July 3, 2009

Double baking

Making biscotti is a satisfying endeavor, especially if you like to eat it as much as bake it. The process kind of makes you feel like you've accomplished some sort of baking feat, although it's actually fairly easy, just time consuming. Some months ago, I really wanted to make a batch of biscotti, since I've always enjoyed it, and my mom has made a huge batch of almond biscotti just about every year for Christmas for as long as I can remember, although I've never tried myself. My boyfriend, Michael, greatly appreciative of my baking skills, was all for the idea, too. One of these days, I'll try my mom's recipe, because it's really good, but to start, I wanted to bake something different, something a little more basic and traditional, something with anise. So with these incentives in mind, the search began online for a really good recipe. I may have even looked through a few cook books and baking books, but the memory of looking is rather hazy, and we don't have very many on hand, any way, what with magazines and access to the internet providing all sorts of sources for recipes. Eventually, one caught my eye, one from Epicurious, well, an older recipe from Bon Appétit magazine, actually. Nevertheless, it was online, it had good reviews, and it was a family recipe, to say the least. Based on my experience with family recipes, they tend to be very tasty. If a recipe is held on to through a few generations, it must be good.

With Michael helping me, and suggesting we use pecans, which was a very good idea, we got our ingredients and mixing bowls out and made an excellent batch of biscotti. And have made a few more in the months since. Oh man, this is such a good recipe, so good, that I haven't tried any new biscotti recipes since. I've only experimented with this one. It's definitely a reliable base recipe. I've tried other flavor combinations and am thinking about even more to try soon, which I'll certainly post. That being said, the original, with the anise and the pecans, will probably remain my favorite combination, because it's so simple yet very satisfying. These are perfect accompaniments to a foamy vanilla latte or steaming black tea, or better yet, dipped into a latte or cup of tea. The flavor of the anise is what makes them so appealing -- it's subtle, but not so subtle that you can't taste anything, and the toasted pecans complement the spice really well. In our last batch, we added half a cup of chopped dried cherries, and they turned out pretty tasty, too, although the biscotti were a little extra crumbly for some reason.

This recipe really isn't difficult to make. If you love to bake, you'll enjoy the process, if you have an afternoon to spend in the kitchen. The extra baking time just increases the anticipation of finally tasting what's making your kitchen smell so good.

Anise Biscotti
Adapted from Bon Appétit, December 1999

3 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
10 Tbsp (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp aniseed, ground
1 cup whole pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped, cooled
1 large egg white

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. Mix sugar, melted butter, 3 eggs, vanilla extract, and ground aniseed in large bowl. If you can, buy whole aniseed and grind it with a mortar and pestle. The freshly ground seeds add so much more in flavor. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir with wooden spoon until well blended. Mix in pecans.

Divide the dough in half. Using the wooden spoon, transfer one half of the dough to the baking sheet and shape into a 13 ½-inch-long, 2 ½-inch-wide log. Repeat with the remaining half of dough, spacing the logs apart. You could use your hands, floured well, to do this, but I find using the wooden spoon a bit easier. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until foamy and brush over the top and sides of each dough log.

Bake logs until golden brown (logs will spread), about 30 minutes. Cool logs completely on sheet on rack, about 25 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Transfer logs to work surface and discard parchment paper. Using a serrated knife, cut logs on diagonal into
½-inch-wide slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on same baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Turn biscotti over, and bake until just beginning to color, about 8 minutes more.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool.

Makes about 3 dozen biscotti.

1 comment:

  1. The biscotti with the anise and pecans was the best. Dip them in chocolate! -- Michael