Friday, January 13, 2012

Biscotti Bonanza

Either I have amnesia or holiday baking this year was much harder than last.  Several test recipes were duds, a few bombed due to rookie errors, and some were just destined to fail.  That's the tricky thing about homemade gifts - there's a higher chance for complications. 

At any rate, several recipes made it into gift boxes and brought smiles to the receivers.

Biscotti is one of those stealth desserts that is totally easy to make yet looks impressive.  If you're not familiar with these Italian cookies, they're a crunchy biscuit that's great to dunk into coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.  

After combing through dozens of variations, I've found that most biscotti recipes start with this base: 2 cups flour, 1/3 cup butter, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 eggs, dash of salt, and 2 tsp baking powder.

From there, you simply dump in your desired goodies, mainly nuts, berries, or chocolate. 


 What you essentially have here is cookie dough.  Since I had all the chemistry components in place, I simply eyeballed the mini-chocolate chips, though I bet it was around 1 cup. 

I chill the dough for 15-30 minutes and then form it into loaves on an greased cookie sheet.  They're about 8-10 inches long, 3 inches wide, and you flatten them slightly with your fingers. 

These bake for 30 minutes at 375* and then cool for another 30 minutes.  I neglected to document this step, but you then cut the loaves into the biscotti fingers.  The crunchiness of the cookies comes from the second bake, which involves 7 minutes on each side at 325*

The end result is tasty little morsels just waiting for you at breakfast.  One recipe will yield around 35 cookies, depending on how big you cut them.

After they cool, you can coat them with a powdered sugar glaze or drizzle them in chocolate.  After my chocolate-covered cherries bombed, I had no desire to work with chocolate again.  Instead, I simply made two varieties: chocolate chip and lemon-lavender (1 T lemon juice, lemon zest from 1/2 a lemon, and 2 tsp lavender).

Not only can biscotti be completed in less than 2 hours, but they also freeze beautifully.  I completed my batches on various weekends in December and each went into the freezer (if you use glaze/drizzle, you would do that after they've dethawed).

The chocolate chip turned out to be the most popular.  I'm not sure if I'll do these next year, but I know they'll be a go-to receipe for any forthcoming potlucks!

What successes did you have with DYI holiday gifts?

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