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. 

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