Our Cocoa Nib Biscotti are so tasty that we were nearly afraid to change the recipe to make a new variety. As you can see, we got over our fears and decided on biscotti that combine cherries and almonds, which seems like a perfect pairing. How does that sound to you, fellow scratcher? Good? Good. Let’s get into the Scratchin’ It Test Kitchen and whip some up.
This recipe is nearly identical to the Cocoa Nib Biscotti; we simply substituted dried Montmorency cherries for the cocoa nibs, used almond extract in place of the vanilla and Kahlua, and, for a visual and textural contrast, topped them with sliced almonds. Once you have one good recipe down, your really have dozens of great variations, too.
We used dried Montmorency cherries in these biscotti because they’re slightly tart, and we thought that they’d be a good contrast to the sweetness of the biscuit part. Now, we know Montmorency cherries are expensive, even when you buy them in the bulk package (4 pounds), so you could think of using dried cranberries instead of, or for part of, the cherries.
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.
Chop cherries. Yes, you could do this by hand, but we placed the cherries in the bowl of a food processor, added a couple tablespoons of the flour mixture (to prevent clumping) and pulsed and processed until they were chopped into small pieces. Set aside for now.
Cream butter and sugar. So many recipes start with this step that 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 almond extract 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 cherries. Add the cherries and pulse the mixer 8 to 10 times to incorporate. Scrape as needed.
Chill. We find this dough quite sticky and hard to work with, so we use a trick to make it easier: refrigerate it! Just cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour (or overnight).
Shape and roll in almonds. 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. Once you have a log, roll it partly through sliced almonds. 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’re not sure if these are better than Cocoa Nib Biscotti, but they are very tasty. The bits of cherries give these a slightly chewy texture, and the tart plays off the sweet nicely. And, given how easy these are to make, an easy four stars.