High Altitude Baking column: Pistachio-cranberry biscotti (recipe)
High Country Baking
Editor’s note: 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 that make baking in the mountains successful.
Dry and crunchy, with an appealing contrast between the sweet and tart dried cranberries and the pistachios, this biscotti gets even better when dipped in your favorite hot drink or, maybe, a little liqueur or brandy. (Well, why not?) I keep a dozen in the freezer and pull one out when I have an afternoon cup of tea. It’s definitely one of life’s little pleasures.
The dough comes together with ease. Little can go wrong, as long as you give the partially baked dough logs time to cool before slicing them into cookies. If they’re too warm or the logs aren’t baked through at this point, they will be hard to cut and may crumble.
¾ cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons cranberry juice, Creme de Cassis or water
1 ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached flour (spoon and level)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 scant tablespoon baking powder
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
2 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
¾ cup pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped
3 to 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Liquid from softening dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the dried cranberries in a small microwavable bowl, add 1 tablespoon juice, Creme de Cassis or water, and toss/stir. If all the berries aren’t thoroughly covered with liquid, add a little more until they are. Cover, and microwave on high for 15 to 20 seconds, until berries are softened but not cooked. Strain berries, save the liquid (if glazing the cookies), and place berries on a paper towel to dry.
Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a small mixing bowl, and whisk vigorously until well blended. Set aside.
Combine the melted butter, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl and whisk/stir until smooth. One at a time, add the eggs and whisk until blended. Gradually add the flour mixture (about ¼ cup at a time), whisking only until the dry ingredients disappear after each addition. Add the dried cranberries and pistachios, and stir until evenly distributed throughout the sticky dough. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
Wet your hands (this will help prevent the dough from clinging to them), divide the dough in half, and on the parchment-lined baking sheet, form each half into a log about 2 inches wide and 1 ½ inches high, spacing them at least 7 inches apart. Smooth the tops of the logs. Place in the oven and reduce the temperature to 300 degrees. Bake until the dough is set and logs feel firm, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, leave the oven on and slide the parchment paper with the logs on it onto a cooling rack.
Once the logs are almost cool to the touch (about 15 to 20 minutes), carefully lift them off the parchment onto a cutting board and place the parchment back on your baking sheet. With a serrated knife, gently cut the logs on the diagonal into cookies about ½-inch wide. Stand the cookies up on the parchment paper, with enough space between them for air to circulate.
Return the pan to the oven, and bake until the cookies are dry to the touch on all sides, about 10 to 15 minutes. While they’re baking, make the glaze (if using): Add confectioners’ sugar, one heaping teaspoon at a time (you may not use it all), to the liquid reserved from softening the cranberries. Whisk, and add more sugar (as needed) until the mixture is smooth, opaque and slightly thickened (but brush-able; not as thick as icing).
Remove the cookies from the oven, and (if using) immediately brush the tops with a thin layer of glaze. Place on a rack to cool completely. Store, airtight, at room temperature for five days or freeze for a month.
Makes 34 cookies.
Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbook “Cookies in the Clouds” (available at The Bookworm of Edwards), is a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.