Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Spiced Mocha Almond Biscotti

I know it's not Christmas. I'm not crazy. But, who said biscotti were strictly Christmas cookies anyway? I feel like pretty much any morning is worthy enough of a hot mug of latte and a good dunker.

Making biscotti is what I do when I'm feeling moody...like when I have the itch to bake but I don't want to fall victim to excessive batter eating and late night sugar consumption.

Usually it's too late to make chocolate chip cookies, because we all know the real reason why I make chocolate chip cookies - to eat the dough, take in about 3 oz of the required 'coarsely chopped dark chocolate', and then eat at least 3 cookies while they're warm and gooey.

I get a lot of satisfaction out of that, but sometimes I just know it's probably not the best decision at midnight.

Same thing happens with brownies. I end up licking the bowl. When they're done I always have to cut off a corner to make sure they're baked to perfection. Wait...that piece was too small...I need to try it again. And again. And just one more time. By then that corner becomes a quarter of the batch. Wow, Christina. Just, wow.

Biscotti are safe because they are easy to make, the dough doesn't tempt me as much as others (although this dough is pretty dang good!) and I know that they are just as good a week from now than they are when they're fresh so I'm in no rush to shovel them down. As a matter of fact, I have to wait until they cool to enjoy their wonderful crunch and crispiness.

Traditional biscotti are very simple and made like any dough. There's no creaming of butter and sugar. Just combine wet ingredients, combine dry ingredients and then bring these two mixtures together until they form a soft, somewhat sticky & stiff dough.

Depending on what region in Italy you are from, you may add butter and you may not. In the north, butter is used a lot, not just in baking but in cooking as well. I realized how to make all of my food taste just like Nonna's - cook with butter! Mmmm....

I, personally, prefer using melted butter in biscotti. This is how my Mom always makes them and it produces a delicately crisp and crunchy biscotti that doesn't break your teeth off. It also makes them really good to eat on their own and do not require a cup of coffee to make them enjoyable. This is perfect for me because sometimes I just want a good crunchy cookie sans coffee.

This biscotti dough gets shaped into a log and then flattened out so that it is about 13 inches long and 4 inches wide.

I brush it with beaten egg and bake until it looks gorgeously cracked and shiny on top.

Then they cool for about 15 minutes so that they are easier to handle. Don't rush this part. When warm, the almonds are soft and will be more difficult to cut through with the knife. When cool, they will harden so that you can saw through them gently and get nice clean slices.

Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Place them right-side-up back on the baking sheet and bake until dry and crisp.

Store them in an airtight container to continue enjoying them for weeks to come. They're as good as they look and entirely satisfying with or without a shot of espresso, cup of coffee or tea.

Spiced Mocha Almond Biscotti
Makes 20-22 cookies

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground clove
¼ tsp salt
¾ tsp instant coffee granules
¾ cup whole roasted almonds
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, well beaten, for brushing the top

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, clove, salt and instant coffee granules. Stir in almonds and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla extract to blend evenly. Gradually stream in sugar while whisking constantly until smooth. Whisk in melted butter. Pour this mixture into the flour mixture and stir gently using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until most of the flour is absorbed. The dough will be stiff and a bit sticky. Use your hands to bring the dough together if necessary.

Turn dough out onto prepared baking sheet and use your hands to flatten and form it into a 13.5x4.5-inch rectangular log with rounded edges. Brush the top and sides lightly with beaten egg and bake until golden brown and slightly cracked at the surface, about 25 minutes.

Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and let biscotti log cool on the pan for about 15 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

Transfer the log to a cutting board and use a serrated knife to slice it diagonally on a sharp angle into ½ to ¾-inch-thick slices with a gentle sawing motion. Place cookies back on the baking sheet so that they are sitting right-side-up and bake until dry and crisp, 10-15 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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