by Stephanie Zonis
Makes about 6 dozen biscotti
The biscotti craze is in full swing in this country. Everywhere you go, you see biscotti for sale, in all kinds of flavors. In case you do not know, biscotti are twice-baked, not-too-sweet cookies. Traditionally, they are quite hard; they are dunked in espresso or red wine to soften them up before they're eaten. Also traditionally, biscotti do not come in so many flavors as you find for sale here.
As you might guess, these biscotti are distinctly different. They are made from two doughs, one bittersweet chocolate and one flavored with spices and citrus rind. The doughs are twisted together, baked, sliced, then baked again. They are also not as hard as other biscotti, so they are easier to eat by themselves (that's how I like them). These must stand at least overnight before eating in order for their flavor to develop. I must add here that these were inspired by the biscotti in Maida Heatter's Best Dessert Book Ever (Random House, Inc., 1990).
These are a labor of love, and definitely not for a beginning baker, unless you are exceptionally ambitious. When you are done, you'll have about six dozen beautifully patterned biscotti--no two will be alike--that will keep for several weeks at room temperature if stored airtight. A tin of these makes a wonderful gift. If you wish, you may substitute walnuts for the pecans. These are in honor of my mother, who is a biscotti aficionado of the first order.
Large baking sheets (mine measure 17-1/2" by 12-1/2", and
are "half sheet" size) and baking parchment with which to
line the cookie sheets.
You must also have an oven that is capable of maintaining relatively low temperatures.
Cut 4 pieces of baking parchment to fit "half sheet" size baking sheets (you'll only need two such sheets). Line each of the two sheets with a piece of parchment; reserve the two other pieces of parchment for use later.
Clear a large space on a work table or flat surface. Tear off three sheets of wax paper, each about one foot in length, and place them side by side on the work table.
Preparation for making Biscotti doughs:
First, prepare the pecans.
Line a shallow baking pan with aluminum foil, shiny side up.
Adjust rack to center of oven.
Preheat oven to 350° F.
2 c. pecan halves or large pieces
Place pecans in a single layer in shallow pan. Toast in preheated oven about 9-12 minutes, just until they begin to take on a little color and develop a strong fragrance. Stir often and watch carefully--nuts can burn easily. Remove from oven; cool completely.
Prepare oven for Baking Biscotti:
Adjust two oven racks to divide oven into thirds.
Preheat oven to 300° F.
2 eggs, graded "large"
1/3 c. mild, light honey (such as orange blossom or clover)
Grated rind 2 large, deep-colored oranges (no white pith)
Grated rind 1 large lemon (no white pith)
1 tsp. vanilla (Optional: 1/4 tsp. almond extract)
1/3 c. granulated sugar
2 c. + 1 Tbsp. sifted unbleached flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4-1/2 tsp. ground ginger (depending on your preferences)
Up to 1/8 tsp. finely ground white pepper
3 eggs, graded "large"
1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla 5 ozs. semisweet chocolate,
chopped medium-fine (or use good-quality chips)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 c. sifted unbleached flour
1/3 c. + 1 Tbsp. Dutch process unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
Optional: Up to 1/8 tsp. finely ground white pepper
Very lightly sift flour over each; keep the flour and the sifter at hand. I make both doughs simultaneously. (If I'm sifting flour for one, it makes sense to me to sift enough so that I'll have a sufficient quantity for both, etc.) However, I'll give the procedures for each separately, because it will be less confusing to read.
For citrus-spice dough:
In small bowl, by hand, beat eggs just to mix. Add honey, citrus rinds, vanilla, and optional almond extract, and beat to combine. Set aside.
In food processor fitted with steel blade, combine 1 c. of the toasted, cooled pecans (reserve remainder) and the 1/3 c. granulated sugar. Process until nuts are finely ground (be careful--you're not making pecan paste here. It's a good idea to "pulse" the processor on and off so you can watch the pecans carefully). Set aside.
Into large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, ginger, white pepper, and salt. With large spoon, stir to mix thoroughly (this is important).
Now, add the finely ground pecans and stir in well, breaking up any lumps with the back of the spoon. Wipe out the inside of the food processor with a paper towel, but don't bother to wash it; you'll need it again for the chocolate dough.
Beat the egg-honey mixture again lightly to combine, then add all at once to the flour-pecan mixture. With the large spoon, stir to combine well. This will be a stiff mixture and it will take a little while to incorporate all of the dry ingredients. Cover and set aside at room temperature.
For the chocolate dough:
In small bowl, by hand, beat together eggs just to mix. Add brown sugar and vanilla; beat to combine, breaking up any lumps of brown sugar with the back of the spoon or fork. Set aside.
In food processor fitted with steel blade, combine chopped chocolate and granulated sugar. Process by "pulsing" on and off just until chocolate is finely ground. Don't process so long that the chocolate melts!
Into large bowl of electric mixer, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, optional pepper, and salt. Fit a paddle beater to the mixer if available; beat these dry ingredients at a low speed for about 30 seconds to mix well. Add ground chocolate mixture; at a low speed, beat to incorporate.
Beat egg mixture again briefly just to combine; add all at once to ingredients in mixer bowl. At a low speed, beat to combine, scraping beater(s) and bowl as necessary with rubber spatula. This will also be a stiff mixture.
Now, gradually add the reserved toasted, cooled pecans, beating at a low speed just long enough to distribute them evenly. Some pecans will be broken up by the mixer---that's OK. Remove mixer bowl from mixer.
Turn chocolate dough out onto one of the lightly floured wax paper sheets. Now, turn the citrus-spice dough onto another of these sheets. Very lightly sift flour over both doughs.
With a sharp, lightly floured knife, cut each dough into quarters. Pick up one quarter of the chocolate dough. Keeping your hands lightly floured, form it into a thick rope about 8" long, dusting off any excess flour as you do so, and place it on the third lightly floured wax paper sheet.
Repeat this process with one quarter of the citrus-spice dough, placing it right next to and touching the chocolate dough "rope". Now, remembering to keep your hands floured lightly as necessary, pick up the two doughs together. You want to twist them together tightly, but you're also trying to dust off any excess flour.
The citrus-spice dough is always stickier than the chocolate dough, and some parts of the twist may be thicker or thinner than others, but that's OK. The twist should be eight or nine inches long when it's finished.
Note: Incidentally, the best way I've found to get rid of excess flour is to hold the twist in the palms of both hands (palms facing upward), then toss it a few inches into the air several times, catching it on your palms after each toss. You can also try to brush away excess flour (gently) with your fingers or a dry pastry brush.
Place the finished twist parallel to a short end of one of the prepared cookie sheets, a few inches in from one short end.
Repeat this procedure with another quarter of each dough; place that finished twist on the cookie sheet parallel to the other short end, and a few inches in from it. Repeat with remaining doughs and the other cookie sheet.
When finished, you'll have 4 twists on 2 cookie sheets, each twist a few inches in from a short end, parallel to that short end. If at any time during this procedure you find that the dough is starting to stick more than it had been, try washing and drying your hands, then lightly flouring them again.
Wash and dry your hands before proceeding with the next step.
Lightly flour your hands and re-flour them as necessary while you press out each twist into a rough rectangle. The rectangle should be about 9-1/2" long, 4 to 4-1/2" wide, and of as even a thickness as possible. Again, if the dough sticks a lot, try washing and drying your hands, then re-flouring them lightly, before proceeding.
The rectangles will have marbled patterns of the chocolate and citrus-spice doughs, which is exactly what you're after.
Bake the rectangles in the preheated 300° F oven for thirty minutes. After fifteen minutes, switch the pans top rack to bottom rack and front to back. After thirty minutes, the rectangles will have spread slightly, the citrus-spice dough will have browned somewhat, and the tops of the rectangles will fill semisoft if touched quickly.
While these are baking, clear a large space on your work table. Have ready a scissors; a heatproof cutting board; a ruler; two large, sharp knives (one straight-edged and one serrated); a metal spatula or pancake turner; and , if you're using the same baking sheets for the second baking, a sheet of foil about two feet in length. When the rectangles have baked for thirty minutes, remove them from the oven.
Reduce oven temperature to 275° F.
With scissors, cut the parchment on each baking sheet in half so that each half contains one rectangle. With the rectangles still on the parchment, remove each piece of parchment (there will be four) to a cooling rack.
If you have two different half sheet pans, use them now and line each with one reserved sheet of the baking parchment. If you're going to be using the same baking sheets for the second baking, as I do, place them somewhere so they can cool off.
The rectangles are sliced while still hot. Place one piece of parchment (with the rectangle still on it) onto your cutting board. With the metal spatula, loosen the rectangle from the parchment for a few inches in from one short end. Protecting your hand with a pot holder or length of paper towel, begin slicing the rectangles into biscotti. Trim off one end.
Different people find that different methods work best for them when slicing this dough, but you cannot slice it too thinly or the biscotti will crumble. Make your biscotti about 1/2" thick. I slice the rectangles by scoring the top with a large, sharp, serrated knife, then finishing the cut by pressing the same knife straight down through the rectangle in sections. You might want to start the cut with a serrated knife, then finish it with one having a straight edge; you'll have to see what works for you. Work carefully, but expect to have a few of the biscotti crumble anyway. Be careful--they are fragile when hot.
Remember to continue loosening the rectangle from the parchment in sections before you slice. If necessary, rinse and dry the knife blades occasionally to keep the dough from sticking to them. Be patient.
If you must wait for your baking sheets to cool down (they can be slightly warm, but no more), place the cut biscotti on a length of foil on your work surface. When the sheets are cool enough, line each with a reserved piece of baking parchment, and transfer the biscotti gently to the parchment, a cut side down. (If you're using different baking sheets, you can line them with parchment and place the biscotti on them immediately after slicing.)
Slice each rectangle as directed above. The biscotti can be placed very close to one another (they don't spread anymore, but they shouldn't touch). If you have too many biscotti to fit on the two sheets, line a third sheet with parchment paper (this third baking sheet can be smaller, as it probably won't need to hold as many biscotti), and place the remaining biscotti on it as described above.
Place the two sheets now filled with biscotti into the 275° F oven. Bake for twelve minutes. Then switch the sheets top rack to bottom rack and front to back; bake 10 minutes more. After this second baking, the biscotti may still feel semifirm if touched on a cut side, but they'll harden as they cool.
Remove from oven (if necessary, adjust rack to center of oven, and bake the third sheet of biscotti on the center rack). Transfer biscotti to cooling racks and cool to room temperature. Store airtight at least overnight before serving.
Copyright © 1999 Francesca Chocolate Productions. All Rights Reserved.
Stephanie Zonis provides the above information to anyone, but retains copyright on all text. This means that you may not: distribute the text to others without the express written permission of Stephanie Zonis; "mirror" or include this information on your own server or documents without my permission; modify or re-use the text on this system. You may: print copies of the information for your own personal use; store the files on your computer for your own personal use only; and reference hypertext documents on this server from your own documents.
This page created September 1998
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