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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Recipe: Orange Almond Biscotti

Chocolate Covered Orange Almond Biscotti

Recipe: Orange Almond Biscotti



A Cookie so nice, they baked it twice...

This is the second in a series of The Great British Bake Off themed recipes. Episode one was dedicated to Cakes, and that inspired a recipe for Madeira Cake (psst... I'll let you in on a secret... it's basically a Pound Cake). Episode two moved on to Cookies (okay... "Biscuits", in local parlance). But the world doesn't need another Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. It's time for something different... Biscotti!

Biscotti (plural of Biscotto) are oblong-shaped Almond Cookies from the Italian city of Prato. Literally translated as "twice baked", in Italy, the term Biscotti has come to refer more generally to any Cookie, similar to how the label "Biscuit" is used in the United Kingdom. But in the U.S., "Biscotti" clearly identifies those hard and crunchy Italian Cookies, ideal for dipping in Coffee or Tea.

The world of Italian desserts is admittedly not my favorite (ironic, having worked in pastry at Osteria Morini, a proudly traditional, Italian restaurant in New York City). The Italian dessert flavor profile relies heavily on Nuts and Citrus - delicious in certain circumstances, but not nearly as satisfying as the Custard-filled, Chocolate-drenched, Puff Pastry province of the French tradition! And Italian baked goods, notoriously dry by any honest account, are particularly disappointing.

If Italian Cookies are so loathsome, then why write a recipe for Biscotti, the driest of the dry?

First, Biscotti are interesting from a technical perspective because they require two rounds of baking in the oven. Anything out of the ordinary like that always catches my attention. Second, I feel obligated to at least appreciate Biscotti, if only as a professional courtesy. Rather than sit in my kitchen and whine, I'd prefer to create a recipe that I like.

So here it is! This is not some also-ran morsel served with an after-dinner Espresso... a Cookie that is consumed with resentment, mind wandering to thoughts of the Chocolate Truffles that could have been served in its place. This is Biscotti for the Biscuit beleaguered.

Overhead of Tray of Chocolate Covered Orange Almond Biscotti
The historical account of Biscotti (yes, there is such a thing) suggests that these Cookies were an invention of necessity. In an era that predated refrigeration and more sophisticated preservation techniques, food spoilage was a constant challenge. So a food like Biscotti, which could last for months without spoiling given its extremely low moisture content, would have been prized.


Almonds for Orange Almond Biscotti
Traditional recipes were extremely simple, calling for just Flour, Sugar, Eggs and Nuts (Pine Nuts and Almonds). There would have been no leavening. Baking Soda and Baking Powder were still centuries away. As a result, the final product would have been texturally-dense, but it also would have been nutrient-dense.


Orange Zest for Orange Almond Biscotti
As time past, recipes evolved, and Biscotti became less a food-for-function and more or an actual treat. Citrus zest brightened the flavor. Butter and Milk added to the richness of the Biscotti Dough. 

Now, modern incarnations strive to be all-out indulgences, incorporating a wide array of spices, dried fruits... and of course, Chocolate.


Unbaked Loaf of Orange Almond Biscotti
The mixing process for Biscotti is very simple and can be summarized as 'mix to combine'.

Begin by creaming Butter, Sugar and Extracts (Vanilla and Almond) until the mixture is smooth. There is no need to aggressively cream the ingredients, as one would with a Cake, because there is no need to trap air in the Biscotti Dough. As soon as the ingredients are well combined, scrape down the bowl and stir in the Orange Zest until incorporated.

With the mixer on medium speed, add the Eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture smooth again before adding the next Egg. As with creaming the Butter and Sugar, it is not critical to create a light and fluffy mixture. The Eggs just need to be well-emulsified into the Biscotti Dough. 

In a separate bowl, combine Flour, Baking Powder and Salt. The inclusion of Baking Powder is one of the major departures from a traditional Biscotti recipe. While this ratio of Baking Powder to other ingredients (primarily Flour) is still low and will not produce a dramatic rise, it does help to create a less-dense crumb. It makes the difference between a Biscotti that could chip a tooth and one that has (in my opinion) a welcome tenderness.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the Flour mixture, mixing until the Biscotti Dough is nearly smooth. Then stir in the Almonds until they are evenly incorporated.


Baked Loaves of Orange Almond Biscotti
Cover the bowl of Biscotti Dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rest and chill in the refrigerator for approximately 30 minutes. Chilled Biscotti Dough is much easier to shape.

As the Biscotti Dough chills, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius). 

Divide the chilled Biscotti Dough into two even portions and form each portion on a parchment lined sheet tray into a rectangle measuring approximately 5" wide by 3/4" thick. Use Flour to keep the Biscotti Dough from sticking to your hands as you work, but do not add too much Flour to the Biscotti Dough, and do not over-work the Biscotti Dough.

Bake the Biscotti for approximately 25 minutes or until just baked through. The top center of each loaf should be firm to the touch, but there should be no visible browning along the edges.


Single Baked Slices of Orange Almond Biscotti
Remove the Biscotti Loaves from the oven and allow them to cool for approximately 5-10 minutes. 

Slice each cooled Biscotti Loaf into approximately 3/4" slices (after trimming the ends, you should be able to cut about nine identical slices from each Biscotti Loaf). 

Arrange the slices on a clean, parchment lined sheet tray cut-side down. Bake the Biscotti for an additional 7-10 minutes, flipping the Biscotti halfway through the baking time.


Twice Baked Slices of Orange Almond Biscotti
The second baking interval determines how hard and dry the Biscotti will become. For softer Biscotti, reduce the second baking time, but do not under-bake the Biscotti. A certain crispness is required to keep things at least somewhat authentic.

Allow the Biscotti to fully cool on a wire cooling rack.


Freshly Chocolate Coated Orange Almond Biscotti
As the Biscotti cool, temper Dark Chocolate. To finish the Biscotti, either dip each piece in the Dark Chocolate or drizzle Dark Chocolate over the tops of the Biscotti. 

Set the Biscotti aside to allow the Dark Chocolate to cool and set.


Chocolate Covered Orange Almond Biscotti
Given their dry nature, the Biscotti will keep well for several weeks in an airtight container at room temperature. The Biscotti can be frozen for several months before they are coated in Chocolate.




- The Recipe -




Orange Almond Biscotti:


Yield900g (18x large Biscotti)

Item One Ingredients:
  • Sugar: 200g (2 Cups)
  • Butter: 57g (0.25 Cup / 0.5 Stick)
  • Almond Extract: 5g (1 Tsp)
  • Vanilla Extract: 3g (0.5 Tsp)
  • Orange, zest: 2x

  • Eggs: 150g (3x)

  • Flour: 360g (3 Cups)
  • Baking Powder: 5g (1 Tsp)
  • Salt: 3g (0.5 Tsp)
  • Almonds, whole toasted: 150g (5 oz)





Directions:

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the Butter and Sugar with the Almond and Vanilla Extracts until smooth. Scrape down the bowl, add the Orange Zest, and stir the mixture until the ingredients are well combined.

Chef's Note: Unlike many recipes where it is critical to cream (i.e. beat) the Butter and Sugar until they are light and airy, trapping air to aid in leavening, the Biscotti Dough only needs to be beaten until smooth.

2. With the mixer on medium speed, add the Eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture smooth before adding the next Egg.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the Flour, Baking Powder and Salt. Reduce the mixer to low speed and slowly add the Flour mixture. Continue mixing until the Biscotti Dough is nearly smooth, and then stir in the Almonds until they are evenly incorporated.

4. Cover the mixer bowl with plastic wrap and chill the Biscotti Dough for at least 30 minutes. As the Biscotti Dough rests and chills, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius).

Chef's Note: Chilling the Biscotti Dough makes it easier to form into loaves for baking.

5. Once the Biscotti Dough is rested and well chilled, divide it into two portions. Form each portion into a rectangular loaf measuring approximately 5" wide and 3/4" thick. Do not overwork the Biscotti Dough when forming the loaves.

Chef's Note: If the Biscotti Dough is somewhat sticky, use some Flour on your hands when shaping the Biscotti Loaves.

6. Bake the Biscotti Loaves until just baked through - approximately 25 minutes. The top center of each Biscotti Loaf should be firm to the touch, and there should be no visible browning along the edges.

7. Remove the Biscotti Loaves from the oven and allow them to cool for approximately 5-10 minutes. Using a sharp, serrated bread knife, trim the ends of each Biscotti Loaf and slice them into approximately 3/4" thick slices. You should be able to cut approximately nine identical slices from each Biscotti Loaf. Arrange the sliced Biscotti cut-side down on a parchment lined sheet tray. Bake the Biscotti until dry - approximately 7-10 minutes. Flip the Biscotti halfway through the baking time.

Chef's Note: The second baking interval determines how hard and dry the Biscotti will become. For softer Biscotti, reduce the second baking time. Once the Biscotti are gently toasted, they will remain very crisp when cooled.

8. Allow the Biscotti to fully cool on a wire cooling rack. As the Biscotti cool, melt and temper the Dark Chocolate. To finish the Biscotti, either dip each Biscotto in the Dark Chocolate or drizzle the Dark Chocolate over the tops of the Biscotti. Set the Biscotti aside to allow the Chocolate to set.

Storage:
Given the dry nature of the Biscotti, they will keep well for several weeks when stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
- The Biscotti can be frozen for several months before they are coated in Dark Chocolate.



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