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The madness came before the method…biscotti madness, I mean

November 7, 2010

My obsession with biscotti began one year ago.  I was home from college over Christmas break.  I was bored.  I went to the library and took out a book: Maida Heatter’s New Book of Great Cookies.

Maida Heatter's Brand-New Book of Great Cookies [Book]

I mean, just look at all the cookies on the cover.  (Side note: How freaking AWESOME are the homemade fortune cookies and sweet pretzels?  See them in the bottom half of the cover photo?  I made both of those recipes a few weeks ago.  The coolest part of the fortune cookies is that you can put your own fortunes in them.)

Last year, the biscotti really grabbed me.  I made one batch.  Then another.  I tried her recipes, I experimented, changed them, made replacements.  They got better and better, and I got better at making them.  (There’s definitely a learning curve.)  Maida Heatter’s biscotti are not the biscotti that you are probably familiar with.  They are long and thin, crispy, and not very sweet.  They are very spicy.  In other words, they taste like Christmas should taste.

“The Process”

I made most of these biscotti between the hours of midnight and 2am.  It was like an incubus that would come upon me.  I’d be lying in bed, with the lights out, staring at the ceiling for fifteen minutes.  Suddenly the thought of crunchy, warm, delicious biscotti roused me from bed and brought me to the kitchen.

The best biscotti I’ve ever made (I didn’t make them to sell because the recipe was too complicated and expensive) were Maida Heatter’s Seed and Nut Biscotti, with the recipe tweaked to include pistachios and craisins.

I gave all of those biscotti away for Christmas last year, but my dad still has some in his freezer.  Maybe I can dig up a photo or two.

Recipe: Maida Heatter’s Nut & Seed Biscotti alla Beth with Cranberries and Pistachios

(my additions are in bold.)

The texture of these is fantastic–both light and substantial.

(from page 28 of the cookbook)

1 cup sifted unbleached flour

1 1/4 cups sifted whole wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon finely ground white or black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

Note: I like mine spicy, so I added 1 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, plus 1/2 tsp each of nutmeg and cloves

1/3 cup flax meal

1/4 c wheat germ

1/4 c cornmeal

1/3 c untoasted, unsalted sunflower seeds

1/4 c flax seeds

1/3 c untoasted, unsalted pumpkin seeds

1 cup pistachios

1 cup craisins

3 eggs

1/2 cup honey

1/2 packed light brown sugar

Sift dry ingredients together and add in the nuts seeds, and craisins.  In a small bowl beat the eggs, honey, and brown sugar until mix.  Add to the dry ingredients.

Maida has a unique method of preparing biscotti.  I’ve never seen it in another biscotti recipe.  She basically has you form smooth logs, wrap them in plastic wrap, and freeze them for a few hours or longer; then you bake them, slice and rebake.  So here she says to spoon the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, smoothing it out with the back of a wet spoon until it forms a log approximately 15 ” x 3 ” x .75 ”.  You will have enough dough to make 2 logs of this shape.

When they come out of the freezer, you unwrap them, each one onto a separate cookie sheet lined with parchment, and bake for 50 minutes at 300 degrees.  When they come out of the oven, you reduce the heat to 275 and start slicing them on the bias as thin as you can (use a clean washcloth to protect your hand from the hot bread.)  In my experience, it’s a lot easier to let the loaf cool off a bit, but Maida doesn’t recommend this for some reason.  You put all of the slices on an unlined cookie sheet and bake them for 30 more minutes.

Biscotti and Cookie gift basket

One time I was baking before midnight.

Another gift box including chocolate-dipped Christmas shape pretzels

Thanks for reading!


One Comment leave one →
  1. November 7, 2010 11:58 pm

    Lol you know you’re a true foodie when you would choose baking / cooking something over sleep… :p

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