Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cranberry & white chocolate biscotti

There's something terribly unfortunate about the stigma that surrounds certain foods.  That they are only for holidays or fancy occasions.  Or meant to be carved in a very specific way.  Or only to be served with coffee.  Who are the people saying such things?  Are they in my kitchen preparing and spoon-feeding me said food?  [looks around]  I don't see anyone.  Well, except for that fork gnome.  Because that can be the only logical explanation after 5 salad forks have gone missing.  You can ignore him as I have for the last two and a half years.

Anyway, one such food that I've always felt carried an air of grandeur with it is biscotti.  Biscotti, translated from Italian, means twice baked.  So, it's not in the name.  And it's a rather easy cookie to make and bake, so no laborious process worthy of praise.  Then riddle me this -- why do people seem to treat it like something only to be enjoyed by royalty or others with an outstretched pinky finger?

Come on, you've seen it at your local Starbucks.  You're checking out and there, at the counter, are two choices for an impulse buy: shortbread cookies and biscotti.  The first seems to advertise "fun! youth! sweet deliciousness!" while the other (at least to me) proclaims an air of "sophistication. not too sweet for mature palates. only if you're buying coffee."  What, isn't my hot chocolate good enough for your fancy Italian cookie?  Why have I only seen biscotti paired with a hot cup of coffee?  That's so misleading!

A delicious crunchy cookie shouldn't be destined to such a predictable fate.  I say, bring the goodness of the slightly sweet and infinitely adaptable biscotti to the masses!  It can dipped biscotti in tea, hot chocolate, or even milk.  You can shape biscotti to be as short or long as you like.  The flecks of color and punches of flavor can come from not only gorgeous dried cranberries and funky green pistachios, but dried cherries or anise extract or citrus zest.  And, if you still don't feel like you're one with your biscotti without a little chocolate, why feel free to drizzle a little melted white or semi-sweet chocolate over the finished slices.

This is as fool-proof a cookie as you will find.  No need to stress over slightly different-sized logs or bumps and lumps in the cookies.  All add to the character and make each slice unique.  Biscotti make for a fantastic holiday gift, may I add.  Package some in a classic jar as shown above and tie with a simple ribbon and no wrapping paper necessary to cover up the gorgeous treat.  But, if you're content to keep them for yourself and enjoy the snappy turned tender cookie once you've dipped it in [gasp] a cold glass of milk, I won't judge you.  In fact, I'll herald you as the next great culinary rebel :)

One Year Ago: The best yellow cupcakes

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti
(adapted slightly from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, of course)

-makes roughly 40

A few notes: I attempted to substitute white chocolate for the nuts.  While the biscotti still taste fantastic, the finished look of twice-baked white chocolate isn't as pretty as the green flecks that would come from pistachios.  Feel free to substitute another nut, dried fruit, or even citrus zest of your choice, but save the chocolate for drizzling once the biscotti have cooled completely.

1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup boiling water
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons (1/4 cup or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
3 large eggs + 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  Place cranberries in a small bowl and add boiling water.  Let stand until plump, about 15 minutes.  Drain, and set aside.  In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add 3 whole eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Beat in vanilla.  Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined.  Mix in cranberries, nuts, and chocolate (if using).

Divide dough in half, and turn out each half onto a lined baking sheet.  With your hands and a light dusting of flour to prevent sticking, form each into a 16 by 4-inch log.  Flatten logs slightly.  With a pastry brush, brush beaten egg white over the surface of the logs and sprinkle generously with sugar.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until logs are slightly firm to the touch, about 25 minutes.  Transfer logs on parchment paper to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 20 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 300F.

Place logs on a cutting board.  Using a very sharp serrated knife, cut logs crosswise on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices.  Place a wire rack on a cookie sheet, arrange slices cut sides down on wire rack, and bake an additional 30 minutes until firm to the touch.  (If you don't have a wire rack, simply arrange the pieces on the same parchment lined sheets and flip pieces halfway through cooking time.)

Remove pan from oven and cool biscotti completely on wire rack.  Cookies can be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for up to 3 months.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not really a fan of biscotti, but I gotta say, I really liked this recipe.