Thursday, February 11, 2016

Almond Biscotti

Almond Biscotti
1 ¼ cups (6 ¼ ounces) whole almonds, lightly 
1 ¾cups (8 ¾ ounces) All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, plus 1 large white beaten with pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons Almond Extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vegetable oil spray

The almonds will continue to toast while the biscotti bake, so toast the nuts only until they are just fragrant.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.  Using ruler and pencil, draw two 8 X 3 rectangles, spaced four inches apart, on piece of parchment paper.  Grease baking sheet and place parchment on it, ink side down.

Pulse 1 cup of almonds in food processor until coarsely chopped, 8 to 10 pulses.  Transfer to bowl and set aside.

Process remaining 1/4 cup almonds in food processor until finely ground, about 45 seconds.  Add flour, baking powder, and salt; process to combine, about 15 seconds.  Transfer flour mixture to second bowl.  

Process 2 eggs in now empty food processor until lightened in color and almost double in volume, about 3 minutes.With processor running, slowly add sugar until thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Add melted butter, almond extract, and vanilla and process until combined, about 10 seconds. 

Transfer egg mixture to medium bowl. Sprinkle half of flour mixture over egg mixture and, using spatula, gently fold until just combined. Add remaining flour mixture and chopped almonds and gently fold until just combined.

Divide the batter  in half.  Using floured hands, form each half into 8 X 3 inch rectangle, using lines on the parchment as a guide.  Spray each loaf lightly with oil spray.  Using a rubber spatula lightly coated with oil spray, smooth tops and sides of rectangles.  Gently brush tops of loaves with egg white wash.  

Bake until loaves are golden and just beginning to crack on top, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.   

Let loaves cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes.  Transfer loaves cutting board.  Using a serrated knife, slice each loaf on slight bias into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Lay slices, cut side down, 1/4 inch apart on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet.  Bake until crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 35 minutes, flipping slices halfway through baking.  

Let cool completely before serving.Biscotti can be stored in airtight container for up to 1 month.
Yield: 30 cookies

Recipe Testing:
Why Nuts Take Some Bite out of Biscotti
We wanted our biscotti to pack just as much crunch as the traditional Italian kind but also to break apart easily when you take a bite. Adding extra butter to the dough helped, but our ultimate solution was cutting the flour with finely ground nuts. While butter merely made the cookie more tender, ground nuts actually weakened its structure.

Both ingredients influence the texture because of their effect on gluten, the web of flour proteins that gives baked goods structure. The fat in butter “shortens” the gluten strands by surrounding individual strands and preventing them from linking up into larger networks. Ground nuts interfere with gluten formation in a slightly different way, getting in between pockets of gluten to create microscopic “fault lines” in the biscotti, which allow the hard cookie to break apart easily under the tooth.

Anise Biscotti: Add 1 1/2 teaspoons anise seeds which have been pulsed to coarsely chopped to flour mixture and substitute anise flavored liqueur for almond extract.

Hazelnut-Orange Biscotti Substitute lightly toasted and skinned hazelnuts for almonds. Add 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary to flour mixture. Substitute orange flavored liqueur for almond extract and add 1 tablespoon grated orange zest to egg mixture with butter.

Pistachio-Spice Biscotti:
Substitute shelled pistachios for almonds.  Add 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon  ground ginger to flour mixture.  Substitute 1 teaspoon water for almond extract and increase vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon. 

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