Vail High Country Baking column: Biscotti
January 22, 2013
Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
“HELP! I’m addicted to chocolate chips!” claimed a reader recently. “No,” she continued, “I’m not looking for rehabilitation; I just need cookie recipes for something beyond the usual chocolate-chip drop cookie. Got any?”
I sure do! How about chocolate chip biscotti? The twice-baked cookies definitely showcase chocolate chips and they’re enhanced nicely by almonds, vanilla, and a hint of orange. The taste is reminiscent of the iconic chocolate chip drop cookie that everyone loves, but the other additions give it a distinctive twist and the crisp texture is a refreshing change.
Like all biscotti, these are at their best when softened slightly in something to drink. This one dips beautifully in coffee (which heightens the chocolate taste), tea, or amaretto (which highlights the almond flavor). But, don’t limit yourself to these beverages; try it with whatever you like.
These crunchy morsels come together with very little active time and without the need for any appliances except an oven. Four ingredients are blended by hand in one bowl, the rest in another, and then the two are combined. You can make them well ahead of serving; they keep well at room temperature and freeze beautifully.
Chocolate chip biscotti
(Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet.)
13⁄4 cups of flour (spoon and level)
13⁄4 teaspoons of baking powder
1⁄2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
3⁄4 cup of almonds, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs and 1 egg white
51⁄3 (five and one third) tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
3⁄4 cup of granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
21⁄2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1⁄2 teaspoon of almond extract
1 teaspoon of dried orange zest or 11⁄2 teaspoons of fresh orange zest
Heat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil.
Combine the flour, baking powder, chocolate chips, and chopped almonds in a large bowl and stir/whisk to combine well. Set this aside. In another bowl, combine the two large eggs, the melted butter, the granulated sugar, the vanilla and almond extracts, and the orange zest and whisk to combine thoroughly (the mixture should be completely smooth).
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients (push them up the sides of the bowl). Spoon/Pour the egg-melted butter mixture into the well and stir with a rubber spatula until a sticky dough forms. If it’s too wet to work with, refrigerate it for about 20 minutes until it firms up a bit. While still in the bowl, divide the dough equally. Using wet hands (this prevents the dough from sticking to you), lift one half out of the bowl and place it on the prepared baking sheet, about a third of the way from one of its long sides. Form it into a rounded log about 10 inches long, patting and smoothing it as you go. Take out the second half of the dough and do the same, placing it about five inches from the first log. Lightly beat the egg white and brush the tops of the logs with it (you won’t use it all).
Bake in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the dough is set but still slightly soft to the touch. Remove the pan from the oven, but keep the oven on. Let the biscotti cool for five minutes, and then carefully slice each log on the diagonal into individual cookies, making each slice about one half to three-quarters of an inch wide. Gently stand each slice up (you may need to lift them with a small metal spatula so they don’t break) on the lined baking sheet, with space for air to circulate between them. Return them to the oven and bake until both edges of each slice are dry. This takes another 18-22 minutes in my oven. Remove the pan from the oven and the cookies from the pan. Let them cool completely on a rack. Store airtight for six days at cool room temperature or freeze them for up to five weeks.
Makes 20-25 cookies.
This is a variation of an Esther Brody recipe.
Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.