Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Biscotti

Baking cookies is one of my favorite holiday rituals. In fact, I love it so much that I’ve even been known to participate in a cookie swap or two, which is a great way to bond with friends, get ideas and pick up new recipes (and an excellent excuse to indulge in a little eggnog, which is possibly the most unhealthy beverage on the 

planet). I have my standard favorites, but I usually like to add one or two new cookies to my repertoire. This year I decided to add Christmas Biscotti, which feature bright green pistachio nuts and dried cranberry pieces and the subtle flavors of cinnamon, honey and orange. Biscotti are usually thought of as Tuscan, but they 

can be traced as far back as Roman times. The word biscotto comes from the root “bis,” Latin for twice, and “coctum” or baked (which became “cotto,” or cooked). These unleavened biscuits were baked once to cook the dough and then again to dry them out. A staple of the Roman Legions, biscotti were the ideal sustenance for travelers, 

like modern-day power bars. They are not meant to be moist, and are usually made with olive oil—the fat of choice in Tuscany—instead of butter. Make sure you use an excellent quality extra-virgin olive oil in your biscotti. I like Lucini, which has bright, fruity character with just of hint of pepper at the end. These biscotti also 

look great dipped in white chocolate—try to use a high-quality white chocolate couverture, and, for a shiny, flawless finish, temper it first.

Christmas Biscotti

Makes 40 biscotti
Storage: in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks

Biscotti dough:
2 cups (242 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup shelled pistachio nuts (about 3 1/4 ounces)
¾ cup (about 3 ½ ounces) coarsely chopped dried cranberries or cherries (cranberries have a brighter color)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup (60 ml) honey
1/4 cup (60 ml) high quality olive oil
Grated zest from 1 large navel orange

Make the biscotti:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir with a wire whisk until blended. Mix in the pistachio nuts and dried fruit. Set aside.
3. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, honey, olive oil, and grated zest. Use a fork to stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring until the dough clumps together.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and press the pieces of dough together. Divide the dough into halves. With lightly floured hands, gently roll each half into a log about 13 to 14 inches long. Carefully transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet, placing them at least 3 inches apart. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the logs are well-risen and firm. Set the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool the logs completely.
5. Peel away the parchment paper and transfer the logs to a cutting surface. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place the biscotti, standing up, on a baking sheet lined with a clean piece of parchment paper.
6. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and bake the biscotti for 10 to 15 minutes, until dry. Set the baking sheet on a wire rack and allow the biscotti to cool completely.