Being Italian, I remember biscotti always being in my grandmothers pantry or my mother’s cookie jar.
Every Christmas, my Grandma Natalia and my Aunt Nina made dozens of biscotti. Some they kept and some they gave away in great big tins, each cookie hand wrapped in waxed paper. They took one dough and made several different types of cookies: biscotti flavored with lemon and anise and studded with almonds, little pillows with cinnamon sugar, and little logs covered in sesame seeds.
Over the years my mother collected a variety of biscotti recipes and would bake them, put them in tins and freeze them. They freeze really well and we always had a variety of biscotti for dessert.
There are several formulas for biscotti, using different fats. My grandma Natalia and Aunt Nina used vegetable shortening. My mother has a few recipes that use butter and some that use only whole eggs or whole eggs plus yolks.
One of my favorites is a biscotti recipe with cranberries and pistachios. I have altered it a bit, to make it my own. They are very crunchy biscotti, meant to be dunked in coffee, tea or a glass of Vin Santo. If you like this formula, which uses no fat other than the egg yolks, you can keep the base and just substitute the additions. These biscotti have a very crisp bite. Hazelnuts or dried cherries and chopped bittersweet chocolate, chopped chocolate and candied orange rind, almonds and apricots and walnuts and dates are all nice combinations. You can add spices, Vanilla or citrus zest as well.
You’ll notice the Beth’s Little Bakeshop logo in the cup. It’s where I’m currently a pastry chef. If you come to Evanston Illinois, stop by for a biscotti and a cup of Intelligentsia coffee.
MISE EN PLACE
Particularly with baking and absolutely when doubling a recipe, I like to scale (weigh) and assemble all my ingredients, and any tools I may need, prior to starting a recipe. While I don’t have photos of the mise en place for every recipe on this blog, rest assured I always do it. This level of organization eliminates starting a recipe and finding out you are missing an ingredient. If I’m doubling the recipe and /or using two ovens, I write the doubled quantities on a piece of paper along with which track on the timer is devoted to what task.
- 250 grams (2 cups) bleached all purpose flour
- 3 large eggs (save the white from one egg to brush on the dough before baking)
- 200 grams granulate white sugar (1 cup)
- zest of one lemon
- 1tsp vanilla
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 198 grams (7oz) very green skinned pistachios (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 141 grams (5 oz) dried very red cranberries ( about 3/4 cup)
- Before you do anything, you must skin the pistachios and then dry them out. Its best to do this the day before as the drying out takes a while. I bring enough water to a boil so that it will cover the pistachios by an inch. Place the pistachios in the boiling water and turn off the flame. Let the pistachios sit in the water for 2 minutes. Drain them and place them in a clean tea towel, a handful at a time. Rub vigorously to loosen the skins. Discard the skins. If there are some nuts that won’t give up their skins through rubbing, hold onto on end and squeeze and they should pop right off. Spread the nuts on a sheet pan and dry them out at an oven temp between 90F and 175F. I give you a range because I have a dehydrator setting on my oven and I can set it to 90F. If I didn’t have that, the lowest temp I can set my oven to is 175F. Be careful not to dry them too long or they’ll lose heir green color.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt
- Pour boiling water over cranberries, cover and rehydrate for 5 minutes. Drain, dry with paper towels and chop coarsely.
- Mix two eggs, 1 yolk and sugar with vanilla and lemon rind until light and creamy. Save the white from the yolk to use for the egg wash.
- Add flour to eggs on low speed or by hand. Stir in pistachios and cranberries.
- Split dough in half. I find the most accurate way to split the dough is to weigh it.
- Shape each half into a log about 13″ long by 2″ wide and make sure the logs are about 3″ apart on the same cookie sheet. The best way to do this is to put a bit of flour on a Silpat and roll half the dough into a log. Transfer it to the parchment lined cookie sheet and flatten the top with the palm of your hand. If your hand sticks, dust them with a bit of flour. The logs in the photo above are actually the same weight and dimensions but the camera makes them look different.
- Lightly beat the egg white and brush the tops and sides of the logs with it.
- Bake for 15 minutes and turn the sheet pan around. Bake another 15 minutes until the tops and sides are golden brown. Let cool for 15 minutes. I don’t like to bake more than one sheet at a time. When doubling the recipe, I use two ovens.
- Slice logs on an angle, about 1/4″ thick. I like to use a serrated knife. You could probably cook two sheets at a time with a convection oven. In that event, lower the temperature to 325F for the initial cooking and 275F for the second bake.
- Place cookies on a clean sheet pan and bake at 300F degrees F for 10 minutes. Reverse the pan and turn the cookies over. Bake for another 10 minutes. Don’t over bake or the pistachios will lose their lovely green color. The biscotti will crisp up as they cool.
- Let cool completely. before putting them in tins. These keep for at least a week in a cookie jar or several weeks frozen. If you wrap them individually in clear, food safe barrier bags and seal them they will last a month. I baked a bunch about a week before our governor quarantined the State of Illinois because of Covid-19. Their were a few left in the shop that hadn’t been sold. A month later I tried one and they were still delicious.
Possible substitutions for the zest, pistachios and cranberries:
1. Chocolate/Hazelnut: Use 6 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate and 6 oz of blanched, toasted and roughly chopped hazelnuts. Omit lemon peel or leave it in. I love lemon with chocolate.
2. Walnut/Spice: 9 oz chopped walnuts, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground anise, 1/4 tsp allspice, 1/8 tsp ground ginger, 1/8 tsp ground cloves, 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon vanilla, substitute orange rind for the lemon rind. When you brush the loaves with egg white, sprinkle with raw sugar. It adds a nice crunch and adds some needed sweetness. You could also do this with pecans
3. Exotic: 6oz chopped macadamia nuts, 6oz chopped white chocolate, 3 oz candied ginger.
4. Sicilian: 6 oz pine nuts, lemon peel from 1 or two lemons, 6 oz golden raisins
6. Double Chocolate: use 7oz flour (198 gram) and 2 oz (57 grams) Valrhona Cocoa Powder, 1/2 tsp espresso powder, 1 tsp. Vanilla, 6 oz bittersweet chocolate chips (I like Ghiradelli). The cocoa powder tend to be drying so I took the egg white I’d set aside to brush on top of the cookies and added half back into the dough. You can brush these with the remaining egg white and leave them plain or sprinkle them with Demerara sugar.
5. Venetian: Use about a teaspoon of cardamom, 6 oz slivered almonds and swap 1/3 cup of cornmeal for the flour.
6. Pecan/Cranberry: sub 9 oz lightly toasted pecan pieces for the pistachios; grated rind from one orange or 1/4 tsp Boyjian orange oil. Soak and dry 55 grams cranberries just as for the Pistachio/Cranberry biscotti in the main recipe.