Saturday, 5 March 2011

As I Begin Writing This, The Biscotti Are In The Oven

23:15 Well, hello there. The creative culinary juices have flowed once again and this time in the form of biscotti. As alluded to in the title of this particular post, I have about 15 min before I have to divide up the biscotti and prep them for the second baking. So, let's see how far I get through laying out this recipe before I must take an official pause.

Ever since coming back from my study abroad and research semester in South Africa, I've been wanting to make rusk, the SA-equivalent of the Italian biscotti. However, as I have yet to find/re-obtain the recipe of choice, I have settled this evening for creating my own version. While improvisation certainly came through in the end, the biscotti base was inspired by this recipe, as well as this one, and definitely this one.

23:20 While it seems most recipes call for creaming the butter and sugar together to create an airy base, I went for a beurre noisette. To that end, brown 1/2 c (i.e., 1 stick) unsalted butter, and remember not to cook it too long or else you'll get the bittery cousin, beurre noir. As you can see in the photo above, we're looking for more of a hazlenutty colour. Allow the butter to cool down as much as you can before proceeding, without it resolidifying. If the exterior of the vessel you're keeping the butter in is warm, you should be good to go.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. With the butter a bit cooled off, combine this very well with a mix of 1/2 c packed dark brown sugar and 1/2 c granulated sugar. One at a time, whisk in three eggs; move quickly! At this point you should be smelling a caramelly-butterscotch kind of party going on in the bowl, and the batter should be smooth and runny. Whisk in 1 tsp vanilla extract to finish up the liquids.

To this liquid mix, stir in very well 1/4 c dark cocoa powder, then 1 tbsp baking powder. Next, about 1/2 c at a time, fold in three cups (sifted) all-purpose flour. As you add the flour, you'll notice the batter getting tougher to stir with a whisk, so you're definitely better off using a spatula from the moment you introduce the flour. [23:33 Just took out the biscotti and transferred it to my cutting board to cool off.] By the time the flour has been incorporated, your "batter" will have turned into what feels more like "dough." Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead it together until all the flour has been incorporated and the dough has returned to its dark colour. Press out the dough and onto this, put 1/2 c each chocolate chips and dried cherries; fold these into the dough as best as you can. Transfer the dough onto a baking sheet and shape the dough into a rectangle. Bake this mix for 25 min.

After the 25 min bake time, transfer the half-done biscotti to a clean surface (e.g., cooling rack, cutting board, etc.) to cool for about 10 min. Don't leave it on the baking sheet, or else you may over cook the bottom of the biscotti, and don't cut in too early, or else it may crumble in chunks in the process. Once warm to the touch cut up the biscotti as you wish; I went for straight down the middle and then perpendicular cuts about 3/4" - 1" wide. Transfer these back onto the baking sheet. Lower the oven heat to 225°F and bake a second time for 25 more minutes, or until the biscotti have dried out.

Because we all know how great chocolate tastes alongside the presence of salt (and if you don't know, now is your time to learn!), lightly sprinkle some sea salt atop the (now) twice-baked biscotti immediately upon removing them from the oven. Gently move the biscotti on the making tray to help prevent the biscotti from sticking to the baking sheet (eventually cooking on the spot) and leave the biscotti on the sheet until they've cooled down completely. Nicely dried out and with bits of flavour from the dried cherries and comforting chocolate, this biscotti recipe is definitely one for the repertoire. Now, I would enjoy some with a bowl of chocolat chaud, but it's about time I practice some restraint. ;-)

Click here for a few more photos from this evening's baking adventure.

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