should be safe in most recipes.
- The log will spread, so make sure there is about two inches space all around the log ( about 4'' space between TWO logs). If the sheet is small ,cut off excess part with a dough scraper and transfer to another sheet.
- Pat with wet hands to smooth the top. Use a dough scraper for the sides if needed. A neat, uniform log will give you uniform biscotti. Lightly brush the top and sides with the whisked white.
- Bake for about 30 minutes till golden and firm to the touch. If in doubt, err on the side of over-baking. Remove from the oven, let the log remain on the sheet. Lower the oven temperature to 160 C.
- Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes or more as convenient. Spray or brush the top very LIGHTLY with water, let stand 5 minutes. This helps soften the log, slice it easily especially if the log has cracked.
- Lift the log from the sheet, place on the counter. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log into 1/2'' wide slices (cross-wise or diagonal). Uniform slices is uniform baking. Place the knife on the log, gently but firmly press it down to cut all the way through. The log should be baked through, but will still be moist and softish.
- Don't worry if you don't get perfect slices. As long as the biscotti doesn't crumble into bits and pieces, rough looking slices should taste just as good.
- Stand the cut slices on their backs on the baking sheet, 1 /2 '' apart. (Imagine just separating the slices of the log). Bake about 15 minutes, remove the tray from the oven. Keep the oven on. The biscotti will be soft but will harden as they cool. Once they cool completely, bite into one. Bake 5 minutes more if you want them crunchier. Remove from oven, cool completely. Store airtight. Should keep at least for a week.