January 2, 2011

Traveling Cookies

Biscotti or Italian twice-baked cookies were first baked to withstand long journeys. Created in Rome and perfected during the Renaissance in Tuscany these Italian cookies were a source of nourishment for travelers and the Roman Legion. This cookie ranges in consistency from hard & dry to slightly toasted & cakey. In Tuscany they are the perfect finish to a meal served with a glass of Vin Santo. They are often times eaten as an afternoon snack with a cappuccino. They are meant to be dunked into espresso or wine; not nibbled like chocolate chip cookies. Biscotti are dipping cookies which soften and absorb your liquid of choice.

This particular batch is a mix of my Italian & Mexican cultures. I've finely chopped the almonds rather than leaving them coarsely chopped, much like Mexican Wedding Cookies. I added warming spices and Theo's limited edition Gingerbread Spice Milk Chocolate Bar. The base of the recipe is from Martha Stewarts' current Holiday Cookies magazine.

Almond Spice Biscotti
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Hazelnut, Ginger & Chocolate Biscotti

3 cups AP flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup sugar
2 t baking powder
1/2 t sea salt
1 t cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1 t cardamom
1/2 t ground cloves
1/2 t nutmeg
3 large whole eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 t almond extract
1 t pure vanilla extract
1 cup raw almonds, toasted & finely chopped
1/2 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
3 ounces Theo Chocolate Gingerbread Spice Milk Chocolate Bar (1 bar or substitute milk or dark chocolate), chopped coarsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk to combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the eggs, olive oil and the extracts. With the electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, gradually add in the flour mixture on low speed. Raise the speed to medium and mix until well combined. Add the nuts, candied ginger and chocolate until thoroughly combined.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Using your palms, shape each piece into log about 10 inches long and 2 inches wide. Arrange logs on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing at least 2 inches apart. Flatten logs slightly.

Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until firm to the touch, approximately 30-35 minutes. Let cool on sheet on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 325 F. Transfer the logs to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices on the diagonal.

Place slices, cut side down, on the sheet. Bake until firm when pressed in the center and golden brown at edges, 40-45 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Biscotti can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 weeks.

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