Thursday, May 10, 2012

Feeling Crunchy

You know that feeling you get when the guy next door decides that 9am is the time he's going to start using his weedwacker/chainsaw/backhoe?  You're laying in bed, pretending to sleep (because, let's face it... you've been semi-awake for probably 15 minutes, but it's your day off and well, you just refuse to wake up any earlier than 10am), and all of a sudden -


Immediately you turn into, what I like to call, A Surly Hedgehog.  (see fig 1)

Spiny, fussy, hissy.  And you get surlier every time that guy takes a pause and then starts back up again with his rain of torture.  TURN OFF THE BUZZ SAW, DUDE.  I'M TRYING TO SLEEP HERE.  HAVE A HEART!!

This may or may not have happened this morning.  Not to me (oddly enough), but to Cori.  I was already downstairs with my face shoved in a steaming cup of caffiene.  After she [finally] came downstairs after what seemed like hours of enduring the rooster call of the buzz saw, we took turns doing our best impression of surly hedgehogs. 

I think mine was the best.

There are much better ways of waking up on your day off.  Like when there are good things to eat that you can smell all the way up in your room.  Good things like biscotti.  I'm talking REAL biscotti, not just some hard chunks in a plastic package you got at the grocery store.  What I'm saying is... we could do this.  Together.  You and I.  We could MAKE biscotti.  And we can MAKE them in any flavor that WE want to. 

Like what?

Oh, I don't know...  maybe white chocolate, lime, and coconut?  Are you feeling that one?

Now there are two schools of thought when it comes to the business of biscotti:  Go American or Go Italian.  Italians and those who are purists (or those who have good dental insurance) prefer the traditional hard-as-rock crunch of the Italian biscotti.  Biscotti made this way is meant to be dunked in not just coffee... but wine.  WINE.  SOMEONE PINCH ME.

Unfortunately for me, I chose the former - the American version - to start with.  I love myself a reason to drink wine, but I wanted to put all kinds of things in it, and the Italian biscotti just is too dry to add too many wet ingredients to.  The American version is lighter, softer, with a large crumb.  There is still a bit of crunch to it, but it barely needs anything in which to dunk it.  It can handle more mix-ins than its harder predecessor, and is a fair bit more delicate in transporting.  Since I was so keyed up on adding a ton of crap mix-ins, I decided to try my hand at the American recipe first.  Go 'merica.

When you are making the biscotti base, keep thinking about the texture of thick cookie dough.  It's sticky, holds onto a spoon if you were to turn that spoonful of dough upside down, and it's sweet.  Remember to use the sweeter add-ins sparingly.  Maybe 2 cups of white chocolate chips sounded amazing to me when I was dreaming this recipe up, but in reality, I was not trying to send myself into sugar shock.  My suggestion to you would be this:  add in 1 cup of sweet, melty ingredients, and temper it with an equal part of no-sweetened.  My non-sweetened ingredient was the unsweetened coconut flakes, and then of course the lime juice and zest for added kick.  If you were adding candied walnuts, semi-sweet chocolate, or streusel swirl, I'd suggest countering it with a bit of bitter/warm cinnamon, maybe some unsweetened orange zest, or dried ginger.  If you are adding mix-ins to this recipe, you'll need to add 5 minutes to the first bake time listed in the recipe, and 5-10 minutes to the second.

Just remember to add all your extras BEFORE you add the flour.  Trust this little bit of advice.

After the dough has come together, you'll need to shape it.  I was going to use my metal pastry scraper... but someone (that's me) forgot it was packed up in the storage unit 20 minutes away.  So if you too are finding yourself without the proper tool for shaping, reach for the second-best thing:  your chef's knife.  Once you've shaped your dough into a 14" long log (about 3-4 inches wide), shape it with a wet knife (or pastry scraper) until it is completely level and squared off on all sides.  Don't worry - you'll still end up with beautiful tapered edges after it bakes!

After the first bake (yes - there are TWO bakes!), you'll need to slice your biscotti.  You can either mist down (lightly) the top of the half-baked dough with water, or you can wet your knife again before each slice.  Either way, you'll trying to prevent too much crumbling action.  

The biscotti are turned on their sides and are ready to bake again.  This ensure crunch, browns them up, and gets them ready for the party (in your tummy).

And there you have it!  Beautiful, home-made biscotti.  IN ANY FLAVOR YOU WANT.  Now... about that neighbor...

American Style Biscotti
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup white chocolate chunks/chips
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
zest of 3 limes
juice of 1 lime (depending on level of intensity desired)

*preheat the oven to 350 degrees; line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper*

In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and baking powder until smooth.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated (the mixture will look slightly curdled, and that is just fine).  If you are adding in extras, such as the white chocolate, coconut flakes, or lime, add them in now and stir until combined.  Add in the flour all at once, and stir until the flour disappears.  

Turn the dough out onto the prepared parchment-lined cookie sheet, and shape with wet hands and a pastry scraper (or chef's knife).  The log should be about 14 inches long and roughly 3-4 inches side.  Use the wet knife to smooth the top.  Bake on the middle rack for 25 minutes. 

Let the biscotti cool for 5-15 minutes (it can sit for up to 25 minutes before you need to slice it).  Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Making sure to go completely up and down, slice the biscotti about 1 inch thick with a wet chef's knife.  Carefully turn them on their sides and bake again for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.  Biscotti can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.  Note:  if biscotti are not crunchy enough for your taste, you can leave them in a dry place over night, uncovered, until dried out to taste.


  1. You forgot to add the part about making sure they're out of dog reach while they cool.

    1. I stand corrected, Cori!

      BEWARE: DOGS LOVE BISCOTTI (that they can reach).