Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Almond Biscotti

The idea of making biscotti has truthfully never been quite appealing to me because it seemed like a time consuming process. This, coupled with the fact that most members of my family aren't huge biscotti fans anyway, led me to ignore most biscotti recipes I have seen in the past.

Last summer, however, one of the things I learned to make during my trip to Italy was this biscotti. The recipe was very easy and actually not as time consuming as I thought; although the biscotti had to bake twice each time was only fifteen to twenty minutes. Also because the loaves were sliced while still hot from the first baking they were actually very easy to cut into pieces, unlike my delicious but difficult to slice fruit and nut crisps.

During my trip to Italy I not only picked up some new recipes but I also brought back some ingredients, one of which was Italian baking soda. When I first showed this to my mom she scoffed and questioned my need to buy specific baking soda from Italy. "Isn't ours good enough?" she asked me. Although there is nothing wrong with our baking soda I was fascinated by the fact that the one we used in Italy already had vanilla mixed into it, therefore no additional vanilla extract had to be added to the biscotti.

Up until last week my Italian baking soda had been sitting, unopened, in the kitchen cupboard. Finally I put it to use when I baked these biscotti. I think the person most surprised by the biscotti was my mom; she did not expect the biscotti to still be soft and chewy rather than hard like a rock as is typical of biscotti sold in stores here. Also she enjoyed the fact that each bite held a new "surprise" as she called it with the chunks of chocolate, almonds, hint of cinnamon, orange, and lemon. I was glad she enjoyed it so much, in addition to the rest of the family, and I think I will be baking it again soon for my holiday treat boxes.

Almond Biscotti
Note: Although I used my special Italian baking soda I was provided with a recipe that uses regular baking soda and vanilla, which is reflected below.
  • 1 cup whole almonds, lightly toasted
  • 4 oz (112 g) chocolate, roughly cut into chunks
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar + extra for sprinkling
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp almond extract (can be substituted with almond liquor)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 2¾ cups flour
  • 1 egg white
  1. In a large bowl combine the melted butter, sugar, orange and lemon zests. Add the vanilla and almond extract (or liquor).
  2. Mix in the beaten eggs and almonds.
  3. In a separate bowl sift together the flour with the cinnamon, salt. If working with liquor add the baking soda last to the dough, right before the chocolate, otherwise sift with the other dry ingredients.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix together until a dough forms. Using your hands, work in the chunks of chocolate into the dough.
  5. Split the dough in half and form into two long logs about 3" wide. Lay the logs onto a large baking sheet covered in parchment or wax paper. Make sure to leave space between the logs as they will widen as they bake.
  6. Pat down the logs so they have a flat surface and use a pastry brush to spread the egg white over top. Generously sprinkle sugar over the surface.
  7. Bake the biscotti for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit or until the tops of the logs start to crack and become a light golden color. 
  8. Remove from the oven and cut diagonally into long pieces while still warm. The best way to do this is to cut straight down rather than use a sawing motion. 
  9. Lay the cut pieces, cut side facing up, back on the tray and return to the turned off but still warm oven for 15-20 minutes. If you like the biscotti softer take them out sooner, if you like them crunchier leave them in for longer.

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