I’ve never made biscotti. Not even one time. And I’m not sure why, because it seems like biscotti is one of those things that begs you to please, please make it from scratch and not judge it based on its store-bought, tasteless counterparts. Really, have you ever tasted a packaged biscotti and thought “wow; this has some massive flavor to it!” No, you haven’t. Fact: pre-packaged biscotti are devoid of flavor (which is why many of them are dipped in chocolate), dry like the Sahara, and possess no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I bet the real biscotti over in Italy is mortified that these little shards of blandness even exist.
It’s the middle of the holiday season; a time for giving to those less fortunate than ourselves. Like sad biscotti. They don’t need homes, people; they need you to make your own and spread a little pro-biscotti christmas cheer. Store-bought biscotti will never make you happy, but the homemade variety will keep you content for days and days, provided they last that long.
I made a little christmas biscotti for you. I’ve been waiting to make it; I saw it this summer, and it just looked holiday-ish, so I bookmarked it. What a pleasant surprise to know that biscotti is incredibly easy to make? Why have I not done this before? It’s got a little twice-baked thing going on, sure, but the process doesn’t involve very much work at all. It’s a simple mixing of dough, patting it into rough logs, a little bake/cut/bake action, and poof: biscotti worthy of the finest food gift. And yes, they DO make excellent food gifts, as they have a nice little shelf life to them.
In the name of research, and because biscotti are typically served with a hot drink of something, I tested these alongside my morning coffee, some afternoon hot chocolate, and a little chai tea the next day. Science, people; you have a hypothesis (that it will be delicious with all three, equally) which must be tested and proved. I’m pleased to say that my hypothesis was indeed correct: it was a delightful pairing with all three. What does that mean for you? Mostly that anytime you have a hot drink in your hand – even first thing in the morning – it will be acceptable to have a chocolate pistachio biscotti in the other.
Certainly there’s the whole gift-giving thing to consider here, but do try to keep some for yourself. Many of you have friends and family headed your direction in a few weeks, and having these on-hand is a great, not-cookie-sweet alternative to a sugar coma en masse.
Adapted slightly from Food & Wine: An Entire Year of Recipes 2006. Food & Wine Magazine puts one of these out every, and by now I consider it my personal duty to collect all of them. For my “I love to cook from magazines” friends out there, pick one of – any of – these books up for yourself.
Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- scant 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder*
- 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, or 1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips**
- 1 cup shelled pistachios (the original recipe calls for unsalted, but i like to use salted for that extra little sweet/salty boost. so you decide.)
*You know I like amplifying chocolate with my espresso powder, but I swear the original recipe calls for coffee extract. I checked online in terms of substitutions, and coffee extract and espresso powder seem to be interchangeable. I’ve read that you can mix the powder with a bit of water, but I skipped the step and noticed no problems (I mean, it’s a teaspoon.)
**I prefer the chopped chocolate here. We’ve talked before about this, but chocolate chips contain stabilizers which hold them in their chip form, even when melted, until they are stirred. You could use chips for this, but the benefit to bars is that you get shardy bits of chocolate ribboning through your biscotti; it basically melts into it and just makes it more luxurious. Visually and otherwise, this is a plus in my book.
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet (the biggest one you have) with parchment paper, or line 2 sheets if you feel more comfortable.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, espresso powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together until fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat after each addition until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and add the vanilla and almond extracts, beating on high until combined, about 30 seconds.
With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture slowly, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until a soft, sticky dough forms. It won’t seem like the easiest dough to handle, but don’t worry; just make sure that everything is homogenous and there are no dry streaks in it before proceeding.
Once your dough is ready, with your mixer on low, add the chopped chocolate and the pistachios, beating at low speed until evenly distributed, about 20 seconds. During this time, keep watch to see if there’s any way you can help the process along; I like to lift up the mixer about halfway through and do a big scrape of both the bowl and the paddle so there are no “blank” spots in my dough.
Transfer your dough to your countertop and divide into four equal parts. This is where you decide if you’re using one or two baking sheets. Take each dough lump and shape it into a rough log, place it on the baking sheet, then gently pat down into a flatter log approximately 2 inches wide by 3/4 inch tall. It will look like a massive biscotti; and indeed, these are what you will cut your biscotti out of, but after the first bake.
If you’re going to be adventurous and do this on one half sheet pan (which I did), there is JUST enough room for four logs. Give them each a modest amount of room, but start maybe 2 inches from one side and evenly space them out. They will expand, but not a great deal. If this seems like too nerve-wracking a prospect for you, then place two logs on each sheet pan.
Bake the logs for 20-22 minutes, checking at the 18-minute mark for doneness. If you’re using two sheets, rotate them halfway through baking. When they’re done, they should look puffed and will be springy to the touch. When you remove your pans from the oven, transfer the pans immediately to wire racks to let cool for 20 minutes.
Reduce your oven temperature to 200˚F.
To the extent this is possible, lift your biscotti logs carefully from the sheet pan to a cutting surface. Be supportive because that log isn’t sturdy yet; this was just the first bake. Using a sharp knife (and test this at the end of a log after 20 minutes of cooling time; if you feel like it’s still too crumbly to slice through, wait another 10 minutes. You’re not in a rush with these), cut the logs crosswise into somewhere between 3/4 inch and 1 inch slices.
Is this proper for biscotti? Who knows, because the book says to cut them much slimmer, which is nearly impossible to do considering their semi-crumbly nature and large pistachio chunks. Also, I like a sturdy biscotti. You cut them as thin as you want to; obviously if you’re looking for higher yields, thinner would be a good way to go.
As you slice, return the biscotti slices back to your still-parchment-covered baking sheets, spacing them apart at least a 1/2 inch or so; they’re not going to spread at this point, you just want the air to circulate around them. Bake them for about 30 minutes more, rotating the pans at the halfway mark. Once they are crisped up, remove them from the oven and transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Remember, these will harden up more once cooled (as everything does) do don’t bake them so much that they break teeth.
If you slice them like I do, you should get between 36-40 biscotti.