Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Almond and Cranberry Biscotti

The boyfriend is due to leave for South America in a few days. He'll be gone for more than two weeks, which means that I will be spending most of time making ihazcheezcake and everything else that is gooey and yummy and laden with whey and lactic acid. But in the meantime, I thought I'd keep myself in his thoughts by making some crunchy biscotti for him and his family to savour over coffee and morning chatter (OK Erik, I know biscotti is molto girly, so I made you some manly butter cookies as well).

The recipe originally called for pistachios, but I had none in the pantry, so I substituted it with almond slices and it turned out wonderful. It wasn't brittle, with just the right amount of crunchiness that melts as you dip it into a cup of hot coffee. This is my first time making biscotti, and I think it turned out just mediocre, not a great success -- there's something about the cutting that gets to me. My biscottis seem to mock my self-imagery. They're short and fat... which is highly disturbing.

Almond and Cranberry Biscotti
Makes about 20 - 25 slices

2 cups all purpose flour, (IMPORTANT: MUST BE SIFTED)
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
5 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
1/2 cup slivered unblanched almonds
3/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, mix sifted flour, salt and baking powder.

Using an electric mixer whisk oil and sugar together. Add in one egg at a time and beat until fluffy. Mix in lemon peel and vanilla. Gently beat in flour mixture until just incorporated. Dough should be sticky, but not too stiff.

With a spatula, stir in cranberries and almond, fold until the berries and nuts are just mixed. Use 1/4 cup flour to lightly powder your working surface. Turn the dough out onto the floured surface and divide into two equal portions, about 12in(L) x 4in(W)x 1in (thickness). Space the logs 3 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet. You can also use a lightly greased aluminum foil on top of the cookie sheet.

Tip*: The biscotti dough will be extremely sticky. Use two plastic spatulas coated with flour to shape your dough logs instead of your hands. Smash the sides together with the spatula to mold it into a rectangle, then pat the top to flatten it.

Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool logs on baking sheet for about 10 minutes. Transfer to cutting board.

Use a serrated knife and cut logs slightly on the bias in 1/2 inch thick slices. Put cut slices back on cookie sheet and toast in oven again for about 9 minutes each side, until they become as crunchy as you want!

A variation for the biscotti is that half of it can be dipped into a dark chocolate glaze.

Easy Chocolate Glaze
2 oz 100% cacao chocolate squares (I usually use Ghirardelli's)
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup milk, room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Use a double boiler or place a bowl into a pot that has been filled quarter-way with water. Once the water comes to a gentle boil, bring the heat down all the way to low. Put in the chocolate squares and butter and slowly melt it in the bowl while the water bubbles gently. Use a spatula to stir gently. As the chocolate mixture melts, put in the powdered sugar tablespoon by tablespoon. Don't forget to keep stirring. Add in the milk, a little at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. You can always add in more powdered sugar if you like your glaze a litte sweeter.

Note: I only buy 100% because these are dairy free and I can mix it with Nucoa margarine to yield a dairy-free glaze. 100% cacao is only suitable for baking, and you HAVE to add butter/margarine and sugar. Otherwise 70% dark is fine.

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