The pastry department is always the most popular part of the kitchen amongst the rest of the staff. (Unless I’m in it, though. Then that’s debatable.) For one thing, anytime there’s a staff birthday, you’re called into service to make the cake. And since everyone has a birthday, folks are usually nice to you the other 364 days of the year. Another thing is that regular cooks like…no, love to snack on anything sweet.
Whenever I made biscotti, the ends and broken bits would end up on a plate in the pastry department, and almost immediately the staff would swoop down for the kill the moment the rounded end hit the plate.
After chewing for a moment, invariably, someone would always say, “You know…(pause)…I like biscotti better only once-baked.”
I’m sure they were certain I was hanging on to their every word, and how I managed to resist the urge to say, “So what?”—I’ll never know…
But since biscotti refers to being twice-baked in Italian, you can’t have biscotti unless they are, indeed-twice baked. I believe truth-in-advertising extends to pastry professionals.
Another thing I found constantly annoying, since I’m on a roll, was that anytime I had to walk through the kitchen or staff area carrying a cake or tart, without fail, a cook (usually a new one who didn’t know me better) would say, “Hey! Is that for me?!” followed by a smug chuckle at their brilliant humor.
Little did they realize that each-and-every new cook said that, and while they’ve only said it once, it was hardly original and I’d heard at least 973 times prior. The first few times, I just smiled gamely and let them pretend they were actually amusing me.
But after a while, like nine years, I finally got to the point where I would say, “Sure! Here’s ya go…” hand them an entire cake or pie, and walk away.
I like to think of it as a lesson in be careful what you wish for. So if you want to only bake biscotti once, that’s fine with me. But crisp, twice-baked biscotti are the perfect dunking cookie for a shot of espresso or glasses of vin santo. I’m particularly attracted to these chocolate biscotti, which are slightly-sweet but pack a nice wallop of chocolate flavor. I make these a lot since it’s nice to have on hand something chocolaty to snack on, but isn’t rich, sweet, or loaded with butter.
Just don’t ask if these are for you, because I think you already know the answer to that question. Instead I’m handing over the recipe. And you’ll need to come up with your own smart-alecky retorts.
50 to 60 cookies
Use a good-quality cocoa powder. You can use natural or Dutch-process for these, whichever one you like. Just remember that the chocolate flavor of the finished cookies is dependent on the quality of cocoa powder you use. So it’s worth using a decent one. I used Valrhona. See notes below on ingredients.
If you like extra-crisp biscotti, you can flip each one over midway during the second baking, in step #6. I sometimes smear one side of the cookies with melted dark chocolate. When dipped in a warm espresso, I can’t imagine anything better.
For the biscotti
- 2 cups (280g) flour
- 3/4 cups (75g) top-quality cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup (125g) almonds, toasted and very coarsely-chopped
- 3/4 cups (120g) chocolate chips
For the glaze
1 large egg
2 tablespoons coarse or crystal sugar (see Notes)
1. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees.
2. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the 3 eggs, sugar, and vanilla & almond extracts. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, then mix in the nuts and the chocolate chips until the dough holds together.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into two logs the length of the baking sheet. Transfer the logs onto the baking sheet, evenly spaced apart.
5. Gently flatten the tops of the logs. Beat the remaining egg and brush the tops of the logs liberally with the egg. (You won’t use it all). Sprinkle the tops with the coarse or crystal sugar and bake for 25 minutes, until the dough feels firm to the touch.
6. Remove the cookie dough from the oven and cool 15 minutes. On a cutting board, use a serrated bread knife to diagonally cut the cookies into 1/2-inches slices. Lay the cookies cut side down on baking sheets and return to the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, turning the baking sheet midway during baking, until the cookies feel mostly firm.
Once baked, cool the cookies completely then store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. If you wish, the cookies can be half-dipped in melted chocolate, then cooled until the chocolate hardens.
Notes: The sugar I use in France, is called cassonade, a coarse-grained, naturally-colored sugar that resists melting.
In the United States, one can find similar sugars, such as C & H Washed Hawaiian Sugar or Florida Crystals demerara, available in supermarkets or natural food stores. Turbinado or demerara sugars are also available online. If you don’t have any, you can skip the egg wash and sugar glaze.
Valrhona cocoa powder is available in bulk at ChefShop. The best-value is the 3kg pack, which conveniently comes in three separate sealed bags so if you have two baking friends, it’s easy to go in on a shipment.
Related links and recipes: