Thursday, 4 December 2008

The Great Cookie Research Project: The Italian One

Feedback from previous weeks' cookies has indicated that my colleagues like chocolatey and they like crispy. No messing. So this week I thought I would pick up both of those themes and go in a slightly different direction from what we've had so far: chocolate biscotti. The distinctive thing about biscotti is that they are baked twice - once as a big fat log, and then again in individual slices, traditionally cut on the diagonal. You know - the long biscuits sort you buy in coffee shops to dunk in your coffee - the crunchy nutty chocolatey ones.

There are gazillions of recipes out there for biscotti and I've made some interesting lemon and anise ones before (from Moosewood - where else?), but my only foray into chocolate and nut wasn't so interesting. I settled on a recipe from Cafe Fernando blog in the end, as Cenk, its author, used to bake dozens of them every week and I thought that that was a good sign for a tried and tested recipe. These particular biscotti were hazelnut and chocolate though I did use a bit of a mix of chocolates - I didn't have enough plain dark so I chopped up the rest of the Maya Gold left from the Ecos' chocolate gingerbread and added that as well. You could really taste the orange even thought it was only half a large bar, which I thought was really nice. The dough was quite nice to work with as it wasn't too sticky so it was quite easy to shape into logs. I think I took them out of the oven very slightly too soon, as even after cooling some of the biscotti fell apart a bit as I sliced them. My logs were pretty wide though, so even half-biscotti (biscottini?) were a pretty respectable size.

Nut-studded biscotti dough

Now, I can't comment very extensively on these cookies as I don't like nuts so I didn't eat any. The dough tasted very good prior to the addition of the nuts, but the nutty taste permeated the cooked biscotti too much for me to want to try a bit. As they baked they went through a stage of smelling very nutty indeed but then seemed to move on through into chocolate. Of course all this is only a bad thing if you're a nut-hater like me - in fact if you're a nutophile it's a positive boon.
After the first baking

What with baking, cooling and baking again, the finished biscotti didn't come out of the oven until we were going to bed, so The Scientist didn't do his usual warm from the oven taste test. I left several at home for him though as I had too many to fit in the box to take to work, and he was pretty taken with them. He gave them an 8 out of 10, and wished he had a nice glass of vin santo to dunk them into. They did pretty well at work, too: 'Truly scrumptious!' said one person (possibly one of the Senior Tutors; possibly a character from an Enid Blyton book); 'Thank you. This cheered me up no end' was another rather sweet message. I never thought when I started this that I would be brightening up people's days! 'Very good. not too hard' said another, and 'good combination of nuttiness and chocolateness' came from someone else. One person found them a bit dry (I took the ones that were left to a meeting and it's certainly true that I could hear the crunching from the other side of the room - but that's what biscotti are supposed to do so it's not a bad thing), and another said that they weren't as varied in taste/texture as other weeks'. All in all they polled 7.75 - not reaching the dizzy heights but a perfectly decent biscuit and definitely a good one for dunking. If fact that's not really fair to them - if you're after home-made biscotti they were really very good (for a nut-liker!), and I think that quite a few of my tasters just happened not to have eaten anything like them before. They obviously don't get served up in library cafes!

The Italian One: recipe here


Mama Kelly said...

My maternal grandmother used to make biscotti (enhanced with real anisetee not anise extract). I still associate the taste and crunch of traditional biscotti with her and my childhood.

Yours look soooooooo good!

Johanna said...

can't say I am a big biscotti fan but if you're going to eat it, then chocolate is the way to go! But it does seem worth it to be told they are truly scrumptious - sounds very chitty chitty bang bang!

Ricki said...

I'm afraid I'm usually with your tasters on this one--not a huge fan of biscotti in general. But these do look very nice!

Thanks for the treacle info. Glad to know I can make that cake! :)

Lysy said...

Thank you all for the nice comments - and the anisetee biscotti sound really good! I never realised that biscotti divided opinion so much (although they're not my favourite biscuit either so perhaps I should have wondered...)