The pastry department is always the most popular part of the kitchen amongst the rest of the staff in a restaurant. For one thing, anytime there is a staff birthday, you’re called into service to make the cake for the party. And since everyone has a birthday, everyone has to be nice to you the other 364 days of the year. Another thing is that regular cooks like to snack on anything sweet.
When I was a professional baker, whenever I made biscotti, the ends and broken bits would end up on a plate in the pastry department. Almost immediately, as if on cue, the staff would swoop down for the kill the moment the rounded ends hit the plate, and scarf them down.
After chewing for a moment, invariably, someone would always say, “You know…(pause)…I like biscotti better only once-baked.” That’s fine with me, but the word biscotti means twice-cooked in Italian, so they’re not biscotti unless they are crisped again, after baking.
Another thing that cooks like to do was to say, anytime I had to walk through the kitchen carrying a cake or tart, without fail, would say, “Hey! Is that for me?!” followed by a chuckle at their brilliant humor.The first few times, I just smiled gamely and let them pretend they were actually amusing me. After the 756th time, it became a bit tiresome
But when you make them yourself, you’re welcome to help yourself, which I do with these chocolate biscotti. These crisp, twice-baked treats are the perfect dunking cookie with a shot of espresso or glasses of vin santo. These aren’t overly sweet but pack a nice bite of bittersweet of chocolate flavor.
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. (And omit the sugar glaze.) 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 sugar 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 on Amazon. 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:
Cocoa powder FAQs
American Baking in Paris
How to Temper Chocolate
Chocolate Idiot Cake