Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bittersweet Chocolate & Pistachio Biscotti . . .

Mother's Day, a couple of weeks back, was very, very good to me. From my husband and boys I received a fantastic new cake turntable. It's the one I've coveted for months, the best one I've ever seen--and I've seen quite a few over the last couple of years. Really heavy, with a nondetachable cast-iron base and a rubber-lined bottom, it's as sturdy as all get out. This baby spins more smoothly than a roulette wheel in Vegas. I love it. My 13-year old son, Nathan, and I set it spinning one night and it twirled nonstop for over three minutes. That must be some kind of record. We were in awe. 

I took it for a test drive last weekend. Used it to frost a coconut cake with seven minute frosting. The turntable was a hit. The cake layers were not too shabby. But the glossy, snowy-white frosting? That stuff was drippier than white-hot asphalt and twice as sticky. I didn't bother photographing that baby. I'm gonna give coconut cake another try sometime soon, next time with a completely different coating. Stay tuned.

Anyway, I also received a copy of The Sono Baking Company Cookbook, by John Barricelli. It's a brand  new book and I'm pleased to report it has enormous appeal. There's nothing worse than eagerly anticipating the publication of a long-awaited cookbook and, upon receiving it, being let down. Want to know my informal barometer of how much I like a cookbook? I use torn pieces of sticky notes as bookmarks to help me keep track of recipes I want to try; with this book, I expect to have so many pieces of paper sticking up out of the top it's gonna look like it's growing a thick head of hair.

This biscotti recipe, which I apparently adapted in less than stellar fashion, is the first biscotti I've made in many months. The end result was not what I expected, but it was interesting enough. I'm used to biscotti that's very dry, very crunchy, and structurally solid. There was an unexpected denseness to the texture of this biscotti, and though not actually moist, it was certainly not dry in the way I thought it should be. It had a slight crumbly aspect, too, that seemed odd. Perhaps I underbaked them?

Of course, I veered from the original recipe in my use of pistachios, versus the recommended hazelnuts. I think I probably sliced the loaves too thickly. I wanted the individual slices to be long and not stubby, so I ignored the author's advice to make them into two 17" long logs. I made mine into two 12" long oval loafs. Were I to repeat this recipe, I'd use almost-finely chopped nuts. I also think I'd use a sweeter chocolate. The bitterness of very dark chocolate in combination with the highly distinctive taste of pistachios didn't seamlessly mesh.

So, it's not bad biscotti, all in all, but nothing to write home about as I prepared it. Had I stuck to the letter of the recipe, I might be singing a dramatically different tune right now. But that's okay. Live and learn!

Bittersweet Chocolate & Pistachio Biscotti 

1 cup nuts (as noted above, the original recipe calls for hazelnuts and I used unsalted pistachios; next time I might try almonds. You should use what you prefer!)
2 and 2/3 cups All-Purpose flour (I used unbleached) 
1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. coarse salt (I used kosher)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped
1 large egg white, lightly beaten, for the egg wash
coarse/sanding sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking with parchment paper. 
Chop the nuts into very small pieces.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.

In a mixer bowl, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl and beaters as needed. Blend in the eggs one at a time. 

On low speed, pour in the dry ingredients and mix until the flour has been absorbed. 

Remove the bowl from the mixer. The dough will be quite thick. Using a spoon or spatula, fold/stir in the chopped chocolate and the nuts. (My dough was extremely stiff and hard to stir/fold.)


Form the dough into a ball and divide it in half. On a work surface dusted with flour, and with flour dusted hands, shape each half into a log (17" long) or a loaf shape (about 12" long). Transfer each log/loaf to the baking sheet. The log/loaf should be rather flat, no more than an about inch high.

Brush each loaf with the beaten egg white, and sprinkle each one with sanding/coarse sugar. 

Bake the loaves for about 20 minutes on the middle rack, until they spring back slightly when pressed at the thickest spot. (After 10 minutes of baking, reverse the direction of the baking sheet in the oven for even baking.) Leaving the oven on, remove the loaves from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet, set on top of a cooling rack, for about 10 minutes.

Move the loaves carefully onto a cutting surface. Using a serrated knife or a very sharp chef's knife (I used the latter; the former didn't work for me at all), cut the loaves on the diagonal into slices about 3/4" thick. 

Put all of the slices on the baking sheet, cut side down.  Place in the oven to bake for another 12 minutes or so, until the biscotti are completely dried and crisp (thus do as I say, not as I did!). 

Cool the slices on the pan for a about 10 minutes, then let them cool completely on a rack. Store the cooled biscotti in a covered container for up to about 1 week. 

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, please click on the purple COMMENTS below!)


Chele said...

All my previous attempts at making biscotti have been complete disasters but this looks so good that you may have tempted me to have a nother try ;0)

Chats the Comfy Cook said...

For the past minutes, I have been reading your sidebar. Thanks for the resources and the commentary on the baking books. This is a great source for everyone.

I have a friend who is looking to buy new cookbooks. I am sending her here.

FOODESSA said...

Aren't we all a little guilty about tweaking other peoples' recipes? We are the scientists of our kitchen...are we not? Leaway is very acceptable until the recipe doesn't quite put a big smile on our face;)
Anyhow...I do love my biscotti just right and I could feel a little struggle with this one.
I want to thank you for your candid review.
Flavourful wishes, Claudia

Stella said...

Hey Jane, your photos here are beautiful. Sorry that the biscotti wasn't what you anticipated. You know, my experience with biscotti recipes is that the ones that do not have more than a tbsp. or two of oil are the ones that toast up most nicely creating 'crunch'. The added butter does nothing except sit on ones' waistline (smile)...well, at least in the realm of biscotti. This is my experience at least.
Either way, your biscotti looks rich, dark, and delicious...I would eat some!

Helen said...

I've always been too scared to make biscotti as I'm afraid that they will dry out! There's nothing wrong with adapting a recipe to your needs, I hope they turn out better next time!

~~louise~~ said...

Congrats on your new turntable. I was just eyeing a review of turntables in a back issue of Cook's Illustrated. Quite frankly, I had no idea there could be such a difference in quality and "twirling." Sounds like you got the perfect one; full of love and twirl:)

Your Biscotti looks fine by me. I should really try making them someday. Marion loves them!!!

Thanks for sharing, Jane...

Annmarie Kostyk said...

Looks like a fabulous recipe! I'm a trained pastry chef and chocolatier, but biscotti and bread have always scared me a bit. Time to face my fear! Think I'll take it up a notch and dip them half way into dark chocolate too! Thanks.

Katrina said...

This biscotti looks so good. Thanks for posting such a clear recipe! It's super easy to follow.

Kathy @ Sweet Up-North Mornings... said...

Sounds like a tasty one!
It has chocolate!...of course it would be.
I enjoy making Biscotti too,
especially at Christmas time,
Love your yummy blog!
xoxo~Kathy @
Sweet Up-North Mornings...

Jane said...

Hi Chele, I'm glad you feel that way!
:) Thanks, Jane

Hi Sweet & Savory,
That's really nice to hear. I realize the book info in the sidebar adds an awful lot of text, and sometimes I've wondered if maybe I should change it, so it's gratifying to hear that you find the info valuable.
Thanks very, very much!

Dear Foodessa,
Yes, I am very guilty! Mea culpa to the extreme! I find it hard not to tweak recipes and that's a big part of the fun of baking for me. I guess I must feel it's worth it to take the risk of screwing things up! ;)
Thanks for commenting,

Hi there Stella--
Very interesting to hear that about the butter. I am definitely going to keep that in mind when looking over biscotti recipes in the future. I definitely wanted a lighter, crunchier biscotti than this turned out to be. Thanks so much, Stella. Love your comments, as always!
:) Jane

A warm thank you to the reader who wrote simply "Is very good . . . "
:) Best,

Hi Helen,
Well, I think with biscotti the "dry" factor is what we're supposed to aim for. In my experience, the best biscotti is pretty dry to start with. I did not achieve that with these! Thanks for your always kind and encouraging words!
:) Jane

Dear Louise,
Tell me, did that back issue of Cooks Illustrated mention the Fat Daddio brand of turntable? I am dying to know. I don't think it's a brand that's been around real long, but I'm not sure. (And, Louise, I have to ask though I feel I should already know the answer, who is Marion??)
Your baking pal,
:) Jane

Hello AnnMarie,
Coming from a pastry chef and chocolatier, that is very flattering. I love the complete emphasis on all things chocolate in your website!
Thanks so much for stopping by,
Jane :)

Hi Katrina,
Yeah, I think the steps for making biscotti are really pretty easy. Usually, it turns out yummy!
;) Jane

Hello Kathy,
It does seem like a Christmas-time sort of treat, doesn't it? I made a very cinnamony biscotti last summer that would be good during the holidays come to think of it. Thanks for visiting again, Kathy. I hope all is going well with you and yours up north!

Juliana said...

Wow, this biscotti look delicious, like the idea of bittersweet, so it is not too sweet....pistachio...yummie!

annie said...

The biscotti look absolutely delicious. I have to agree with Stella? on butter vs oil in biscotti. I have made both kinds of recipes , and the biscotti using oil turn out crunchier. I also think they can be kept longer than the buttery ones, but both are delicious.Love your blog.

Stella said...

Hey Jane, I know your'e a busy mommy/baker, but I would love it if you would take a look at my guest post over at Lazaro's blog. If you have chance (smile)...

Mary Bergfeld said...

What a wonderful combination. I am new to your blog. I found you by chance and planned just to say hello and move on. I, instead, began to page through your earlier posts and stayed far longer than I planned. I really like your blog and will visit as often as I can. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Unknown said...

Ahh that biscotti looks delicious!!! Sorry you didn't like it much, though :(

P.S - Congratulations on the new turntable. I've been eyeing a good one too, recently!

Lynda said...

Hi, I've been making biscotti for over 10 years and I, like you, like the hard type or cantuccini. I have found when I use a recipe for biscotti that has butter in it, it always turns out more cakey cookie like and not like cantuccini. The others are good but not as good and to me they are just another cookie. Nice blog!