Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Twice-Baked Biscuit

My good friend Rocio is in Bologna for the semester. We miss her a lot and we like to have parties. Therefore, we decided to celebrate her birthday, even though she wouldn't be here to share in the festivities. Oh well. (Note: this was back in September, but I just got the photos off of my friend's camera now, so you willl have to deal.)

I decided to make one treat pertaining to her current residence in Italy, and another honoring her Mexican-American heritage. The Mexican-American heritage treat came out a big soggy mess not worthy of this illustrious blog, but the biscotti was great! I had never made it before (well, sort of — my people call it mandel bread) and it's not my favorite, but I couldn't think of any other Italian sweets, so biscotti it was.

I ran into my friend Mike on the Main Green the day I was to bake it. He's also going to Bologna second semester, and we had the following conversation:

Sarah: I'm making biscotti today! I've never made it, and I don't know anything about it except that you're supposed to bake it twice.
Mike: Yeah, "biscotti" is actually Italian for "twice-baked."
Sarah: Oh really? I always thought it mean "biscuit."
Mike: Yeah, no... (backs away slowly lest my ignorance infect him.)

So, armed with my hard-won biscotti knowledge, I embarked on what was, to be honest, a fairly straightforward endeavor. I picked a chocolate biscotti recipe (from Dorie, natch), since the Mexican cake was non-chocolate. The only thing I didn't do in the recipe was stand up the biscotti like little soldiers, because they didn't have flat ends, but I don't mind because I prefer biscotti that's not too hard and in laying them down flat, only one side got crispy. After the disaster that was the Mexican cake, I was glad these turned out so well. A lot of people who, like me, are not wild biscotti enthusiasts said that they were delicious and ate them all up before the party was through!

Chocolate Biscotti Recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp instant coffee or instant espresso powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar (I always use a bit less, more like 3/4)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped almonds (or hazelnuts - next time)
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.

Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, coffee powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

With a mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 2 minutes until light. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs and vanilla; beat for another 2 minutes. Decrease the speed to low and mix in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing only until a dough forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix in the chopped nuts and chocolate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead a few times just to incorporate any dry ingredients that didn't get mixed in before. Divide into two portions; on the baking sheet, shape each portion into a 12 x 2 inch log. Dust the tops with a little sugar. Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove the sheet from the oven and let it cool on a rack for 20 minutes. Then, with a very sharp, serrated knife, slice the logs into about 3/4 - 1 inch slices and leave the slices standing up on the baking sheet. Return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes of baking.

Transfer biscotti to a rack to cool.

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