Way back when, my first attempt at biscotti went awry. Not flaming-pile-of-char awry, but just very sad and not at all what I expected or wanted. And so for a long time, I didn’t try again and when I did, I absolutely did not want to use the book from which I’d gotten the original recipe.
(The King Arthur Cookie Companion and I have a very complicated relationship; I love their ideas, but I tend to hate what my execution does to them. And since I’m generally competent with everyone else’s recipes, I’m not quite sure who to blame for that.)
But eventually I did try biscotti again, using someone else’s base recipe and KA’s flavor ideas and it came out fabulously. Perfectly. Exactly what I wanted biscotti to be and, judging by their reception, what everyone else wanted, too.
This is another variation on that theme – my biscotti base recipe (actually, I think it was once Mark Bittman’s, but not exactly) and their mix-ins.
(inspired by the King Arthur Cookie Companion)
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 scant cup sugar, divided [vanilla sugar is perfect here]
1-2 vanilla beans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2.25 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Pulverize the vanilla beans with 1/2 cup of the sugar. I used my spice grinder, but you can do this in a blender, too.
Cream the butter and all sugar.
Beat in eggs and extract until you get a light, lemony-colored batter.
Slowly mix in dry ingredients. Don’t overmix. You’ll have a thick, malleable final product.
You can make one log or two, depending on your cookware and your desired biscotti size. I was lazy and went with one, so that’s what you see above. If you’re going with two for smaller biscotti, just split the dough in half and do everything twice over:
Form a log on a parchment paper/silpat-covered baking sheet. Use a scraper or, better yet, wet hands, to get the dough in the desired shape. Make sure it’s even of height.
Bake for about 25-30 minutes, enough to firm up the log without burning the bottom. [If you’re going with two logs on two sheets, consider rotating halfway through.] The tops won’t necessarily darken before the bottom burns, so learn your oven and your baking sheets and adjust the time as necessary.
Remove the log(s) to a rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes. You want it at least cool enough to handle.
Reduce the oven temp to about 200-225F.
Five minutes before you’re ready to slice, spray the log with a water mister/spray bottle. This will keep the crumbling down.
Slice the log, on the bias for longer pieces or straight for shorter ones, about 1/4-1/3 inch per. You can go slimmer that that, but they’ll be harder to move back to the baking sheet without breaking.
Arrange the slices on the baking sheet so that they’re not overcrowded. I’ve done it both standing up and on their sides, depending on whether I was worried about making a mess with mix-ins. For these, it won’t matter.
Bake 5-10 minutes. The slices should still have some give to them – they’ll firm up as they cool.
Remove the slices to a baking rack and let cool. They should still be a little bit tender and not rock-hard.
Biscotti are incredibly forgiving with storage; they can sit in the open air and freeze easily and well.