Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cocoa Nib & Roasted Hazelnut Biscotti

Have I ever told you about my Dad?

Let me talk about him for a bit.

My Dad likes to eat. He can eat a lot. Not only can he eat a lot, but he can eat for a long time. It's non-stop if food is front of him. My family is known for sitting around the dinner table for hours just chatting after the actual meal is done, but Dad somehow finds more things to munch on. Oh, and he's a very loud eater! He also never gains weight. We can all hate on him for that.

Now, my Dad isn't a picky man but he also doesn't have a very open mind when it comes to food culture. It kinda doesn't make sense right? I know. Almost like an oxymoron.

He likes anything on the BBQ, he loves his pasta, potatoes, bread (lots and lots of BREAD!), meat and even his veg. 

But, I've tried to broaden his palate by making Thai curry - he wouldn't have it. I did however take him out for Vietnamese and he enjoyed that a he's getting there. I'm trying to blow his mind.

Most men I know don't really care too much for sweets, and if they do, they usually don't eat a lot of it.

Not Dad. Oh no no no.

If I put a plate of cookies in front of him, they're gone in 60 seconds. Insane. Seriously. I don't know how he does it.

One time I made these Soft & Chewy Cocoa Caramels from my cookbook...those are his favourite. I put them out on a plate when they were visiting one weekend and set them out on the coffee table. I swear he ate them one after the other consecutively like it was popcorn. These candies were wrapped individually too so I'm surprised he took the time to remove the paper.

I think he neared 16 when he finally said "Tina...", as he rubbed his stomach, "I don't feel good. I think I ate too much candy". 

Oh my Lord. Really? Thanks tips! It's like having a kid. Apparently I can't put out a plate of candy when my Dad comes over.

So..the day continues and we sit down for lunch. He says he's too full from candy but obviously eats a big panino anyway. Fresh bread, proscuitto, 5-year-old Balderson cheddar, tomato and lettuce. It was great.

Right after he finishes his sandwich, I see him turn and head for the coffee table. He grabs another candy. 

I am not kidding. I have a machine man child for a father and I think it is hilarious.

Now Dad, I'm just warning you that when you come over this weekend there will be a plate of biscotti, cake and maybe a few candies. Control yourself.

Thank you.

I love to toast my hazelnuts for these Cocoa Nib & Roasted Hazelnut Biscotti because, not only does it enhance their nutty flavour, but it helps to remove those bitter papery skins. Just lay them flat on a baking tray and roast at 350 degrees F for about 7 minutes. The papers will come loose.

PS. Roasting brings out the oils in nuts to amplify flavour and causes delicious browning reactions, but it also makes them more perishable. Store your nuts in the freezer to prevent rancidity!

Dump the hot nuts into a kitchen towel, fold the towel over them to cover them up and massage them with your hands. Most of the skins will come off. Some stubborn ones will stick on for dear life, but we'll let that slide.

Have you ever used cocoa nibs before? You can find them in specialty baking aisles nowadays. They are what chocolate is made from.

These little nibs are ground up to form a paste. Once sugar is added it becomes chocolate. They're super crunchy and have a flavour somewhere between cocoa and coffee beans so they're really robust and go perfectly in a crunchy cookie like biscotti.

You know what else you can do with cocoa nibs? Float them in a shot of zambuca.

Happy Easter! Buona Pasqua!

PS. I became an aunt today...for the second time! Woooop for babies!

Cocoa Nib & Roasted Hazelnut Biscotti
Makes about 30 biscotti

¾ cup whole raw hazelnuts
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 tbsp finely grated orange zest (the zest of about 1 orange)
1 ¾ cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup cocoa nibs
2 oz/56 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped into very small pieces
2 large eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk for brushing
coarse sanding sugar for sprinkling

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

To roast hazelnuts, spread whole nuts on a dry baking tray and bake at 350°F until lightly browned and very fragrant, about 6-8 minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on them and shake the tray frequently so that they do not burn. While warm, place hazelnuts in the center of a clean dish cloth, fold the cloth over them like you are tucking them in to bed and rub or massage them around to release their bitter skins. Transfer skinned hazelnuts to a bowl and set aside to cool completely.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter with orange zest to infuse it with the citrus flavour and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, ground nutmeg and salt. Stir in skinned hazelnuts, cocoa nibs and chopped chocolate and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs to blend evenly. Gradually stream in sugar while whisking until smooth. Continue whisking until frothy, about 45 seconds. Add melted butter mixture and vanilla extract and whisk until combined. Add half of the flour mixture and stir it in gently. Add remaining flour and fold it in until well incorporated. The dough will be soft and sticky.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, divide it in half and roll each half into an 11-inch long log. Transfer logs to prepared baking sheet and flatten with your hands to form a log that is 12 inches long and about 2.5 inches wide. Brush tops and sides lightly with milk, sprinkle with sanding sugar and bake until golden brown and slightly cracked at the surface, about 23 minutes.

Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and let biscotti logs cool on pan for about 10 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

Transfer each log to a cutting board and use a serrated knife to slice it diagonally into ½ to ¾-inch-thick slices with a gentle sawing motion. Place cookies back on the baking sheet so that they are sitting upright and bake until dry and crisp, about 10 minutes.

Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. These are tender enough to eat on their own, yet still crunchy enough to dip in your coffee. 

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