Friday, December 17, 2010

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti—a Favorite Christmas Cookie

The month seems to be getting away from me a bit. I had intended to post several recipes for Christmas cookies and candies and have just been too busy to do it. I have been baking...just not taking pictures. This week I taught my annual Christmas cookie class at The Community Mercantile in Lawrence. I did manage to take some "in process" pictures of the Christmas version of my biscotti, so that's the recipe I will share here today.

I have always loved to bake and share Christmas cookies—long before I ever considered cooking for a living. As a chef, I have in some years been way too busy to do much personal baking for friends and family. This class gives me a chance to satisfy my desire to have an annual holiday cookie baking extravaganza whether I have time for it or not. Even in years when I don't get to make all the cookies I want to for my family and friends, by teaching this class I get to share eight of my favorite recipes with people who will in turn make them and share them with others.

Here are all of the doughs, ready and waiting to be rolled, molded and other-wise shaped and baked during class:

Even if you aren't teaching a class, setting aside a day to prepare all of the different doughs for all of your cookies before beginning to bake will help you to use your time more efficiently.

Here are the cookies left after the second night of class—ready to be packaged and wrapped air tight:

The biscotti recipe that I teach in my class is the best that I have ever found. Biscotti are supposed to be dry—they are baked, sliced and then baked again (the word biscotti means "twice baked") in order to insure that they will be dry. They are then meant to be dunked and softened (in espresso, tea, coffee or Vin Santo) when they are eaten. Because they are dry, they will keep for long periods of time. Unfortunately, I find traditional biscotti to be too hard. My recipe has a higher percentage of fat than is usual. Although most modern versions use some butter (or oil), in the most traditional recipes, there is no fat at all other than the fat that is provided by the egg yolks. The extra butter in my recipe gives the cookies a much more tender crunch.  They are still dry and thus perfect for storing and dunking, but they are also pretty nice to munch on when you don't have any coffee or tea handy.

I'm not quite sure of the origin of this recipe. I believe that I got it from my friend Kathy—a truly gifted pastry chef who worked at The American Restaurant at the same time I did. But since she went on to open her own pastry shop, and this isn't the recipe that she used there, I'm not really sure that this is her recipe. Unfortunately, the origins of recipes are frequently mysterious. Since this is an exceptional biscotti recipe, I would have liked to credit the source.

The original version of the recipe as I received it included the pistachios and orange zest. The dried cranberries were my Christmas addition. At other times of the year I replace the pistachios with blanched almonds and the dried cranberries with chopped semi-sweet chocolate. You could of course come up with your own combinations of nuts, dried fruits, chocolates, spices and citrus zests. But no matter how you vary the "additions", I think that you will find, as I have, that even people who declare that they don't like biscotti, will like these.

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour (270g)
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
3 oz. (3/4 c.) toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
3 oz. (2/3 c.) dried cranberries
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. plus 2 T. sugar (175g)
Zest of 1 large orange
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
milk for brushing
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, nuts and cranberries; set aside.

Cream butter, sugar and orange zest until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.

Divide the dough into three pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, form each piece into a 1- to 1 1/2-inch log—each log will be about the same length as the cookie sheet. Set the logs on the parchment lined cookie sheet about 4-inches apart (you may need to bake in 1 batch of 2 and 1 batch of 1 log). Flatten slightly. Brush the logs with milk and sprinkle generously with Turbinado sugar.

Bake in a 325° oven until set & golden brown—about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Slice on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices.   (Note: The cookies must be sliced while they are warm, or they will crumble.)

Lay the slices on their sides and return the sheets to the oven for another 5 minutes. Turn the cookies over and bake for another 5 minutes. Cool completely before wrapping air tight. Makes about 50 small biscotti.

Note: For larger biscotti, divide the dough in two and form two fatter logs. You will have about 3 dozen medium-sized biscotti.


Katrina said...

Cookies! ;)
Did you see that I posted the same biscotti a few days ago? Love it. Now I have to try it with chocolate and almonds.

Paige said...

Hi Katrina, Yes, I saw them--they looked great....Part of your amazing baking extravaganza. I don't see how you find the time!!