From day 1, I was instantly smitten with the almond cookies I had in Sicily. Most cafes I went to in Sicily served a variety of sweets to choose from, to go along with coffee – and it’s probably a good thing that cafés in France don’t, because otherwise they’d have to force me out of there with a crowbar.
Results tagged biscotti from David Lebovitz
The other day I was looking for a cookie to make to pair alongside a compote of summer fruits and a batch of white nectarine sorbet I was churning up for dinner. The requirements for the cookie were it had be simple to put together (because I was super-busy that day), I had to have the ingredients on hand (because I was super-busy that day, and didn’t have time to go to the store), and it had to have cornmeal (for no particular reason, just because I was craving cornmeal.)
Every year at Christmas, I make the dessert. With a bakery on every corner in Paris, there’s not a lot of impetus for the locals to make a resplendent dessert for the traditional dinner. It’s not that people don’t bake, but with the small city kitchens and all the other stuff that limits time around the holidays, it’s just as simple to head to the corner bakery and pick up a cake or tart. Or, of course, ask David to do it.
Because of my unique position as the in-house baker, dessert usually falls on my shoulders and if I presented a store-bought dessert, I would likely get run out of town on a rail. (When the trains aren’t on strike, that is.) So this year since I got a bit pressed for time as the holidays approached, I decided to make something refreshing which could be made well in advance, and made an ice cream bombe. I always thought that a bombe glacée was a fairly well-known French dessert, but Romain had no idea what I was talking about and got a little frightened when I told him I was going to make a bomb for Christmas. So I didn’t push it and just said I was making three different kinds of ice cream in a pan.
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:
In Rome, I was happy to relax a bit in my friend’s apartment between eating and sightseeing. I had brought some books to read, but I was thrilled to discover on the bookshelf one book I’ve wanted to sit down and read for some time, but never got around to it…
In between reading, I did manage a few spare moments to find some wonderful places to eat.. steering clear of any huge ships, of course.
One of the best things about eating out in Italy is there’s lots of salads and vegetables, and restaurants like Campana have a huge selection, and you’re welcome to help yourself (don’t worry…Mangia!…eat now, and worry about the bill later…it’s Italy!)
Many guests come to Europe and are surprised there’s not more vegetables served when they eat out. The reason is mostly because preparing vegetables is very expensive: cleaning and cutting them, cooking them properly, then re-cooking them to order. It’s much more work than tossing a piece of meat on the grill and serving it with some frites.
The casual and rustic antipasti tradition in Italy means many small, family-owned restaurants have piles of vegetables and salads, and you just help yourself, but…be careful…there’s always another course on it’s way, but what a way to begin! Big platters of wilted chicory and spinach, grilled, thick slices of eggplant, sweet carrots spiced with red chili peppers, mushrooms braised in olive oil and herbs..eat…eat!
A simple pasta of freshly-rolled egg noodles and wilted radicchio. I love cooked greens, especially if they’re slightly bitter and this simple bowl of pasta didn’t disappoint. (Ok, radicchio isn’t really a “green”, so what to call it?)
Of course, I had a couple of desserts (it had been at least a few hours before hitting my first gelateria) and I had a nice, moist wedge of Ricotta Cake. Little pieces of candied citrus peel and I suspect a splash of liquor flavored this cake, and it was moist and simple. And utterly scrumptious.
I didn’t share. You wouldn’t have either.
Ristorante la Campana
Vicolo della Campana, 18
Tel: 06-68 75 273
Although pizza is decidedly Neapolitan, if you can find great pizza in Brooklyn and New Haven, Connecticut, you can find it in Rome. Unlike jumbo American pizza that’s meant to serve a hungry mob, Italian pizzas are thin-crust and prepared individually.
My absolute favorite place to eat in Rome is Nuovo Mondo. The room has all the charm of a high-school gym: bright lights, Formica, and brusque servers who toss a few plates and forks your way along with a big pile of napkins (consider it a warning: Things Are Gonna Get Messy). Each time I ate here, I was the only non-Italian in the place.
What incredible pizza I had here! Each is hand-rolled (not dramatically tossed…this ain’t the Food Network), topped with whatever’s been ordered, and baked in a blistering-hot oven for about 1 minutes. Afterwards it’s pulled out, slid onto a plate and the waiter rushes them to the table.
While you wait, order a Supplì or two, and you’ll be rewarded with a plate of tender pellets of rice moistened with tomato then deep-fried. I didn’t see one table in the place that didn’t have a plate of these, and since Nuovo Mondo is also a birreria, I can’t imagine anything better with a bottle of icy-cold Italian beer, can you?
Via Amerigo Vespucci, 9
Other fun places I love in Rome:
Via dei Coronari, 55
A small, but nice selection of housewares.
I bought a fabulous fire-engine red espresso pot there. Features Alessi dinner and cookware.
Via del Tritone, 168
Old-world shop selling hand-sewn linen kitchen towels, fine tablecloths, napkins, and aprons.
L’Albero del Cacao
Via Capo le Case, 21
A tiny, delicious little chocolate emporium, featuring many of Italy’s best chocolates, including Slitti and Domori. And if you’re looking for some edible souvenirs of Rome, why not pick up a few made from white chocolate? (Although I can’t guarantee you’ll make it all the way home with them. I certainly wouldn’t have.)
Via della Luce, 21
Amazing selection of biscotti (it’s a biscottificio, after all) with an astounding selection of sweets piled everywhere. The rather brusque saleswoman at the counter wasn’t very helpful (she complained about how fat Americans are… perhaps she couldn’t see very well behind her…her butt was nearly as wide as a Fiat.) Still, the service was worth braving for the terrific, crispy cantucci, biscotti, and amaretti, richly-scented with aromatic bitter almonds.
Via Mario de’Fiori, 6
Upscale housewares, you’ll find espresso makers, measuring cups, pasta-making tools, and examples of contemporary Italian and European kitchen design. Think lots of stainless-steel and glass.