Handmade biscotti is a great treat for holiday parties (try dunking them in dessert wine!) and an impressive gift to bring when visiting friends. No matter what the occasion, these treats serve as elegant companions for espresso, cappuccino, latte or tea. Traditional biscotti in Italy are firm, toast-like biscuits flavored with anise or almond, but there are many other, more decadent varieties. This double-chocolate recipe has a rich flavor and always gets rave reviews.
These goodies are also fresher, healthier (no pesticides, preservatives or trans fats) and more affordable than what you'll probably find in a café. Prices of some store-bought biscotti range from 40 cents to more than $1 per cookie, and you won't get a break for buying a bunch. We found some online that cost even more, up to $1.50 per cookie.
By comparison, the cost of the ingredients in our homemade biscotti, made from USDA organic and fair trade certified products, came to 45 cents per cookie. The recipe yields about 30 biscotti, and the whole prep and baking time takes less than an hour. You can make them ahead of time and freeze them for weeks, or just keep them in an airtight container for several days. For a lovely gift, show off the biscotti in recyclable containers or other packaging that's eco-friendly. We've included some suggestions.
What you'll need:
• Large baking sheet
• Parchment paper
• Large mixing bowl (preferably glass or non-reactive material)
• Small mixing bowl
• Cutting board
• Electric mixer (smaller hand mixer is fine, or you can also stir by hand)
• Good cutting knife with serrated edges
• Measuring cups and spoons
• 2 cups all-purpose certified organic flour
• 1/2 cup unsweetened organic, fair trade cocoa powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
• 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted organic butter (preferably from a local dairy)
• 1 cup organic cane sugar
• 2 large organic eggs
• 1 tablespoon organic brewed coffee (or instant coffee mixed with water)
• 3/4 cup organic semisweet chocolate chips
• 4 tablespoons organic confectioners’ sugar
Mix butter, sugar and eggs
1) In a large bowl, beat softened butter and granulated sugar until the butter lightens in color and is fluffy. Add two eggs — one at a time — and beat until thoroughly mixed together.
Mix and form the dough
1) Mix flour, cocoa powder, coffee, salt and baking soda in small bowl. Do NOT add the powdered sugar.
2) Gradually add flour mixture to contents of large bowl while stirring; it will form a stiff dough.
3) Stir in chocolate chips.
Form the dough and bake
1) With floured hands, take the large ball of dough and divide it into two balls of equal size.
2) On a parchment paper-covered (or lightly greased and floured) baking sheet, shape each ball into a long, flattened log. Each log should be about 10-12 inches long, and about 2 inches wide.
3) Dust each log with confectioners' sugar and place in 350-degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch.
Cut into individual servings
1) Cool the biscotti on baking sheet for a few minutes and then cut each log diagonally into slices, each about 3/4 of an inch wide.
Flip and bake again
1) Turn each piece cut side down on the baking sheet and bake again for about 10 minutes until crisper.
Let it cool and embellish for gifting
1) Let biscotti cool. When completely cool, dust again with confectioners' sugar and package in an airtight tin or glass container. If you would like to freeze the biscotti, wrap in waxed paper and foil to fully protect the cookies, and use an airtight freezer container.
For a lovely gift, show off the biscotti in a recyclable container or other packaging that's eco-friendly.
Whether you shop for ingredients at a conventional market or natural foods store, make sure the product is certified USDA organic or fair trade (for the cocoa, coffee and chocolate chips), and bears these third-party seals rather than unverifiable claims. Here are some product brands that we used, which can be found at Whole Foods or regional green supermarkets such as Mrs. Green's.
Text and illustrations by Lindsay Kurz. This article originally appeared in Plenty in December 2008.
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