Biscotti is the perfect accompaniment mid-morning when I’m into my fifth or sixth cup of coffee. I drink coffee all morning long and I’m able to do so because I don’t use one of those horrible drip machines, but rather what I think of as my personal 1956 Lincoln Continental of a coffee machine. The problem has always been that I’ve never really liked biscotti. Maybe because I’ve only ever had the stuff that comes in a gift basket from Gallucci’s (a store I adore). Or the one time I tried to make it myself. It was rock hard and tasteless, so I figured I’d done a perfect job.
But a while back, someone asked for a biscotti recipe, perhaps even a ratio. My able colleague Emilia Juocys was intrigued and so recently set to work. She has here devised a superb recipe and ratio for a great biscotti that includes eggs and butter: delicate, not gravel in your mouth, flavorful but not overly, an excellent canvas if you want to add chocolate or nuts or the traditional anise flavor.
Here’s the new ratio: 5 parts flour : 3 parts sugar : 2 parts butter : 2 parts egg
And now, over to Emilia and the actual recipe.
by Emilia Juocys
The ratio base for the biscotti is a blank canvas. It allows you to create something unique, whatever you crave. The base hold its together. It can be simple with one concept like orange or anise, or it can be over top with nuts, dried fruit, spice, and even dipped in chocolate. I have three favorite combinations: almond praline, roasted hazelnut & dark chocolate, and almond & dried cherry. If you want it classic, stick go with an anise flavored biscotti (add a tablespoon of anise seeds and 3/4 teaspoon of anise extract to the recipe below). Biscotti should reflect the personality of the baker. What kind of biscotti are you?
On my path of discovering more about the components of the popular coffee house biscotti I ran across the history of this biscuit. I also recalled my trip to Italy and noshing on these crunchy cookies with a glass of Vin Santo for dessert.
Biscotti means “twice cooked” from the Latin. For the first bake the dough is shaped into a cylinder; because of the high fat content it will settle into a loaf shape. The loaf is cooled then sliced and the slices are baked to dry them out. You can keep these cookies for up to a month if well sealed, but they don’t last long in my house.
They can be made in a variety of ways; the lower the fat content, the harder they will be. We like them rich and tender, thus the butter and eggs.
Types of biscotti include cantucci, rosegons, and carquinyoli, and like all things Italian, vary by region and inspire heated debate over authenticity. These cookies have been valued throughout history because they can be stored for a long time (fat content is a factor; the more fat, the less well they keep). They are originally from the Italian region of Tuscany in the town of Prato. An original recipe was documented by Amadio Baldanzi in the 18th century and then in the 19th century, Antonio Marttei a pastry chef presented the biscotti at the 1867 world’s fair in Paris. His name is still associated with a biscotti bakery in Prato. Marttei’s biscotti recipe includes flour, sugar, eggs, pine nuts, and untoasted, skin-on almonds.
- 10 ounces/280 grams all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 ounces/120 grams butter, unsalted
- 6 ounces/170 grams sugar
- 4 ounces egg/120 grams (2 large eggs)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- optional garnish, added as desired: nuts, chocolates, dried fruit
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F./180 degrees C.
- Line a sheet tray with parchment paper or silpat.
- Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk it to distribute the ingredients.
- Cream the butter and sugar together with a paddle attachment in a standing mixer (or however you want to mix), for about 3-4 minutes.
- Add in the eggs one at a time and extract. Be sure to scrape sides of bowl down with a rubber spatula after each addition of egg.
- Once the eggs are incorporated, turn the mixer on low speed and slowly pour in the dry ingredients. Mix just until the dough comes together (adding optional garnish if you’re using).
- Flour a work surface and spatula the dough out of the bowl. Divide in half (it should be sticky, thus the flour; use as little flour as possible). Roll the dough into two cylinders 2 inches/5-centimeters in diameter and place on the lined sheet tray far enough apart that they won’t relax into each other.
- Bake until golden brown, 35 minutes, then set aside to cool.
- Slice the cooled loaves with a serrated knife on the bias making 1/2 inch/1-centimeter to 3/4 inch/2 centimeters pieces.
- Place these slices on the sheet tray and bake for another 12-15 minutes, until they are lightly golden.
- Remove from oven cool completely.
Yield: About 2 dozen biscotti
If you liked this post on biscotti or ratios, check out these other posts:
- Need a Gluten Free Biscotti? Try Gluten Free Girl’s Lemon Pecan Recipe.
- The New York Times has some savory biscotti ideas.
- Creative Loafing discusses the dessert wine, Vin Santo.
- Here’s a book all about biscotti.
- Ratio Smart Phone App: Video Demo
© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.