Welcome to "Cookies With Nuts That I Don't Hate, Part Two."
For the holiday's this year I'll be traveling to three different states in the span of 10 days (kill me now), so naturally I decided to bake everyone's Christmas presents (a decision I have since come to regret). Biscotti seemed a natural choice - they're easy to customize, sturdy enough to avoid breaking or crumbling during transit, and they keep longer than butter based cookies, which quickly turn rancid. Then I realized I couldn't find my go-to biscotti recipe - thus began the frantic recipe testing.
I started by finding a well tested and well reviewed recipe to use as my base, eventually landing on this bad boy. I knew what flavours I wanted to use - chocolate, cherry, and ginger - so I just needed a simple, well tested dough to work from. After that, it was simply a matter of adjusting the fillings to my taste.
My first test was too basic - the chocolate in the dough made the biscotti overpoweringly sweet, overwhelming the cherries and ginger. My second attempt was too complicated; I added almonds, rum, and dipped the cookies in chocolate, but the rum muddied up the flavours as opposed to enhancing them. Thankfully, my third try was just right.
The cherries and ginger are the real stars of the show here, with almonds and chocolate playing supporting roles. As with my last post, this recipe lends itself well to the addition of nuts - because the biscotti are already crispy, it's less texturally jarring to have crunchy nuts in the mix as well. Take extra care not to over bake your biscotti, however - it's one of the most common mistakes when making this type of cookie. Obviously you don't want chewy, soft biscotti - but they shouldn't break your jaw either. Like Goldilocks, you want something that's not too hard, not too soft, but juuuust right.
- 1/4 cup extra light olive oil (56 g)
- 3/4 cup sugar (180 g)
- 2.5 tsp. vanilla extract*
- 2 eggs
- 1 + 3/4 cup all purpose flour (245 g)
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 2/3 cup slivered almonds, untoasted (80 g)
- 1/3 cup crystallized ginger (70 g)**
- 1 cup dried sour cherries (155 g)
- Dipping Chocolate, semi-sweet/dark variety***
* If you'd like, you can cut the vanilla extract down to 2 tsp. and add 1/2 tsp. almond extract.
** I buy crystallized ginger in bulk (along with my dried cherries because those are expensiiiive) and it comes in small cubes, about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide on average. I don't pack the cup when measuring this, so it's a pretty rough measurement. If your crystallized ginger comes in slices or smaller pieces, cut down to a scant 1/4 cup. Or save yourself the guesswork and just measure in metric!
*** For convenience sake, I highly recommend you use "dipping chocolate" which you can find at most grocery stores in the baking aisle; it's basically a shortcut to tempering, and all it takes is a microwave. If (like me) you're unfortunate enough to have no microwave, you'll have to temper your chocolate the old fashioned way. I would have to devote an entire post to explain this process adequately, so I highly recommend you use the aforementioned dipping chocolate, or check out these resources: EcoleChocolat's tutorial (aka "quick seeding"), Sweet2Eat Baking's tutorial (aka "quick seeding without a thermometer), or Serious Eat's very detailed post and tutorial. Stick to these resources (or at least their listed temperature ranges), as there's a surprising amount of misinformation about tempering on the internet, even from credible sources.
1. PREHEAT your oven to 300°F.
2. SPREAD your almonds on a sheet pan so they form an even layer.
3. TOAST your almonds lightly, checking the nuts every five minutes or so. Each time you check, give the nuts a stir and a shake so they don't brown unevenly. Don't take them too dark - they should have just a subtle tinge of golden brown.
4. COOL the nuts completely. (You can also turn off your oven for now.)
5. SLICE your cherries in half.
6. DICE the ginger into small cubes that are roughly 1/2 a centimeter in width.
7. WHISK together your flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
8. COMBINE your oil and sugar in a large bowl, stirring until you get a sandy mixture that's completely hydrated (no dry spots of sugar!)
9. STIR in your vanilla extract.
10. WHISK in your egg until the mixture is just homogenous. Don't over-whip this batter, or the biscotti will deflate during baking and you'll get a sad, fat pancake. Let the mixture sit for 30 seconds to a minute before adding your dry ingredients.
11. ADD one third of your dry ingredients to the bowl and stir until almost combined. Repeat. Add the last third of the dry ingredients and stir until the mixture is completely homogenous. The dough will be stiff.
12. ADD your cherries and almonds to the bowl.
13. SPRINKLE the diced ginger over the bowl. If you dump it in all at once, the ginger will stick together in big clumps and you won't get an even distribution throughout the dough.
14. FOLD the dough together until the fruit and nuts are well dispersed. The dough will be slightly tacky.
15. LINE a large sheet pan with parchment paper but DO NOT SPRAY IT. It seems counter-intuitive, especially for a sticky dough like this, but the biscotti won't retain it's height during the first bake if there's oil underneath. I like to use spray underneath my parchment so it won't slide around during shaping, just don't put it on top! You can also use two smaller baking trays if your sheet pan isn't large enough.
16. DIVIDE the dough in half. (If you'd like to use a scale to measure the logs, each one should weight 442 grams).
17. SHAPE each portion of dough into a rough log, approximately 12 inches long and 2 inches wide.
18. WET your hands very lightly with water and smooth the dough so the logs are even in shape and thickness. If your hands start to stick again, just add a little more water.
19. CHILL the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.
20. PREHEAT the oven to 300°F.
21. REMOVE the dough from the fridge, and pinch the logs to give them a little extra height before baking (it's okay if they're less than 2 inches wide).
22. BAKE the biscotti loaves for 35-38 minutes, turning halfway through baking. They should be just set with slightly golden edges. Give the loaves a very gentle poke - if the indent remains, they're not ready. You'll need to keep a very close eye on them towards the end of their bake - if they're overdone now, they'll be tough once they're sliced and baked again.
23. COOL the biscotti loaves for exactly 10 minutes. It's best to very, very gently transfer them onto a wire rack by slowly pulling and lifting the parchment underneath, working one by one. If you try to pick up the loaves at this stage they'll fall apart, so if you're not confident about moving them, keep them on the sheet pan and bump up your cooling time to 15 minutes.
24. CUT the biscotti into 1/2 inch, diagonal slices. Use a serrated knife and work with very gentle sawing motions as you cut - this should prevent the biscotti from falling apart and give you cleaner slices. However, since there's sticky fruit and hard nuts in the dough, you probably won't get every slice perfectly neat. Luckily ugly biscotti taste just as delicious.
25. PLACE the sliced biscotti on a parchment lined sheet pan, cut side up.
26. RETURN the sliced biscotti to the oven, and bake for 6 minutes. If your oven has convection (or is particularly strong) reduce the temperature to 275°F.
27. REMOVE the sheet pan from the oven and gently flip each biscotti over. Put the sheet pan back in the oven and bake for 6 minutes more.
28. REPEAT as necessary, until both sides of the biscotti are an even, golden colour. I baked my biscotti for a total of 24 minutes, or 12 minutes on each side; however, my oven is pretty weak, so if your oven is strong or has convection, you'll likely need a shorter baking time. Watch them closely!
29. COOL the biscotti completely on a wire rack.
30. PREPARE your chocolate for decorating, and slide some parchment paper or aluminum foil underneath the wire rack holding your biscotti.
31. FILL a small ziplock bag or a piping bag fitted with a small round tip with your melted/tempered chocolate. Snip the tip of the bag.
32. DRIZZLE the biscotti with chocolate and allow to rest until completely set.
33. STORE in an airtight container and keep away from extreme temperatures or direct sunlight (this can ruin both the cookies and the temper of your chocolate). The addition of fruit in this bake means the biscotti won't last as long as other varieties, but if properly stored they'll be good for up to two weeks. If you've found they've softened slightly, simply re-crisp them in a 250°F oven!