October 1, 2012

Chocolate-hazelnut biscotti

I've discovered that biscotti is a great thing to make and keep around the house.  I prefer the traditional kind, made without butter.  And being by definition, twice-baked, they are crunchy and dry, and stay that way for a good couple of weeks stashed in an airtight jar.
Serve biscotti with or as dessert (we had it one night with coffee and a generous scoop of gelato to continue the Italian theme).  They make a great afternoon nibble, a natural accompaniment to a cup of coffee, espresso, or tea any time of the day.  For those who don't like their biscotti too hard and crunchy (I think that's the best part), you can bake them for a slightly shorter time and there's always the option of dunking them in your hot drink, where they soften up instantly.
This batch of chocolate-hazelnut biscotti came about on a whim.  I hate to waste and as I was looking at my pantry shelf, I knew I had to do something about this small box of hazelnuts I had sitting there, taunting me with one of those impending "best by" dates.  I considered making a batch of cookies but then thought of using them in biscotti.  I generally prefer "plain" biscotti but the richness of the hazelnuts stand up well against the dark cocoa flavor of these.

I've made two kinds of biscotti before this: almond and pistachio with orange zest.  These offer a darker flavor and I think the hazelnuts really cut across the dark cocoa very well.  I used this recipe but made a few changes.  I'm not sure this is something to brag about but in an exercise in restraint, there's no actual chocolate in these biscotti, only cocoa powder.  I omitted the chocolate chips from the recipe in order to keep it on the light and lean side, which is how I think of biscotti.  However, I bet biting into studs of chocolate would add another level of deliciousness...
I also opted to forgo a glaze (actually, the first time I'd heard of a glaze for biscotti).  Before the first bake in the oven, you could brush the top of the logs a beaten egg and sprinkle coarse sugar over it.  I don't really see the need for that here.  Given how crunchy and flavorful these are already, I don't think the extra sugar on top would add much more to them. 

I love how I can get a nice little chocolate kick from these biscotti without eating something too rich or sweet.  And if you enjoy hazelnuts, their flavor really pops in these biscotti.

As usual, I made half a recipe, which made about 20 biscotti.  I took this recipe and adapted it slightly to include hazelnuts instead of almonds.  I also omitted the chocolate chips and glaze.

First, toast the hazelnuts.  I was lucky enough to find skinned hazelnuts so I simply toasted them in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes.  Chop them up very coarsely.
Sift and set aside the dry ingredients:  flour, unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Pernigotti), baking soda, and salt.  Then, you can beat together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract with a whisk.  Or instead, I put the ingredients into the standmixer with the whisk attachment and whipped it for about 5 minutes.  I've done this in the past with the other biscotti and it seems to work well - lighting up and aerating the batter a bit. 
Stir the dry ingredients into the whipped egg mixture.  It will come together into a fairly dry dough.  Add the hazelnuts and mix it all together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  (If making the full recipe, divide the dough into two pieces).  I placed it on top of a piece of parchment to make cleanup a bit easier.  Shape the dough into a narrow log, roughly the length of your baking sheet.  Transfer the log onto a lined baking sheet.  Lightly flatten the top of the log.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, when the log feels firm to the touch.  Remove it from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before slicing and baking a second time.
Cut slices at a diagonal, about half an inch wide.  Lay the cookies flat on the baking sheet and bake for another 20 minutes or so.  I flip the cookies over about midway through the baking time since I like them extra crispy.  You can omit this step and even remove them from the oven a few minutes earlier if you don't want them quite so dry.  Maybe it's the cocoa powder in these but I found they dried rather quicker than other kinds I've made.
After the cookies have cooled thoroughly, store them in an airtight container.  The best part - given their already dry texture, they can keep for up to 2 weeks! 

Chocolate-Hazelnut Biscotti
Adapted from David Lebovitz

- Makes approximately 40 cookies (depending on their size) -

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups "high-quality" unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Pernigotti; the flavor of the cocoa you use will be front and center)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted (skin removed as much as possible) and very coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl.

Place eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract into the bowl of a standmixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip until the mixture is thickened and begins to hold its shape, approximately 5 minutes.  Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, then mix in the hazelnuts.  The dough will be thick and fairly dry.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces.  Shape each into a narrow log, roughly the length of the baking sheet.  Transfer the logs onto a parchment of silicon lined baking sheet, spaced evenly apart.  Lightly flatten the tops of the logs.
Bake the logs for 25 minutes, or until the dough feels firm to the touch.  Remove from the oven and let cool 15 minutes. 

Using a serrated knife, slice cookies on a diagonal about 1/2 inch wide.  Lay cookies on baking sheets and return to the oven to bake for another 20-30 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway through baking.  Remove the cookies when they feel mostly firm to the touch.  If you like your biscotti extra crisp, flip the cookies midway through baking.

Once cookies are completely cooled, store them in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

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