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Friday, December 4, 2009

Holiday Biscotti, Three Ways

If you're sending holiday cookies to friends and family, biscotti is a great option. These twice-baked cookies ship well and keep well. Toss in some festive ingredients - peppermint, say, or pistachio and dried cranberries - and these make perfect holiday gifts.

I've used this Biscotti Toscani recipe from AllRecipes many times, and people seem to love it, though I tend to tinker with it a bit.

For this batch, not satisfied with just making one type of biscotti, I made the base dough and separated it into three bowls. One bowl got chopped bittersweet chocolate, chopped almonds, and almond extract. Another bowl got dried orange-flavored cranberries, chopped pistachio, and almond extract. The third got chopped white chocolate chips, crushed peppermint candy, and peppermint extract.

The result?

Holiday deliciousness that should please even those hard-to-shop-for folks on your list. Because who doesn't like biscotti?

Biscotti Base

Adapted from AllRecipes
(I tripled this to make enough for three different flavors)

* 1/3 cup butter
* 3/4 cup white sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour a large baking sheet.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. Stir into the creamed mixture until just blended.
3. Divide dough into different bowls if making different types of biscotti. Stir in mix-ins (see below for ideas, or invent your own!).
4. Divide dough into two pieces. Form into long flat loaves about 1/2 inch tall and 12 inches long. Place the loaves 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until a light golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
6. With a serrated knife, cut diagonally into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Lay the slices flat on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, turning over once. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.



(Modified from the same AllRecipes recipe)

Add 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, 1/2 cup toasted almond pieces, and 1/2 cup chopped chocolate. Orange zest is optional. If you're sending these somewhere that's cold, you could leave the chocolate out of the biscotti and dunk or drizzle the finished cookies in some melted chocolate for a prettier presentation. These were going to Paraguay, among other places, and therefore I wanted the chocolate safely ensconced in the cookie dough.


(Inspired by the recipe in the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking Book, though I used the AllRecipes base purely for convenience)

Add 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, 1 cup chopped pistachios, and 1/2 cup dried cranberries. Orange zest is optional here too, and the orange-flavored cranberries (the one's from Trader Joe's are great) work well.

Peppermint-White Chocolate:

(I searched for a recipe for these, but didn't find any I liked, so I created my own)

Add 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract, 1/2 cup chopped white chocolate chips, and 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies. For days I would smell these cookies and tried to figure out what smelled so good. You'd think after the first day or so I'd remember what it was, but no...

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