Most of us know biscotti as those crisp little cookies we munch on while enjoying coffee or tea at our neighborhood cafe. While they may not be the richest or fanciest option, say this for them: compared to most everything else available there, they’re not as sweet. “Biscotti,” of course refers to the fact that they are twice cooked, or twice baked to be more precise. And in fact the English word “biscuit” is a translation of “biscotti” which we borrowed from the French. But I digress. The point of twice baking something is to dry it out, thus greatly extending its shelf life. I’ve read that the Roman Legions carried twice-baked goods as part of their rations.
While there’s no lack of biscotti recipes out there, you may like this one because it’s vegan, naturally sweetened, and contains whole grain flour. This recipe isn’t that difficult, but I won’t lie to you: it’s a bit tricky. Here’s what to do to succeed: 1) keep the dough moist, 2) during the first baking, remove the biscotti from the oven while the loaves are still a little bit moist to the touch in the center, 3) cut while still hot, gingerly, with a very sharp knife, 4) watch carefully so as to bake them to the precise degree of crispness you prefer during the second baking. If you can manage all that, you’re be rewarded with some very nice looking biscotti. These are good plain, but for the chocolate lovers among you, I’m including a recipe for a chocolate sauce which is great for dipping. Recipe, after the jump.
Photo: Who is that woman trying to make off with a whole plate of biscotti? Actually, it is my friend, Ilona Pollac, who manages our Monday night dinners in Palo Alto.
CHOCOLATE-DIPPED ALMOND-ANISE BISCOTTI
This is a simple, in many ways very traditional, biscotti recipe. Vary it by adding cocoa, dried fruits, sweet spices, or substitute other nuts for the almonds.
Yield: 20-24 biscotti
Preheat oven to 350˚ F
2 cups unbleached flour
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1 cup roasted almonds, finely ground
1/4 cup arrowroot or cornstarch
2 tablespoons powered anise
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk, or milk of choice
1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. In a blender, emulsify the wet ingredients. Pour the wet into the dry and stir well to make a dough, slightly sticky, but not too wet.
2. Turn the dough out onto a large floured cutting board or work area and knead it for a minute or two. Form the dough into a log 16 inches long, 1 1/2 inches high and 3 inches wide, patting and smoothing to make it even and to round the corners. Cut it in two so that you have two logs, each 8 inches long. Transfer these to a parchment-lined cookie sheet pan, make a 1/8-inch slit lengthwise in the center of each loaf (so it can expand without breaking) and bake at 350˚ F 25 or so minutes or until lightly browned. It should still seem a little moist at the center (if it gets too done at this point, the pieces will break and crumble as you try to cut them in the next step). Remove from the oven and allow to cool a minute or two.
3. With a sharp, moistened bread knife gingerly cut each log into 10 to 12 slices, each about 3/4 inch thick. Lay these biscotti on their sides on the cookie sheet pan and return to the oven for 10-12 minutes or until very lightly browned. For even browning, turn the biscotti over after 5 minutes.
4. Leave the biscotti on the cookie sheet pans, and after they’ve cooled a bit, dip one end into the warm chocolate sauce (see recipe below). While the chocolate sauce needs to be warm, it if is too hot it will become thin and run off the biscotti. Don’t fuss if not every one of your biscotti turns out perfectly–they’ll still taste good.
5. Chill the biscotti thoroughly before attempting to store them.
For the chocolate sauce: Melt a 4-0unce bar of 100% cacao unsweetened chocolate (I used Ghirardelli) in a small sauce pan with 1/3 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup maple syrup and 1/4 cup rice syrup, whisking constantly until the chocolate is fully melted and all ingredients combined. Taste to see if the sauce is sweet enough. I like it not too sweet, but add a little more maple syrup if you think it needs it.