Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bountiful Biscotti

I used to bake lots and lots and lots of cookies at Christmas. Cutout cookies, kisses cookies, macaroons, apricot jam crescents, crinkle cookies, snickerdoodles, cream cheese twists, peppermint sandwiches - cookies, cookies, cookies. Besides eating them "in house," I also gave away plates of cookies to friends and family.

I still bake lots of cookies at Christmas, but over the years I have reduced the types of cookies I make. Some of that is a function of age: it was a lot easier and more fun to make dozens of different types when I was younger and had more stamina. Some of it is a function of time passing: I'm not baking for my boys anymore, and they were a huge part of the fun of baking different types.

Some of it is the realization that I bake some types of cookies better than others.

What I bake now, almost but not quite exclusively, is biscotti. I always bake the same type: a plain pecan type spiced with cinnamon. I bake biscotti by the dozens and distribute it widely, leaving a trail of biscotti crumbs as I go. This year, I baked six or seven batches, or some 500 plus biscotti. They went out from coast to coast, with the heaviest concentration of them of them being sprinkled through the Midwest.

Over the years, friends and family have asked me for the recipe. I never hesitate to hand it out: it is not a secret family recipe, but rather one I probably found in either Family Circle or Woman's Day many years ago. This year, blogger friends Sharon and Ellen both asked for the recipe. In responding to Ellen, I wrote: I don't have a great story like the peanut brittle story to go along, other than one of friendship and good flavors (well, I guess that IS a great story!).

So here is the biscotti recipe. It is full of flavor and helps fortify friendships. Make some yourself, pass it around, and see if you agree.

1½ cups pecans*
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon**
5 eggs
2 cups sugar
½ cup melted butter***                   
1 ½ tablespoons grated orange rind****

Notes on ingredients
 *This recipe originally called for almonds. I prefer pecans; I have made it both ways.
**At a minimum. If I am using what I call OTC cinnamon (the regular, widely available stuff as opposed to more pungent specialty cinnamons), I usually use 3 to 4 teaspoons.
***Original recipes calls for unsalted. Salted will not kill the recipes. I have never made this with margarine or any other substitute, so I have no experience with using something else.
****Use it if you have it. Will not make or break the recipe. (I often omit this step because I rarely have grated orange rind available.)

  1. Preheat over to 350°. Prepare 2 baking sheets: I use parchment paper, but you may coat lightly with vegetable spray or Crisco.
  2. Chop (by hand or with food processor) ½ cup of pecans fine (like flour); set aside.
  3. Coarse chop the remainder of the pecans and place in small bowl with flour, baking powder and cinnamon.
  4. In large bowl, beat eggs on medium speed until fluffy. Add finely ground pecans (the ½ cup), sugar, butter, and orange peel. Beat until blended. Note: I use a mixer through this step. Stir in flour/pecan mixture to form dough. The dough should be fairly stiff and heavy, but not dry.
  5. Divide dough into quarters. On well-floured work surface, roll and shape each quarter into a log approximately 12 inches long and 1-2 inches wide. It is like rolling "snakes" from clay; dust your hands with flour. Place 2 logs on each baking sheet and bake 25-30 minutes, until "firm in center" per the original recipe. There is no magic to this: 25 to 30 minutes in a stove at 350° will get the desired results. Note: you can bake both sheets (all 4 logs) at the same time, rotating top/bottom, front/back at 15 minutes. I used to do this, but now bake one sheet of logs at a time.
  6. Let logs cool slightly: 10-15 minutes. While still warm, cut each log diagonally into ½ inch thick slices (or whatever other thickness you desire). Place slices face down on baking sheets (as opposed to on edge). Bake 7-8 minutes; turn slices and repeat on other side. Again, you can bake two sheets of biscotti at the same time; rotating top/bottom, front/back. Depending on your cutting and layout skills, you may get all biscotti cooked at the same time. They can be crowded together, as they do not spread. Cool on wire rack.
  7. Makes up to 80 cookies, depending on how thick you cut the slices. I tend to get 20 cookies to a log.
This is a pretty sturdy recipe and allows for imprecision in the kitchen. The baking time on the slices is as much a function of personal preference as to crispiness of biscotti as it is the clock. In a pinch, you can even get away with not turning the biscotti over for the final baking, but just bake them longer on the same side. It all depends on your patience and tolerance for handling hot cookies.



see you there! said...

The recipe looks good. I haven't baked biscotti but I've eaten my share of them,


Ellen said...

Yay! Thanks for sharing! This IS a great story of friendship and love. I'll be adding this to my cookie baking list for sure--and more than just at the holidays.

Sharon said...

Thank you so much for posting the recipe! (We were trying to figure out what was in it!) We greatly enjoyed our gift of biscotti! Sooooooo good!

stayathomemummy said...

Ooooh I have never made biscotti!! That will be one to try! Merry christmas and best wishes for the new year to you and your family x

I am the working poor. said...

I will have to try this soon. Happy new year!