This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Gretchen of Canela & Comino: Lenox Almond Biscotti. Biscotti are Italian "biscuits," which are really just cookies that have been twice baked. The second trip to the oven dries them out and yields a crisp cookie that is great for dunking in coffee and has a nice shelf life (they will keep - covered or not - for about a week).
I thought long and hard about sitting this one out. I don't like biscotti and I don't like nuts (nor do I drink coffee). Since joining the group in January, I've only missed two weeks - once because I had a severe contusion to my hand and could not even turn a door knob, and the other time because I was out of town. So when I started thinking about it, not liking the recipe seemed like a pretty lame excuse. Plus, the whole reason why I joined TWD was to (1) bake my way through an entire cookbook, (2) learn/improve my baking skills, and (3) challenge myself to try recipes I otherwise would not try on my own. So I forged on with the recipe, determined to keep an open mind. I wanted to give myself a fair chance of liking the recipe, so I omitted the almonds. I decided to make a half batch with chocolate chips, and the other half with dried cranberries.
I had never made biscotti before, so I was nervous about screwing up the recipe. I read the instructions carefully, several times over, to make sure I did not make any mistakes. There were a few things about the recipe that I wasn't sure about. First, you're supposed to divide the dough in half, and then form two logs. Each log is supposed to be 12" long and 1-1/2" wide. I didn't see how I was going to get anything that resembled biscotti from this. Turns out, the dough is supposed to spread quite a bit in the oven, allowing you to get the characteristic oblong biscotti shape.
Dorie warns that the log will be bumpy, rough and uneven - so don't be concerned if your dough isn't all smooth and pretty.
The other part of the recipe that I wasn't so sure about was between the first and second bake. After the first bake, Dorie instructs you to cut the logs into 3/4" thick slices and then return them to the baking sheet. Instead of laying them cut side down, Dorie wants you to stand them up "like a marching band." I had no idea what that meant! (Apparently, several others did not either.) Laurie told me to arrange them on the tray in the same manner in which they were cut, so that's what I did. I just cannot see how it would be physically possible to stand them on their tips, without them toppling over. Apparently, you don't want to lay them cut side down because then they won't crisp up on both sides.
So what was the verdict? I really liked these! The biscotti you buy in stores like Starbucks taste like hard rocks. Homemade biscotti is so much better. I thought these were best straight out of the oven, and just okay once they were cool. I had one person tell me they tasted better the second day, though. A few noted that the cornmeal made these too gritty, but I didn't find that the case with mine at all. As for the add ins... chocolate seemed to be much more popular than the dried cranberries. I had originally intended to make cranberry orange biscotti by rubbing some orange zest into the sugar before beating the butter and sugar together but I was in such a hurry I forgot. Maybe next time I'll make cranberry orange white chocolate chip biscotti. I really like that this recipe lends itself to so many different variations...
Thanks Gretchen, for choosing this recipe. If it weren't for you, I would have never tried homemade biscotti and I would have forever hated it! If you would like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you visit the TWD Blog Roll to see how everyone else enjoyed these!
*A few recipe notes:
- The baking time is 15 minutes if you halve the recipe. (Though some bakers even noted a longer baking time for the full recipe.)
- When you are shaping your logs, you can easily make them 1.5" wide by measuring with 3 finger widths.
- Don't put your logs too close together on the baking sheet - the dough spreads quite a bit after baking. I started with a log that was 1.5" wide... after baking, it was about 6" wide.
- If the dough is too hard to work with, you can chill it in the refrigerator for ~15 minutes before shaping it into logs, but don't chill it too long, or else it won't spread as much as it should.
- I used vanilla extract instead of almond extract because I omitted the almonds.
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