It’s approximately this week every year when I start swinging into baking mode.I’m a little behind the 8-ball because of the past few days, but the cold is departing and so my planning commences!
I LOVE to bake. And I LOVE to bake at the holidays. I have clear recollections of my Italian grandma making stacks upon stacks of pizzelles at Christmas time. Not to mention, S-cookies and my favorite Guiggiulena, which maybe I’ll even attempt this year. Say that 5x fast. Guigguilena, besides being fun to say and making you sound instantly Italian, is this insane mix of honey, sesame seeds and orange rind. It’s the Sicilian version of a caramel-like candy. Sticky, sweet, and completely addictive. Grandma made hers in a BIG pan and working that scalding honey and stickiness was enough to give any grandma a good set of biceps.
Another Italian specialty is Biscotti, and it’s on my list for this year. I’ve never made them before because…well…I have absolutely no reason. Maybe because there are so many other sweets and cookies out there that just seem….sexier? Biscottis are like the reliable, even-keel brother of the cookie world….but what you really are usually craving is the wild-man other brother.
In my, er…ehem…older years (cough, sputter), I’ve come to discover that a biscotti with a good cup of coffee may actually be as satiating as a great dessert. Ditch the wild-man 0ther brother.
So, these biscotti. They seem trickier than they really are, but the key is that you actually cook them twice. Biscottis are up there with scones, in my opinion….you can get them pretty much anywhere these days but it’s rare to find one that is REALLY what it should be.
The perfect biscotti should be dunkable, yet won’t disintegrate upon immediate contact with that delightful cappuccino you just submerged it in. It should also be hard, almost crunchy, but not send-you-to-the-dentist hard. If you have to gnaw on it like a dog wrestles with rawhide, it just ain’t right. It also should not be cakey. This causes ancient Italian bakers to simultaneously roll over in their graves.
Crunch, dunk. Sip accompanying cappuccino. Repeat. And try to look like Sophia Loren while you are doing it.
*One last note: When baking for the holidays, branch out! Remember my post about tradition and monotony sometimes getting a little too close for comfort? These are gifts you are giving! Give folks something new and exciting to try that they wouldn’t make for themselves. Indulge them with something decadent and special!
Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti, courtesy of Martha Stewart Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for baking sheet
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tb. unsalted butter, room temp.
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cups shelled pistachios
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, beat butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy. Add eggs; beat on low speed until well-combined, scraping down sides of bowl if necessary. Add flour mixture; beat to form stiff dough. Beat in pistachios and chocolate chips until just combined.
Transfer dough to baking sheet; form into a slightly flattened log, about 12 x 4 inches. Bake until slightly firm, about 25 minutes. Cool about 5 minutes. Reduce oven to 300.
On a cutting board, using a sharp, serrated knife, cut biscotti diagonally into 1-inch thick slices. Arrange cut side down on baking sheet; bake until crisp but still slightly soft in center, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Can be store in an airtight container at room temp for up to 1 week.