Every year Rick and I have a baking day to make homemade gifts for a dozen, or so, of our wonderful neighbors. This year we chose three kinds of Biscotti to make- Cranberry Orange Almond, Chocolate Hazelnut and also Pistachio Cherry.
We enjoy spending the afternoon holed up in our warm, cozy kitchen while the snow falls thick and white outside the windows. We also like giving something we make ourselves to those we love because our time and attention are given as well as the final product.
In a world that wants to shove the Holiday Season down our throats before we have even swallowed the last of the Summer wine, we like taking charge by making what we give and immersing ourselves in an endeavor that creates a more loving pace than a frenzied afternoon fighting for space in a shopping mall. These are small gifts that give to us as well as those who receive them.
We use a basic Biscotti recipe that includes butter and we vary the add-ins and flavours. The chocolate version uses cocoa to replace some of the flour.
Blonde Biscotti – Use for Cranberry Orange Almond or Pistachio Cherry (or whatever other flavours you choose!)
- 1/4 pound of fresh butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon of extract of choice (use almond for Cranberry Orange Almond etc.)
- zest of one large orange, finely grated (make sure you just take the orange part not the pith which is bitter) this is optional and you can substitute lime or lemon zest if you wish.
- 2-3/4 cups All purpose unbleached flour
- 1 teaspooon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped dried fruit of choice (cranberry, tart cherry, apricot, pineapple etc.)
- 1 cup chopped nuts of choice (almond, pecan, hazelnut, walnut, pinenut etc.)
- White or dark chocolate for decorating.
Preheat your oven to 325F. Cream the sugar and butter together until fluffy, add the eggs one at a time along with the extract and zest if using, scrape your bowl if needed to make sure everything is smoothly mixed and incorporated. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a separate bowl- I use a whisk for this -it kind of simulates sifting. Add it all at once to the creamed mixture and mix just until a dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Add in the nuts and fruit. Mix until incorporated. Turn out of the bowl on to a lightly floured work surface and rub your hands with a little flour. Divide the dough in two and form each half into a log about 4 inches wide by 10″ long. Bake on parchment lined baking sheets until lightly browned and small cracks form on top. Remove from oven and cool completely on the baking sheets set on cooling racks. Overnight is okay. Remove log carefully peeling off the parchment and transfer to a cutting board. Slice in generous 1/2 inch slices – this is easiest by using a straight down chopping motion with a good santuko or chef’s knife. Place them with the cut side up on parchment lined baking trays and bake at 300F for another 20-25 minutes or until slightly browned, rotating your trays half way through the baking. Let cool on the trays. They will be a little soft at first and will crisp further as they cool. Melt some chocolate and drizzle over them to decorate when they are cool. You can dip them in the chocolate instead if you want or leave them plain.
Chocolate Hazelnut (or other nut) Biscotti
- 2 cups toasted skinned hazelnuts (or almonds etc.)
- 1/4 pound butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or use 1/2 vanilla and 1/2 other such as almond or orange or cherry etc.)
- 5 Tablespoons good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- a large pinch of salt
The method is the same as for the blonde biscotti, i.e. cream the sugar and butter, add the eggs and extract, mix the dry ingredients and add to the creamed then add the nuts or other add ins. Baking directions are also the same. These spread a bit more though so allow a little extra space between the logs.
The combinations are only limited by what you choose. Both recipes can be doubled or tripled even if your mixer is large enough to accomodate – we have a 7 quart mixer and triple batches are no problem.
This year we made a double batch of three kinds, we had enough for 12 neighbors and 2 large containers to share at work and munch on ourselves. These keep well so we can catch our neighbors as we can during the busy season and hand over a bag of these beauties along with our best wishes.
We wish you all peace and joy and a respite from the hustle and bustle that often overwhelms the Holidays.