December 24, 2010

"And to all a good night"

Christmas Eve is rather late for posting a recipe, but I just had to squeeze another one in since not a single cookie has been posted yet this month.  If you're in the mood for some snacking on a little chocolate that's on the lighter side, go no further than chocolate hazelnut biscotti.

They make a nice addition to your cookie repertoire, being on the opposite end of the spectrum to those that are rich and sweet. They taste dark, thanks to a tablespoon of espresso powder, and nutty, studded with whole, toasted hazelnuts. Peanut butter and chocolate confections have never appealed to me -- the flavors together are too rich -- but I'll take chocolate with hazelnuts any day.

If you're really strapped for a last minute gift, a bundle of biscotti in a large mug (or latte bowl), wrapped in cellophane and tied with ribbon would be a sincere gesture, especially for coffee drinkers. Homemade goodies are heartfelt, and people appreciate the time spent into making them.

I've never been one to dunk my cookies in milk, due to not being much of a milk drinker, but I will say that biscotti is excellent dunked in a latte, and as the author of the blog where this recipe comes from stated, these particular biscotti are perfect for dunking since they're extra crunchy. Make sure you cut them only a half inch thick, because of how hard and dry they turn out, which is intentional. I made the mistake of cutting them just a tad too thick, and now they require a bit of gnawing to bite through, unless they're dunked, of course.

My family did our "Christmas Eve" the other night over at my grandparents' home, so tonight we're mostly relaxing, or at least trying to, with some food preparation for tomorrow. We tend to be more relaxed on Christmas day, less formal than on other holidays, and with a smaller number of people in recent years, but even with less preparation needed, an evening respite from the baking and the shopping and the visiting is a good idea. Tonight's the night for sitting by the fire and reading a book or watching a film, munching on cookies.

For breakfast fare in the morning, I'll slide a batch of the ginger scones into the oven, prepare lattes for the coffee drinkers, and warm a pot of chai for those who aren't. Merry Christmas everyone, and happy baking if you're up to it.

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
Adapted from The New York Times, via Smitten Kitchen

To blanch the hazelnuts, place them in boiling water for just over a minute, then immediately dunk them in ice water, allowing them to soak for a minute. Drain on a paper towel and peel while they're still damp. If you prefer husking, follow these directions.

1 cup whole hazelnuts, preferably blanched
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
½ cup Dutch-style cocoa powder
1 Tbsp instant espresso powder
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
4 large eggs
1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Set toasted nuts aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.

Beat eggs lightly, just until blended, in a large mixing bowl with a whisk. Remove two tablespoons of egg mixture to a small dish and set aside. Beat sugar into remaining eggs until blended. Stir in flour mixture to form a soft dough.

Divide the dough in half and place one portion on a very well-floured work surface. With floured hands, pat it into an eight-inch square. Scatter half of the hazelnuts on the dough and press them into the surface. Roll the dough into a cylinder about 2 inches in diameter and 12-15 inches long. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and place the roll of dough on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Brush the tops of both rolls with the reserved egg.

Place in the oven and bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until firm to the touch. Transfer logs to a cutting board, allow them to cool for a few minutes, and cut on an angle into slices ½-inch thick. Return the slices to the baking sheet (lined with fresh parchment paper), laying them on their cut sides, and return them to the oven. Bake for another 20 minutes, until they are crisp and dry. Allow biscotti to cool completely before storing or serving.

Makes around 5 dozen biscotti.

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