Note to Readers: Fun food for the holidays – BISCOTTI

Well, this isn’t exactly a healthy anti-cancer food in the same way that spinach or Brussels sprouts are, but it’s the holidays after all. So, I asked myself: What cookie tastes great and doesn’t have a lot of fat in it? A biscotti!

And if we make the biscotti with whole wheat flour (and why not?) it’s better yet. So…here’s a recipe for a whole wheat biscotti with cherries. It’s delicious and impressive — and really quite easy to make!

I experimented a LOT with the recipe for Almond Chocolate Chip Biscotti found on one  my favorite recipe sites, 101 Cookbooks. And below is my version of this recipe — which uses less butter (replaces some of the fat with oil), uses cherries instead of chocolate chips, and makes twice the quantity of biscotti. And for chocolate lovers, I’ve included two more variations — a Chocolate Chip Biscotti as well as a Chocolate Chip Biscotti with Chocolate.

Biscotti (baking on Silpat mat)
Biscotti

Biscotti – version 1: CHERRY ALMOND BISCOTTI

Ingredients

1 ½ cups dried tart pitted cherries

  • I used Trader Joe’s Dried Pitted Tart Montmorency Cherries

1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour

  • I used Trader Joe’s 100% White Whole Wheat Flour. It’s a lot less expensive than King Arthur’s.

2 ½  cups whole wheat pastry flour

  • I used Bob’s Red Mill Organic Stone Ground Whole Wheat Pastry Flour which I found at Harris Teeter’s.

2/3 cup oat flour

  • If you don’t have oat flour and don’t feel like running out to buy some, that’s OK. Just take plain rolled oats and put them into the work bowl of the food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until you have oat flour. That’s it!

2/3 cup raw wheat germ

  • It’s best to use raw wheat germ as the biscotti are going to bake for quite some time and toasted wheat germ would get too toasted.
  • Be sure to store the opened wheat germ in the refrigerator or freezer because the oils in the germ go rancid quite easily if stored at room temperature.

1 teaspoon salt (if sea salt, then use fine grain sea salt)

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons canola oil

1 ½ cup granulated sugar

4 large eggs

  • I used eggs with omega-3’s

zest of one medium/large organic orange

  • Next time I will use more zest. Maybe twice as much. You can’t taste it at all when you just use the zest of one orange. And, the zest is good for you and goes nicely with cherries, so why not use more?

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

  • Use pure almond extract, not imitation. I used Penzeys Spices Pure Almond Extract.

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • Pure vanilla extract is very pricy. The extract preferred by many bakers is Nielson-Massey Pure Vanilla Extract. I didn’t have that. I used Costco’s Kirkland 100% Pure Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. It’s OK.
  • Vanilla extract helps to bring out the sweetness in a food, so, in general, when you add vanilla extract you can cut down on sugar a little.

2/3 cup chopped almonds

  • To chop the almonds, I simply put whole raw almonds into the work bowl of the food processor fitted with a metal blade, and pulse it on and off. Caution: Processing the almonds in this way is very noisy; you might want to wear ear plugs!
  • And you don’t have to use a food processor to chop the almonds, cutting them up by hand with a sharp chef’s knife works just fine too.

Ingredients shown above – but without all the explanation (better for printing)

1 ½ cups dried tart pitted cherries

1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour

2 ½  cups whole wheat pastry flour

2/3 cup oat flour

2/3 cup wheat germ

1 teaspoon salt (if sea salt, then use fine grain sea salt)

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons canola oil

1 ½ cup granulated sugar

4 large eggs

zest of one medium/large organic orange

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup chopped almonds

Directions

Please see the “Note” at the top of this page.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Plump the dried cherries: Put the dried cherries into a small bowl and add boiling water to just cover. Let stand for 5 minutes. Drain well. Place the cherries on a paper towel (preferably one that’s not bleached white) and blot them well but gently. Set the plumped cherries aside.

Into a medium bowl, place the whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, oat flour, wheat germ, salt, and baking powder. Use a whisk to mix these dry ingredients well. Set aside.

Put the butter, sugar, and oil into a large bowl or into the bowl of your mixer. Cream the butter, sugar, and oil  together for about a minute, until well mixed and slightly lighter in color than when you started. Add the eggs, zest, almond extract, and vanilla extract.  Mix until fully combined. (If using an electric mixer, you will need to scrape the sides down a few times.)

Add the reserved dry ingredients (flours etc) to the creamed mixture. Mix just until the dough becomes stiff and the flour is almost all incorporated. Add the slivered almonds and cherries and mix until they’re well distributed throughout the dough.

Powder the counter and your hands with a little whole wheat flour. Take the dough and divide it in two equal parts. Set one part aside.  Take the second piece of dough and divide it up into two equal pieces. (Now you have three pieces of dough — two that are each equal to one-quarter the original lump of dough and one that’s equal to half of the original lump of dough.) Roll each of the two quarters into a log that’s almost as long as your baking sheet.

Take a baking sheet and line it with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet (100% food-grade silicone). Place the two logs of dough onto the parchment lined pan, keeping the logs a few inches apart and a few inches away from the sides of the pan. Now flatten the dough with the palm of your hand. Each log should end up being about 1/2-inch high.

  • If you have two more baking sheets, you can bake the remaining half of the dough at the same time. Just place one baking sheet inside the other (makes it like an air-filled baking sheet) and line the top baking sheet with parchment paper. Make two more logs out of the remaining dough and place them on the parchment-lined double baking sheet. Place this double baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven. The timing might be a little different if you do it this way; I haven’t tested it. But it should work fine.
  • If you don’t have three baking sheets all together,  just make one batch of biscotti after the other, which is what I did. Important food safety note: The dough should not remain at room temperature for more than two hours, and just to be on the safe side, it’s best to put the reserved dough into the refrigerator while you bake the first batch.

  • Alternatively, the experts say that you can let the dough rest overnight or up to two days in the refrigerator and then bake the biscotti another day (but before you try this, see the P.S. bullet point below). Why can’t you refrigerate your biscotti dough for longer – just like the Pillsbury dough?  That’s because unlike Pillsbury, you’re baking with eggs that have not been pasteurized.
  • P.S. After refrigerating the dough, I found it to be pretty hard and crumbly. Not good. So I tried warming it up for on the counter for 30 minutes, and that didn’t help much. Next I tried putting it in the microwave on a low setting — lower than defrost — for a few minutes. This worked great; the dough was much less crumbly and easy much easier to roll out — almost as easy as it would have been had I not refrigerated it all.

Place the single baking pan with biscotti logs on the middle rung of the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes. After this time, the dough should be firm and starting to brown just a little bit.

Remove the baking pan from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Let the partially baked dough cool for about 10 minutes. (It was freezing outside on the day I made these biscotti, so I set the dough cool outside and so it took less than 10 minutes for it to cool.) When the dough has cooled but is still a little warm to the touch, carefully move the cooked dough to a cutting board and using a chef’s knife cut it into slices, about ½ – ¾ inch thick.

  • Note: The best way I’ve found to make sure that the biscotti slices don’t break apart when you cut is to use a chef’s knife, rather than a serrated knife (which is what I used originally). Just hold the knife over where you want to make the cut and push straight down on the knife with your other hand. This works great! And, if you cut diagonally instead of straight across you will get the professional baker’s look for your finished product.

Place the partially-cooked biscotti slices, cut side up, on the parchment lined baking sheet, leaving a little space between each piece. Place the baking sheet with the biscotti pieces into the 300 degree oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until they’re starting to get a little more golden brown around the edges of the underside. Using tongs or two forks, turn the biscotti to the other side and bake again for about 10 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when they are very lightly golden brown on both sides.

Take the biscotti out of the oven and cool them on a wire rack.

When cool, store covered at room temperature. They’ll keep well for a few weeks – if they last that long.

Makes about 30 biscotti per baking sheet; 60 in all.

Biscotti – version 2: CHOCOLATE CHIP BISCOTTI

Use the ingredients and procedure given above but substitute bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cocoa – that’s the most cocoa I could find in chocolate chips) for the cherries.

Biscotti – version 3: CHCOLATE CHIP BISCOTTI WITH CHOCOLATE

If you want Chocolate Chip Biscotti that are ultra indulgent and chocolatey, just spread a little melted chocolate (from a 70% cocoa bittersweet chocolate baking bar) on the underside of each Chocolate Chip Biscotti. Set the biscotti with melted chocolate aside to dry and when the chocolate is dry and hard, it’s ready to eat!

Biscotti – version 4: Cardamom Pistachio Biscotti

Following the directions in the master recipe above, substitute 1 cup of dry roasted unsalted pistachios (no need to chop them) for the almonds and add 2 teaspoons ground cardamom to the dry ingredients. Omit the almond extract and use a total of 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract instead.

Biscotti Tips

  • If you think you’re going to make biscotti over and over again, here’s a time saving tip. Place the dry ingredients for each batch of biscotti (flours, wheat germ, salt, and baking powder) into a plastic bag and put the bag in the freezer. (It’s best to keep whole grains, and especially wheat germ, in the freezer to keep them from going rancid.) Then whenever you want to make biscotti, just pull out your homemade mix, let it come to room temperature, and then add the rest of the ingredients.
  • If you have a good food scale, you can make several batches of biscotti baking mix easily and quickly – much faster than using measuring cups. Here’s how: First measure using the measuring cups and then place the pre-measured flour, for example, whole wheat flour, into a plastic container. Place the plastic container with the pre-measured flour onto the food scale and note the weight. This is the weight of whole wheat flour (plus plastic container) that you need for each batch of your biscotti mix.

Biscotti making video and one more recipe

Here’s a video from Eating Well magazine with a good biscotti recipe that uses mostly whole wheat flour and no butter at all.

And here’s the printed biscotti recipe from Eating Well:

Happy Holidays!

Enjoy and be healthy,

~Leni

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