Saturday, December 21, 2013

Recipe: Toasted Almond Chocolate Chip Biscotti Cookies

These scrumptious biscotti cookies are perfect for gift giving, dunking, or just plain munching. Never baked biscotti? Try my Easy Chocolate Biscotti for Beginners.

Homemade biscotti is impressive. Even people who regularly make their own biscotti are impressed when you bake it for them. It's not difficult to make, but by definition it's a twice baked cookie, so it does require a fair amount of time.

Because it looks so perfect, and because it keeps so well, homemade biscotti makes a very nice gift. Package it in little cellophane bags tied with colorful ribbon and people will think you spent a fortune on them at a fancy bakery.

I came up with this recipe several years ago and haven't made it nearly enough since. It's a pleasant, not too hard, not particularly sweet biscotti cookie that lasts for days and even improves with age. It also freezes beautifully. It holds up to dunking but tastes great by itself, and I think it goes well with everything from hot coffee to cold champagne.

If you're craving a sweeter or fancier dessert, you could dip one side of each piece in melted chocolate. Or you could dunk your biscotti in amaretto, or break up a few pieces, stir them into some nice vanilla ice cream, and drizzle it with a little chocolate sauce.

Like I said, biscotti isn't difficult to make, but I did learn a few things while mixing up numerous test batches for this recipe. In case you find them helpful:

Recipe below. . .

1. If you desire a foolproof, totally stress-free biscotti baking experience, stick to my Chocolate Biscotti for Beginners.

2. If you use semisweet chocolate chips in your biscotti batter, they will melt during the first bake and make a big mess when you go to do your slicing (at least that's what happened to me). Dark chocolate (bittersweet) chips work much better, as do mini semisweet chocolate chips. Bittersweet/dark chocolate chunks might work, but I haven't tried them.

3. If you toast your own almonds and don't let them cool completely, they will melt the chocolate chips when you stir them into the batter and make a mess. In a hurry? Spread the hot toasted almonds on a plate and stick them in the freezer to cool.

4. Biscotti are, by definition, dry cookies. By baking them twice—once in big logs and then in slices—you are essentially drying them out. The dryness is what gives them their distinctive crunch and long shelf life.

But weather, humidity, type of flour, size of eggs, and, quite possibly, the alignment of the planets all contribute to the "wetness" of your batter. This means different batches of biscotti batter may require slightly different "drying" (baking) times. Also, eveyone has a different opinion as to just how dry biscotti should be. All of this can be rather exasperating.

5. If you add just one extra half-cup of sugar to this recipe, you will end up with completely different cookies. They will be sweeter, but they will also be much crunchier, and they will require a longer second bake. If you're a fan of break-your-teeth-crunchy biscotti, this version might very well be your dream cookie, and you should probably try it, but you are responsible for all baking times and dental work.

Enjoy!


Farmgirl Susan's Toasted Almond Chocolate Chip Biscotti
Makes about 36 pieces

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients; they really do make a difference. Even organic sugar has become mainstream. When organic butter goes on sale I stock up and freeze it.

I like to buy sliced almonds that are pre-toasted, but it's easy to toast them yourself: just spread them on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 8 to 10 minutes, until they are lightly golden and you can smell them (don't let them get too brown).

The egg white glaze is optional but gives the tops of the biscotti a very nice shine. Look for real farm eggs laid by happy hens at the farmers' market or search for a farmer near you on LocalHarvest.org.

3/4 cup (2¼ ounces) sliced almonds
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 ounces) organic butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2½ cups organic all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder (make sure it's fresh!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (5 ounces) dark chocolate chips or mini chocolate chips

1 beaten egg white for glaze, optional

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a heavy duty baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.

Toast the almonds (if you aren't using pre-toasted) and let them cool completely.

Place the butter, sugar, eggs, almond extract, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl and beat until well blended, about 1 minute with a hand mixer on medium-high speed.

Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix on medium speed just until the dough forms. Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips. The dough will be stiff.

Divide the dough in half and pat each half into a 3-inch by 9-inch flat log. Place the logs on the parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with the egg white glaze if desired.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown and just beginning to crack on top.

Reduce the oven to 300 degrees. Let the logs cool 15 minutes (or longer) and using a large, sharp knife (mine is serrated) carefully slice into 1/2-inch slices, either straight down or, if you want them to look a little fancier, at a 45-degree angle. Cut each slice in one motion; don't saw them.

Arrange the slices on their sides on the baking sheet (you may have to use two) and bake for 15 minutes, then flip the slices over and bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are dry and crisp. Note: they will crisp up more as they cool. Cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for several days or freeze.

More easy Farmgirl Fare sweet treats that are perfect for holiday giving and munching:
Christmas Cranberry Scones (tasty any time of year!)
Easy Chocolate Biscotti Cookies (the perfect recipe for first time biscotti bakers)
Easy Fudgy Chocolate Streusel Almond Bars
Quick and Easy Raspberry Almond Bars (made with raspberry jam)

Can't live on cookies alone? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

© FarmgirlFare.com, where it's always time for dessert.

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