Italy is to biscotti and espresso as England is to scones and high tea, and as America is to fries and vanilla milkshakes. The pairings are deep rooted in heritage, tradition, and respect – they are like history and sentiment in edible form, and they are delicious. Luckily for me, my dad appreciates nothing more than those exact things – Birthday Biscotti it is! These italian twice-baked cookies are crunchy-crispy, semi-soft centered, and chocolate-y, and inspired by my dad’s favorite flavors.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ¼ heaping cup of dark cocoa powder (unsweetened)
- 2t instant espresso powder (you can omit, but you won’t taste it – it boosts the chocolate flavor!)
- 1t baking powder
- 1t salt
- 1 stick of butter (unsalted)
- 1 cup of sugar
- 2 eggs, whole
- 3t almond extract
- 2t vanilla extract
- ½ cup of dry roasted, unsalted almonds
- ½ cup of raw walnuts
- OR 1 cup of any nut, dried fruit, or chocolate chip combination that you’d like
Preheat your oven to 350°. Measure out all of your dry ingredients, whisk them together, and set aside. When measuring flour, I use a sort of fluffing technique – there’s no need to bring out a sieve. Using a spoon, fluff up the flour before sprinkling it into the measuring cup, and when you’ve got a heaping pile of aerated flour in the cup, level it off with the back of the spoon. This method of flour measuring is one of the most useful I’ve learned to date. Ever follow a recipe completely, but your cookies still turn out too dry, or your brownies are cake-y, or your pie crust just crumbles? Just remember that you can always add an ingredient, but un-adding one requires a complete recipe re-work. I once added too much flour to a recipe – I know, what was I thinking – and my double dark chocolate chip cookie recipe turned into a tin full of rocks. Literal, rocks. People were simultaneously “enjoying” the cookies and making dentist appointments because their teeth chipped. Horrible. Don’t add too much flour.
Now that that’s settled, on to the wet ingredients. Using a mixer and a separate bowl, beat your sugar and butter together until they are creamy. Not grainy, creamy. If your mixture still looks ricey, keep beating. The butter is already butter, so there’s no need to worry about overworking your dairy. Next add in both eggs, and the extracts. Note to the reader: Whenever I give a measurement for an extract, I almost always add a spill more and I rarely leave out the vanilla. Like the espresso, vanilla is a flavor enhancer, and really rounds out any baked good. Because your butter sugar mixture was so well incorporated, mixing in the eggs and extract should be pretty easy. Once your all blended, begin mixing in the dry ingredients a little at a time, until incorporated, chop up the add-ins and fold them in until evenly distributed. You also want to be sure to not over-mix at this stage in a baking recipe unless specified. I think there is a science behind it involving gluten or something, but all I know is that mixing my brownies 25 turns of the bowl gets me not-good-chewy chocolate things, and that 20 turns gets me of the best things I’ve ever created (you’ll have to wait for December for that one, but it will be worth it).
When you’re all mixed, divide your dough into to sections, and with floured hands, form two biscotti loaves on a parchment lined baking sheet, 2 or more inches apart. There’s no perfect width or length for these cookies – make them the shape you want to eat them, just know that they’ll expand a bit when baking. Bake the biscotti for 30 minutes or until set. Leave the tray to cool for 15 minutes, then using a serrated knife, gently cut your biscotti into sections, lay back on the tray, and bake for another 8 minutes. These treats aren’t too sweet, and are the perfect texture to eat alone or to enjoy with coffee, tea, or milk. Be sure to store your biscotti in an air-tight container, that is, if they last longer than the hour they take to make.