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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Guest Blog: Holiday Biscotti

To kick off the holiday baking season I have asked my extremely talented cousin, Afton, to share one of her favorite things to make this time of the year!

I hope yall enjoy! :)

Hello all from Stacy’s cousin’s kitchen in Virginia Beach, where I have just set my Holiday Biscotti back in to the oven. (Yes I said back in.)  For those of you who haven’t made biscotti before, the word biscotti literally means “twice-baked” in Italian!  Being someone who likes to take food items I come to love and learn to make them myself, I decided a couple years ago that I wanted desperately to learn to make this delicious, coffee-side treat. 

Now, while the possibilities of what biscotti contain are virtually endless, most people have probably tried some manipulation of an almond/hazelnut/chocolate combination.  While I had sampled all different types of biscotti over the years, when I stumbled upon the recipe I am about to share it was love at first bite.  A perfect combination of salty, tangy, and sweet, I bring to you my Holiday Biscotti, as adapted from Food Network’s Giada De Laurentis:
Holiday Biscotti
Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
Prep Time: 25 minutes Cook Time: 55 minutes Level: Intermediate Serves: 2 dozen cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest—don’t skip this, it really rounds out the flavor of the batter
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped-as much of a pain in the butt as it is, I shell the pistachios myself; buying the “kernels” is more expensive and brings too much salt to the recipe (enlist a friend or family member to help you shell!)
2/3 cup dried cranberries –I look for unsweetened (which Craisins ARE NOT) again just so not to add anything extra to the recipe.  If you can’t find them, sweetened will work.
12 ounces good-quality white chocolate, chopped; or white chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  

Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper (If you do not, the biscotti WILL stick to your sheet.)  Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in the pistachios and cranberries.
Form the dough into a 13-inch long, 3-inch wide log on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until light golden, about 40 minutes (Oven time will vary.  In NJ using my mom’s gas oven this takes between 35-40 minutes.  In my electric oven in VB I pulled it today at about 25 minutes.  Rule of thumb: don’t go too far.) Cool for 30 minutes.  

Place the log on the cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet.  You should now be able to see the pretty green and red that the pistachios and cranberries bring. Bake the biscotti until they are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely.  

Note: I have made these biscotti many times and not dipped them in chocolate.  The chocolate will of course add another layer of flavor, and it adds the white to complete the festive color trio of green, red and white.  However, these biscotti are delicious just the way they are, as well.

Stir the chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering, not boiling, water (this is called tempering) until the chocolate melts. (For those of you who have not worked with white chocolate much, it is rather fussy. If you overheat it or bring it up too fast (i.e. with boiling water) it will seize, which is a nice way of saying “clump up into chalky balls.” (Rule of thumb: simmer your water, stir a lot, and as soon as it’s melted, TAKE IT OFF.)

Dip half of the biscotti into the melted chocolate. Gently shake off the excess chocolate. Place the biscotti on the baking sheet (still lined with parchment) for the chocolate to set. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, about 35 minutes.

The biscotti can be made ahead. Store them in an airtight container up to 4 days, or wrap them in foil and freeze in re-sealable plastic bags up to 3 weeks.

I will chat with you all again soon.
Happy Holidays!

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