High Country Baking: Low-fat almond biscotti
VAIL CO, Colorado
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.
Thank you, Starbucks. Without your plentiful and popular restaurants, I doubt that biscotti would be a household word in our country. I’m crazy about those log-shaped, twice-baked Italian cookies, so, I am most grateful that you brought them to our attention.
After nibbling a couple in my neighborhood coffee house many years ago, I decided to bake my own and have been experimenting with them ever since.
I’ve found that there are at least two types of biscotti: One, with a significant amount of butter, is cakelike, somewhat soft, and found more often in the U.S. than in Europe. The more traditional version, like the one featured in this recipe, includes little or no butter and is dry, crisp, and crunchy … made to be dunked into your favorite beverage.
On our side of the Atlantic, we most often dip them into coffee or tea. In Italy, they commonly find their way into sherry, marsala, vin santo, and other after-dinner cordials. I can attest, these almond biscotti are delicious after a plunge in almost anything. The liquid brings the subtle orange, almond and vanilla flavors to life and softens the texture just enough to make it crumbly.
These low-fat cookies store beautifully. They can wait up to two weeks at cool room temperature and for almost two months in the freezer before being served.
Traditional almond biscotti (low fat)
Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet
Makes about 30-36 cookies
o 2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup of granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s superfine
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon of almond extract
3/4 cup of almonds
2 1/2 tablespoons of minced orange zest
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil. (If you grease the pans, the cookies may spread.) Toast the almonds, let them cool, and, then, chop them roughly. Set them aside.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and whisk them vigorously to thoroughly blend and aerate. Set this aside. In a larger mixing bowl, beat the room temperature butter and the granulated sugar until they are light in color and smooth. Add one egg and beat until combined. Add the next egg, the vanilla and the almond extracts, and beat again until blended and smooth.
Using a spoon or rubber spatula, fold in the chopped almonds and the orange zest. Sift or strain the dry ingredients over the wet ones and gently fold only until the dough comes together.
Turn the dough out onto the lined cookie sheet. Though it may seem sticky, don’t add more flour. Using wet or lightly-floured hands, or working through a piece of plastic wrap, halve the dough and form each half into a smooth log about 13 inches long and two inches across. Space them about three inches apart on the cookie sheet. Bake until the logs are light golden and start to crack on the tops. This takes about 35 minutes in my oven.
Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and cool the biscotti for about ten minutes. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees. Using a thin sharp or serrated knife and firm, decisive strokes, slice the logs, on the diagonal, into cookies about three-eighths of an inch wide. Lay the cookies, one cut side down, back on the cookie sheet, spacing them about half an inch apart. Return them to the oven and bake, turning each cookie over to expose the second cut side half way through the baking period. Each side should be golden and crisp when done. The total time for this second baking is about fifteen minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool them completely on a rack. The biscotti can be stored at cool room temperature and covered airtight for about two weeks. It can also be frozen for six to eighth weeks.
This is a variation of a recipe from “Cook’s Illustrated.”
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 Dawson at email@example.com.