Yes, those Russian tea cakes are delicious and those Scottish shortbread are tasty too, but you can sweep aside all those other cookies and leave me with just Italian biscotti. To say “just” is not to diminish their taste or popularity. They’ve become ubiquitous in the last few years everywhere from sidewalk cafes to Starbucks, but they’ve been my comfort food cookie since childhood. Nothing goes better with a cup of espresso than a plateful of biscotti.
Or have them the way many Italians do – with a glass of Vin Santo. It’s an Italian dessert wine made mostly in Tuscany and Umbria, and it’s reminiscent of sherry or port. Vin Santo is made from malvasia and trebbiano grapes that have been left to partially dry for several months until they’re practically raisins, concentrating the sugar and alcohol that becomes the sweet amber drink.
I’ve already posted the recipe for the biscotti on the top right of the plate - my all-time favorite almond biscotti, a recipe from my friend Lilli. I always add the dried cranberries at Christmas time. The biscotti on the left side of the plate are from one of my favorite bloggers, Marie of Proud Italian Cook. She makes them with dried figs and pistachios and they are fast becoming my latest addiction.
I found the chocolate biscotti recipe in the New York Times from Wed. April 29, 2009. My changes are marked in red.
Adapted from Union Square Cafe
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups lightly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon double-strength brewed espresso
3 large eggs
7 1/2 ounces (1 rounded cup) small milk chocolate chips ( I used a dark chocolate bar from Trader Joe’s, cut into bits)
1 cup roasted hazelnuts, skins rubbed off
1 large egg, beaten and mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
2 tablespoons raw sugar.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12- by 17-inch baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick liner. Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda; set aside.
2. Using a heavy-duty electric mixer, cream together the brown sugar, granulated sugar and butter for 3 to 5 minutes at medium speed. Add vanilla extract and espresso. Mix for 10 seconds. Add eggs one at a time, mixing for 10 seconds at medium-low speed after each addition. Add sifted flour mixture and mix at low speed until dough comes together, 1 to 2 minutes. Add chocolate chips and nuts and mix just until chips are evenly incorporated, 15 to 20 seconds.
3. Transfer dough to a work surface and divide in two, shaping into balls. Form each ball into a log 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Transfer logs to prepared baking sheet and flatten slightly. Brush tops of logs with egg wash and sprinkle each log with 1 tablespoon raw sugar. Bake until biscotti have spread, have a few cracks and bounce back slightly when pressed with fingertips, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut logs into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch slices. Place each slice with a cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or nonstick liner. Bake until firm, crisp and slightly dry, about 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days, or freeze for up to three months.
Yield: 60 to 80 biscotti. (I didn’t count mine, but I think I got closer to 60 than 80.)