This past December, we received marching orders — well, not orders, that’s being overly dramatic — more of a marching suggestion: make a great biscotti. Now, we don’t eat all that many biscotti, so we’ll probably have to try a few recipes before we settle on something we like. And, who knows? Maybe it won’t be anything like what you think of as biscotti, but, perhaps, you’ll like it, too.
First up on our biscotti recipe testing is cocoa nib biscotti, which is modeled on a recipe for chocolate almond biscotti in Fields of Greens, by Anne Somerville, which, in turn, is based on a recipe in some other cookbook. Perhaps one could create a genealogical tree of the biscotti recipe and find the original proto-biscotti. Any takers? No, let’s scratch this out.
Cocoa nibs are not the same as chocolate. They’re what’s used to make chocolate, so they have a slightly chocolatey flavor, but slightly bitter, too. Not extremely bitter, but slightly bitter, just enough to make for a great little snack. We use Valrhona Grue De Cacao Cocoa Nibs. For eggs, we try to use eggs from hens that live like hens. They just taste better.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.
Whisk dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk well, so there are no lumps of baking powder hiding. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar. So many recipes start with this step, it becomes second nature. Place the butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and increase the speed to medium. Check the butter after 60 seconds. Does it look smooth and shiny? If yes, continue; otherwise, let the butter warm a bit more and try again. Once the butter is smooth and shiny, slowly add the sugar. We like to add the sugar at about the rate it gets mixed into the butter, but we’re not sure it makes any difference. We just do it that way because we always have. Let the butter and sugar beat on medium until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, sometimes longer. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add eggs. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly on medium between additions, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
Add flavoring. Add the vanilla and Kahlua and mix on low until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape again.
Add dry ingredients. Add the flour mixture in 2 additions, mixing on low until just incorporated, about 15 seconds. It helps to pulse the mixer at the beginning; well, it helps to keep the flour from spewing out of the bowl and making a mess. Scrape the bowl between and after the last addition to check for pockets of unmixed flour at the bottom of the bowl.
Add cocoa nibs. Add the nib and pulse the mixer 8 to 10 times to incorporate. Scrape as needed.
Shape. Okay, this dough is sticky, so break out a piece of parchment if you have one; otherwise, just do your best. Lightly flour the parchment and place about 1/3 of the dough on the floured area. Dust your hands with flour and the top of the dough with a sprinkle of flour, too. Gently and lightly, roll the dough until you have a log about an inch in diameter. Use too much force and you’ll have sticky dough everywhere, but with the right amount of force, and perhaps an additional sprinkle of flour, you’ll be golden. Transfer to a prepared baking sheet. Repeat to make 2 more logs, leaving about 3 inches of space between each log. They will spread — a lot.
Bake. Place in the oven and bake 40 minutes, rotating from top to bottom and front to back halfway through, or until golden brown and mostly firm to the touch.
Cool. Place the sheets on a rack and let cool for about 20 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. We’ll dry out the biscotti next. That needs a lower temperature to keep them from browning or burning.
Cut. Slice each log (or loaf) at a 45° angle into slices 1/2 inch thick. Place the slices back on the baking sheets as you work.
Bake again. Back into the oven for 15 minutes, then flip each biscotti, and continue to bake until completely dry, another 15 minutes.
Cool completely. Transfer to a rack and cool completely before transferring to an airtight storage container.
We thought these were worth a good four stars. They were ever-so- slightly sweet, with a hint of chocolate from the nibs — the advantage to the nibs is they didn’t add any sweetness — and a very light coffee flavor from the Kahlua. The biscotti were crisp and crunchy, without being tooth-threatening, the way we remember some biscotti, so we are quite happy with how they turned out.