Last night I found myself in a rare situation. No one around here at home but me--all night long. It's nice to have such a night now and again. You can do just about whatever you want, within reason of course, without cramping anyone's style. You can watch movies that hold no appeal whatsoever for your family members. Sometime past midnight I started watching "Elegy," with Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz, a sensuous love story (yeah, no kids in the room when this baby's on and don't forget to take the DVD out of the player when the film's over) that moves at the luscious pace of lukewarm caramel, and rewards the viewer with a slightly ambiguous ending. I liked it a lot, but then I enjoy caramel at any temperature.
Also, if you want to, you can eat nothing but microwave popcorn for dinner and wash it down with a self-destructive amount of diet pop (did that too . . . I'm no saint in the diet pop department lately. . . I really need to kick the habit). You can always surf baking blogs until you're blue in the face and start to get a headache. Did that. You can bang things around in the kitchen while you bake into the wee hours of the night. Did that too . . . no surprise there.
What was the fruit of my midnight labor? Cinnamon biscotti. Specifically, cinnamon biscotti with white chocolate chips, though you might not be able to tell from the photos. The chips sort of turned the color of butterscotch when the biscotti were on their final stint in the oven. The white chocolate chips still taste good . . . I guess one might say they just changed their complexion.
I like biscotti because it's one of few foods that hold up fairly well when dipped in a cup of coffee. Coffee and biscotti were made for each other. In terms of toothsomeness (that is a real word, you know) and texture, it's kind of the human equivalent of a milk-bone dog biscuit. Have you ever seen a puppy gnawing happily on one of those? They turn their head this way and that. They concentrate and give it all they've got. It's a real project for the pooch. That's how I feel about biscotti. Just give me a piece of biscotti now and then, along with a hot cup of coffee, and I'll follow you anywhere.
I got this recipe from an obscure website a while ago and jotted it down without copying the name of the site (dumb of me! . . . the words "always cite your source" might as well be tattooed on my arm from all the years I spent working for a publisher). Anyway, I think it's a decent recipe that would be easy to alter and customize in the future. The only changes I made to it last night were to use the seeds of half a vanilla bean instead of any vanilla extract, and to add in about half a cup of Ghirardelli white chocolate chips. Also, if I'd baked the biscotti as long as the original recipe indicated, it would have been burned to a crisp. Mine came out medium-well as it was so, accordingly, I've adjusted the baking times downward in the version below.
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)
2 cups of All Purpose flour, bleached
2 tsp. of ground cinnamon (I used Penzey's Vietnamese Cassia--yeah, I know, I always say that)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
Seeds of half of one vanilla bean
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, if you like (or could use chopped nuts instead if you prefer)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In bowl of mixer, with paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter until light colored and thoroughly combined.
Add the 2 eggs, and the 1 egg yolk; beat well.
Add in the vanilla seeds. Mix well, until you see the vanilla dispersed throughout the dough.
Gradually, with the mixer on medium low, spoon in the dry ingredients. Mix until well combined. Add in the white chocolate chips, if you're using them.
The dough will be very thick and sticky. Divide it in half, placing one half onto the middle of each cookie sheet. Place a small bowl of cold water nearby; you'll need to keep your hands wet in order to handle the dough. Shape each portion of dough into a shallow loaf shape, approximately t 9" by 3". The dough will expand considerably in the oven. Using a pastry brush, brush the beaten egg white onto each loaf; this will ensure a nice shiny top crust.
Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, just until golden and firm to the touch. Leave the oven on, still at 325. Cool the loaves on their baking sheets for 10 minutes.
Using a very sharp, thin knife, slice the loaves widthwise, about 1/2" to 3/4" for each slice.
Place the slices on their sides (one cut side down) on the parchment covered baking sheets, and put them back into the oven. Bake until darker golden, about 10 minutes. When they're done, take them out and let them cool completely on their cookie sheets for at least an hour. Store them covered.
But before you store them, go get a cuppa joe, or a glass of milk, and start dipping!
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