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BISCOTTI BAKING BINGE

How to make 100 huge biscotti in one afternoon

The Basic Biscotti Mix
Anise, Chocolate Chip, and Lemon-Date Biscotti
Parmesan or Romano-Corn
Milk Chocolate, Cherry Almond and Apricot-Oat Biscotti
Triple Ginger Biscotti
Binge Shopping List
Binge Baking Equipment
Ingredients, history and processes
Shaping loaves for baking
Sprinkles and Chocolate Dips
Traditional Mandelbrot and Biscotti Recipes

I just finished making eight kinds of biscotti for Christmas, it took a long afternoon (about six hours) producing about 100 gourmet-size beauties and plenty of edges and crispy bits for the cooks. These retail for $1-2 each, and inspire passion, so they make great presents. The flavors this time included triple ginger, double chocolate, lemon-date, apricot-oat, traditional anise, chocolate chip, orange-pecan or cherry-almond, and a savory corn-Romano. You'll notice I don't always use nuts; this is just a family preference, almonds, pistachios, pecans, walnuts and even pine nuts all make their way into biscotti.

For this binge approach, you need some specific equipment: a very large mixing bowl, four or five smaller containers or gallon size ziplock bags to refrigerate resting dough, a heat resistant rubber spatula, a good beater or food processor, a long serrated bread knife, waxed paper, 2 12x18 shiny airbake cookie pans, 4 regular size cookie sheets (that will fit side by side in you oven), 2 racks in the oven, quart size ziplock bags. If you don't want to get airbake pans (get them! get them!) use two sets of two jelly roll pans placed one inside the other to insulate them. Put the cookies on the back of the pans so they slide off on the paper easily. With this method you plan the order of mixing the flavors so you only have to rinse bowls between batches, and use wax paper to avoid washing the cookie sheets; too much washing slows you down.

On with the binge Here is the binge procedure. The day before, make sure you have ALL the ingredients (see s*h*o*p*p*i*n*g). The night before, put the butter out at room temp, cut up nuts and cut up your dried fruits. The morning of, put the eggs out at room temperature (uncracked, very fresh eggs!). Reread the discussion of the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, spread any nuts you plan to use out on a cookie sheet and start the pecans and almonds roasting.

The basic biscotti mix is


For the binge, you will make this twice. For each 1/3, you add the flavorings and munchies.

Mix batch A, divide it into thirds. Mix spice into one part; chocolate chips into the second; dried and candied lemon peel and date bits into the third and put them in the fridge.

Check the nuts, start mixing batch B, pulling out the nuts when they just begin to smell good, put them on a cool pan or plate to cool off. Put a layer of rolled oats (1 cup) on the cookie pan, put in the oven and toast until they smell very nice and are golden. Put 2/3 of batch B in the fridge, in two parts. The remaining 1/3, becomes the Milk chocolate biscotti,
To 1/3 of the basic batch, add:

Run the mixer till it is well mixed and the chocolate bits are pretty beaten up. Scrape out the mixer/food processor bowl and set it aside. but don't wash it; you will be mixing the ginger biscotti in the same bowl. Let the chocolate mix rest while you take the oats out of the oven.

Note: Holding refrigerated biscotti dough You can hold the dough for up to a week in the refrigerator. Should the dough be refrigerated overnight or longer before baking, you must reduce the oven temp to 300-325 and add about 5-10 minutes to the baking time, or the edges will thin and spread before the center cooks. If you have the bad luck to make the dough too soft, so it spreads all over the pan, cut it into attractive rectangles about 1 1/2 by 3 inches and twice bake these. A traditional Greek cookie from the biscotti line is always made this way.

First baking: shape the chocolate log on the back of the airbake pan and put in at 325oF to 350oF for about 35 minutes. Mix the second part into cherry-almond, shape onto the second airbake pan. Mix the third part oatmeal-apricot, put this in a baggie and into the refrigerator. Pull the chocolate first bake loaf out of the oven and put in the cherry for a first bake. Second bake procedure for binge biscotti baking: *Move the first bake loaf on the waxed paper to the back of a cool cookie sheet at once, putting the airbake pan aside to cool. Let loaf cool 5-10 minutes and slice while warm (read the slicing notes), separating onto 2 regular cookie sheets for the second bake. Put them into the oven below the first bake, let them bake 10 (small)-25(very large) minutes while the first bake finishes. When the first bake and second bake for the chocolate and cherry are going, pull out any one part of batch A dough and shape it onto the now-cooled airbake pan.

As soon as you remove the first and second bake from the oven, put in the new loaf and prepare to slice the finished loaf by repeating the italic directions from * above. It is vital that the airbake pan the loaf is shaped on for the first bake is cool, if it is warm the loaf will spread and be too thin.

You still have two flavors to mix. Triple Ginger Biscotti
While you have some moments, in the food processor bowl, place:

  • 1/2 C blackstrap molasses,
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar,
  • 2 eggs,
  • 1/2 cup butter,
  • 2 T chopped fresh peeled ginger root,
  • 1 T dried ginger,
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon,
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cloves,
  • 6 ounces candied ginger,
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur or orange juice,
  • zest of one orange,
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla,
    Whiz until mixed. Mix in
  • about 3 cups flour,
it should be pretty firm, put in the baggie and chill in the fridge. Shape the loaf and sprinkle with a heavy coating of sugar crystals. Then just cycle it into the baking cycle. If it is soft it will spread all over the pan, but if it does this, you just cut it into rectangles and double bake it anyway. It makes nice cards of crunchy, delicious ginger biscotti.

The Romano or Parmesan biscotti are extra easy and can be mixed by hand.

Same shaping and twice-baking, they brown more quickly than the sweet biscotti, and they are great with soup or salad.

Here are the flavors for the biscotti baking binge:
Anise/spice: add 1/3 cup flour mixed with 2 tablespoons crushed anise seed, 2 T anisette
Chocolate chip: 1 cup chocolate chips
Lemon- date: 1 tablespoon dried lemon peel, 4 ounces chopped candied lemon peel, 4 ounces cut up dates
Apricot-oat: 6 ounces cut up dried apricots, 3/4 cup toasted rolled oats, 1 teaspoon ground mace, sprinkle tops with a heavy coat of cinnamon sugar and the rest of the toasted oatmeal.
Cherry-white chocolate-almond: 1/2 cup dried sour cherries, 1/2 cup slivered toasted almonds, 3 ounces finely chopped white chocolate. For Christmas colors I have substituted candied cherries and pistachio nuts, OR try
Orange pecan (with orange almond, they are called Degreve): 2 tablespoons Orange liqueur, orange zest, 4 ounces candied orange peel, 1 cup pecans or almonds

Here are three more alternate flavoring variations-
Moroccan: 6 ounces chopped dates sprinkled with 2 tablespoons orangewater, 4 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Arabian: 6 ounces cut up dried figs sprinkled with 2 tablespoons rosewater , 3/4 cup pistachio nuts
Greek paxemadia: add a flavor mixture of 1/4 cup flour mixed into 1 tablespoon crushed coriander seed, 1 tablespoon crushed anise seeds, 2 tablespoons grated orange peel, 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel; and 1 1/2 cups chopped toasted walnuts.

S*h*o*p*p*i*n*g

Shopping list for biscotti baking binge:
  • Any pans or equipment you need
  • 1 roll wax paper or parchment paper
  • 1 can unflavored non-stick baking spray
  • 20 large fresh eggs, vegetarian feed is best- 8 for each basic batch, 2 for triple ginger, 2 for Parmesan cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 pounds (3 cups) unsalted butter, European style if you can get it, or oil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 5 pounds unbleached white flour
  • 1 package Jiffy or Martha White white cornmeal muffin mix
  • 3 pounds dark brown sugar
  • 2 pounds white sugar
  • 1/4 cup coarse grain natural sugar for topping triple ginger
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon sugar for topping apricot oat biscotti (you can make this-1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamoon and 4 tablespoons granulated sugar)
  • 1/2 cup (6 ounces) organic blackstrap molasses
  • 1 cup nut liqueur - I use Galliano olr Fra Angelico
  • 1/4 cup orange flavored liqueur or orange juice concentrate or Seville orange marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons anissette or ouzo
  • about 6 tablespoons pure vanilla
  • 12 ounces chocolate chips for cookies
  • 12 ounces chocolate chips for glazing is optional
  • 3 ounces white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup rolled oats or granola
  • 1/2 cup slivered toasted almonds
  • 1 cup toasted pecans (or more almonds)
  • 4 to 6 ounces EACH, whole dates, candied lemon peel, candied orange peel, soft dried apricots, dried sour cherries or glaceed cherries, crystallized ginger
  • 2 ounces grated Romano (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 ounces shredded Romano (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons spicy mustard
  • teaspoon ground red pepper
  • a 2 inch piece of fresh ginger root
  • ground cloves, allspice, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, anise seed (you will have to crush this yourself), dill weed, oregano or Italian spice
  • Biscotti: History, Ingredients, Tips and processes Biscotti are twice-baked, very crisp Italian cookies, similar to European "kamishbrot" or "mandelbrot" (which translates to "almond bread"). Mandelbrot is usually oil-based, to honor Jewish dietary laws. Mandelbrot is filled with walnuts or almonds and flavored with a bit of cinnamon. Biscotti are usually crispier than mandelbrot due to a longer second baking. Biscotti can be baked so hard they have to be dipped into coffee or wine to eat them! Biscotti are usually slices of a flat loaf returned to the oven and baked very crisp, but a few types are rectangular or figure 8's slowly baked to intense crispness. Nuts are a traditional flavor, fruits are not, but New Age biscotti often have dried fruit or chocolate chips or candy bits.

    To get traditional crunchy texture, the first issue is the ratio of eggs to flour. Some recipes use only one egg or egg yolk per cup of flour; others use close to two. The lower proportion is more traditional: more eggs made the biscotti softer and more crumbly.

    Biscotti can be butter-based or oil-based and can be made 'low fat'. If shortening is reduced, flour content is also reduced a little in comparison to the other ingredients. This results in a crisper but still tasty cookie. Some traditional recipes use olive oil, which adds flavor, so usually you would choose the lighter, rather than the greener oils. Recipes calling for butter can made with canola or vegetable oil without a noticeable difference in taste; you may need a bit more flour to get the dough just right. Most recipes I have seen use roughly 2 tablespoons of butter/oil per cup of flour; this is a good proportion. Some recipes also call for creaming the butter and sugar together; soft or melted butter or oil beaten with the eggs and then the sugar works fine and is easier.

    Increasing to a slightly higher proportion of sugar to flour (3/4 to 1 cup sugar for each 2 cups of flour) than usual in Italian recipes helps to make the cookie a little more tender without becoming crumbly. Brown sugar, packed, can be substituted for white sugar, and I generally use at least 1/2 brown sugar. For a few recipes, you use molasses or honey instead of all or part of the sugar, for this use soft butter and the lower amount of eggs to avoid making the dough too soft. Make these changes after you have made the butter recipe a few times and know the texture of the dough you want, so you can add a little extra flour if needed.

    Use room temperature eggs and softened butter for better batters. Recipes were tested with unbleached all purpose flour which is recommended for biscotti. Unbleached all purpose flour is recommended for most all cookie baking. Mix cocoa powder, cornstarch, dry herbs and spices, etc. into the flour thoroughly before adding the flour to the wet ingredients. Biscotti use a very small amount of baking powder, or none at all, I usually omit it and I also omit salt.

    Use pure vanilla. Pure vanilla extract ties in flavors and rounds out simple tastes. Many traditional recipes use flavored liqueurs, 1-2 Tablespoons for each cup of flour.

    ALWAYS toast the nuts before use, you can put them in the oven when you start to preheat, they should smell really good when you take them out. Let them cool before you add them, Almond slivers are nicest texture, the slices are easier to cut through when you prepare the cookies. Hazelnuts and pistachios are also traditional and pecans are a delightful modern alteration.

    A 2 cup flour recipe will use 1/2 to 1 cup nuts or toasted oats or granola, 1/2 to 3/4 cup chocolate bits, 4 to 8 ounces cut up candied or dried fruit. Dates are tastier if cut up from whole.

    Lots of recipes talk about kneading the dough, or making it very stiff. This is too sticky and tedious. I use a food processor or dough hook to mix, adding the chunky stuff (fruits, nuts) after the rest is mixed smooth. Looking for dough to be thoroughly mixed but just a little firmer than biscuit dough, I add the flour last, in a recipe of two to three cups flour, the amount of the flour needed may vary 1/3 cup!

    Shaping biscotti for baking Chilling the dough for 5 minutes or longer before shaping relaxes the gluten and makes the cookie log easier to shape, but if it is too soft it probably needs some added flour.

    To shape the "log" or loaf for baking, I ease it out of the bowl onto the sprayed wax paper on the cookie sheet. I use a spatula to push it out of the bowl onto the sheet, 16 inches long and 3/4 to 1 inch thick, and however wide it ends up, generally about 4 inches. You shape it with high straight sides, like a domino, and a smooth flat top; the sides round out as they cook. You smooth it with the spatula (it can be moistened with water), then sprinkle on sugar or seeds or nuts if used. It will spread almost double as it bakes. Another way to vary biscotti is to change their sizes by making narrower loaves, reducing baking time for the smaller ones.

    Waxed paper or parchment paper is ESSENTIAL for fast, fustration-free handling of the loaves. It makes for less work (spray both pan and paper with no-stick spray instead of pan greasing) and ensures biscotti won't stick to your baking sheet or even more common, break apart as you move them to the slicing area. It can be used for the first and second bake and beyond. Air-insulated cookie sheets or other commercial quality baking sheets are recommended. They provide for even heat distribution and are nice and roomy. For gourmet size biscotti, make one large loaf of dough. The cookies end up 7 inches or more in length for that "gourmet" look.

    Baking biscotti Bake biscotti in the upper third of your oven to prevent overcooking the bottoms of the loaves. So the heat will be very even, preheat the oven for a full 15 minutes before starting the first batch, and put the whole batch on one shelf with 1 INCH of space between the edge of the pan and the stove wall . Don't bake two first batches on different shelves; it is OK to put the second bake on the lower shelf , you can start both at the same time and take the second bake ones out first.

    Amount of time for the first baking varies slightly, depends on how wide and thick your dough log is. Not less than 25 minutes for a double row, 35 minutes is about right for a recipe with 2-3 cups of flour made into one wider log. Underbaking biscotti on the first bake gives a heavy doughy texture in the middle, but do not overbake your biscotti. The loaf should be firm, even across the center, with an even golden color.

    Slicing and the second bake is the distinguishing feature of the biscotti. The loaves are sliced into 3/4 inch slices while still warm. If you wait, you will NOT be able to cut through fruits. Use a LONG serrated knife and make one straight smooth cut down to the waxed paper. This is why it is sitting on the BACK of the cookie tin. Don't saw back and forth. As you slice each one, cut it away from the paper underneath using the knife blade, using knife to lift it to the waxed paper on the second baking sheet. Wipe off the blade with a wet paper towel every four slices or so, to get off the sticking fruit or crumbs.

    To avoid crumbling if you want to make very thin biscotti (for the second bake), you can wrap the whole baked dough loaf and freeze it overnight. The next day, a serrated knife will cut thin slices. This technique is especially useful when the biscotti contains whole nuts.

    If you have a firm enough dough and shape as I suggested, when you cut straight across, you will only have two small end pieces for test eating. Narrower loaves are often sliced on the diagonal, these are pretty but fragile and hard to package. You get pretty big waste pieces, which all of my kitchen visitors gobble up. They do look bigger- these Italian cooks are pretty smart!- and if you are serving many kinds, diagonal slicing makes a handsome variation.

    Regular directions say to place them on one side for the second bake, turn half way through. I place them on their bottoms so the heat gets both cut sides, this seems to reduce the baking time slightly and you don't have to turn them. If your bottoms get too brown, reduce the temperature from 350 to 325 for both bakings.

    Biscotti continues to crisp as it cools. Place on a rack as soon as they are out of the oven. Unless you plan to soak yours in coffee or wine before trying to chew it, take sliced biscotti out of the oven as soon as it appears lightly colored and dry to the touch, 10-15 minutes; it will still have a slight "give" in the middle of the slice until it cools.

    Glazing, Icing, or Sprinkles Before the first baking, the biscotti loaf can be sprinkled with any coarse sugar. Biscotti can also be glazed with chocolate or white chocolate.

    Dipping in Chocolate, Method 1
    Melt 8 ounces of semi-sweet or white chocolate (white chocolate wafers work best). Use ONLY a little shortening, not water, liquor, or butter to melt. Using a small icing knife, spread melted chocolate on one side of each cookie. Cool on rack for 2 to 4 hours until thoroughly firm. Otherwise, simply dip one end of each biscotti in melted chocolate - or, 'double dip': dip one end, cool, then make a second "shallow" dip - or make one end dark, one end white. You can freeze glazed biscotti but the gloss of the chocolate will dull. You can also streak dark chocolate with a white chocolate squiggle or drip, or add color sprinkle to white chocolate for a color theme.

    Tempering Dipping Chocolate, Method 2
    Melt semi-sweet chocolate squares or chips, beginning with 5 ounces or squares, til smooth, either in a double boiler, or in the microwave.
    Remove from heat, and add three more ounces or squares, allowing to melt. This tempers the chocolate, and brings it to a good dipping temperature.
    Repeat the process when you run low, but don't let yourself run all the way to the bottom of the bowl, as it causes streaks in the chocolate. I like to keep my chocolate bowl sitting over hot water in the bottom of the double boiler, to keep it from cooling too fast.

    Dip the biscotti, and place on wax-paper-lined cookie sheets. Do not let them sit with direct sun on the cookies, or in a warm place like the top of the fridge! When finished with a pan, allow to dry in the coolest room in the house.

    Storing biscotti I package six or seven cookies of the same flavor in each quart ziploc baggie, but never package until they are completely cool. When dry, place in ziplocks and store in a tightly closed tin, in a cool place (warmth will separate the chocolate, turning it white--it's fine to eat, but doesn't look so pretty!) Dipped biscotti store best in the freezer for long term. Biscotti will hold well in an airtight container since they are relatively low in fat (about 1 week). They can be stored in airtight plastic bags in the freezer for about 2 months. A single biscotti can be crisped up by ten seconds in the microwave.

     
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