Thursday, January 6, 2011

Biscotti for Winter

Once upon a time I didn't like yogurt, stinky cheese, and pizza (gasp!). Thankfully, I've come to my senses and now enjoy all of these things, although the jury's still out on arugula, grapefruit, and cheese straws.

But today is all about biscotti, a cookie that I once disliked but has rapidly become not only my favorite type of cookie to bake but also my favorite to eat. On the baking side of things, I love the ease with which biscotti come together. There's no complicated mixing technique and a single batch makes a few dozen cookies in about an hour.

Of course, I enjoy eating them most of all. I love the crunchy texture of biscotti. I recently started using recipes that require little to no butter or oil, which is traditional in Italian cuisine (usually eggs are the sole source of fat). The lack of fat in the dough prevents the cookies from becoming too soft as they sit out, and I think it also helps them stay fresh-tasting for a long time. (Such is another great thing about biscotti: they are wonderful candidates for make-ahead baking, which is always a plus during the busy holiday season.) If you are normally deterred from biscotti because of their crunchier texture, know that these are definitely not tooth-shattering hard; they will soften up just enough after a brief dip into a hot cup of coffee (or tea, if you're into that sort of thing).
Finally, I absolutely love the infinite number of ways that you can change up the flavor of the biscotti. Because Christmas was two weeks ago, I'm opting to call this specific rendition "winter" biscotti because the combination of flavors - tart/sweet cranberries, slightly salty pistachios, and vanilla-y white chocolate - seem the perfect antidote to all this cold weather (a white Christmas? Seriously?). Never mind that the shades of red, green, and white seem especially suited to this time of year.

The real stars of this biscotti though, aside from the wonderful variation of textures from the different mix-ins, are the almond extract and white chocolate chips. The former is subtle yet just strong enough to attract your attention. I'm not sure how else to describe its contribution to the cookie's flavor besides saying "nutty," but if you love the flavor of almonds then you'll love what the almond extract brings to the party.
As for the white chocolate, I'm reminded of a blog post David Lebovitz did a year of so ago about caramelized white chocolate. I know some people don't like the sweet flavor of white chocolate, but it works tremendously in this cookie to balance out the tart cranberries and naturally salty pistachios. Instead of just a one-note sweetness, the heat from the oven browns the white chocolate just enough to give it a warm, almost caramel flavor. It's sort of like a cross between a toasted marshmallow and the burnt sugar topping on creme brulee. All accented with vanilla. Trust me, it's delicious.

Really, the only mistake I made with these cookies was not making enough. Truly, they were all gone a week ago. (We did give some away, but still....) That is practically unheard of in our house. I recall because a time in the not-so-distant past when I discovered a tin of Christmas cookies, stowed away and forgotten, well past the new year. Whatever time of year it is, though, I'm positive you too will fall in love with these cookies.
Cranberry, Pistachio, and White Chocolate Biscotti
Adapted from Bon Appetit

The original recipe called for dried raspberries of dried strawberries. I've never actually seen either of those (outside of freeze-dried strawberries in Special K) and dried cranberries seem more wintry to me anyway. If you like, you can dip the cooled biscotti in melted white or dark chocolate. This is a great base recipe for any dried fruit and nut biscotti. For any other time of year, you could substitute dried figs, raisins, or dried cherries for the cranberries. In place of pistachios, walnuts or pecans would also be delicious.

Yield: 2 to 3 dozen cookies, depending on how thickly you slice the biscotti

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons canola (or other vegetable) oil
2 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
3/4 cup shelled, raw, and unsalted pistachios
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicon liner (such as Silpat) or with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt to combine. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat sugar, eggs, oil, and almond extract until well combined. Slowly add the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the pistachios, dried cranberries, and white chocolate chips. Make sure to incorporate the add-ins so that they are distributed evenly throughout the dough (especially the dough at the bottom of the bowl).

Divide the dough in half and shape the dough into two logs, each about 12 inches long, 3 inches wide, and 1 inch tall. Space the logs about 3 inches apart. If the dough is sticking to your fingers, wet your fingertips to prevent it from sticking.

Bake the logs for 30 minutes, until slightly browned and just firm to the touch. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Cool the logs on the baking sheet for 10 to 20 minutes. Then, using a serrated knife, cut the logs crosswise into about 1-inch wide slices. (You can also cut the logs into thinner slices; you'll just end up with more cookies.) Turn the biscotti onto their sides (cut-sides down) and bake again for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, carefully flip the biscotti over onto their other sides and continue baking for another 10 minutes, until the biscotti are crisp, firm, and golden. Cool completely on the baking sheet before enjoying.

The cooled biscotti can be stored, at room temperature, in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks (if they last that long).


  1. um yeah, I love those biscotti and I usually enjoy them well into january. I was bummed on monday to find them all gone. really bummed!

  2. love biscotti, and yours are pretty darn good, i managed to get the last 1" piece of the one's we got.

  3. Wow! You can't go wrong here! Biscotti is so perfect to dip into a cup of coffee. I love cranberries and pistachios too.. Thanks for sharing, I need to make this soon! :)

  4. Ooh - yum! I should make these - I could make them. And I woouuuuld dip them in tea - because I AM into that sort of thing!