Psst, these tips come from kitchens that know from biscotti. Or mandelbrot.
The ancient Romans couldn't keep it under wraps. Word got out, it seems, that the twice-baked slice o' cookie — now called biscotti or mandelbrot — was one that had a shelf life of, oh, some thousand years. Millennia later, we still can't dunk enough.
So, we tiptoed from kitchen to kitchen, gathering all the twice-baked secrets we could find, determined to turn out the finest double-baked dipper of the 21st century.
Here, from baking nooks across the map, a batch of tips usually shared only in whispers as flour flies, and Granny shapes the loaf, pats it like a baby's bum, then slides it not just once but twice into the oven.
Rule No. 1: Don't overhandle the dough, or it'll be so hard you could crack a tooth. Do everything by hand, the old-world way. So said Patti Jonker, of Biscotti d'Amore, a bakery in Fairfield, Conn.
Rebake just till golden brown, said Doris Schechter, owner of My Most Favorite Food, a kosher cafe/bakery in New York City, and author of "At Oma's Table: More Than 100 Recipes and Remembrances From a Jewish Family's Kitchen." The second bake, she said, is everything. It's during the second bake that all the flavor comes out.
Because there's little or no fat in biscotti, the flavor depends on pure ingredients, writes Maria Polushkin Robbins in her cookbook, "Biscotti & Other Low-Fat Cookies: 65 Tempting Recipes for Biscotti, Meringues and Other Low-Fat Delights." If you don't often use your unbleached all-purpose flour, be sure to give it a sniff to make sure it's not gone rancid. Similarly, make sure your baking powder is up to snuff; replace every six months.
It's all about the nuts, said author Jayne Cohen, who wrote "Jewish Holiday Cooking." Start with good nuts, she insisted. Make the most of the nut flavor by toasting (at 350 degrees till the aroma rises from the oven, she says). You want a nut flavor throughout so add a nut extract, or a nut liqueur. Best nut-booster of all, she says: Substitute part of the flour with ground almonds, a tip she gleaned from Robert Sternberg's "Yiddish Cuisine."
Finally, says Cohen, who calls herself "an inveterate futzer," be sure to make the loaf compact. Pat it solidly, so when you cut it into slices, the cookies won't crumble.
3/4cup dried chopped apricots
1 cup chopped pistachios
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2cup each: granulated sugar, packed brown sugar
1/3cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Soak apricots in hot water until plump, 30 minutes; pat dry with paper towel. Toast pistachios on baking sheet in oven until aromatic, about 10 minutes. Cool.
Beat eggs and sugars in large bowl with mixer until light and fluffy. Add oil and vanilla; mix thoroughly. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in another bowl; add to sugar mixture. Mix until blended; stir in nuts and apricots.
Briefly knead dough on floured surface. Divide into two pieces; firmly shape each piece into a log, 3 inches wide. Place logs on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake until golden, 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand until cool enough to handle.
Cut logs into slices on slight diagonal, 1/2- to 3/4-inch wide. Bake 10 minutes (longer if you like more crunch), turning cookies over after 5 minutes. Cool. Store wrapped in waxed paper in a tin for up to one week. Or freeze, double-wrapped, as long as three months.
Makes about 40 cookies.
Adapted from "The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook," by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. With an added tweak or three from author Jayne Cohen.
Per cookie: 97 calories, 34 percent of calories from fat, 4 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 16mg cholesterol, 14 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 41mg sodium, 1 g fiber.
The Wichita Eagle—05/10/10