Pistachio and Dried-Cherry Biscotti
So a couple of months ago I made two different types of biscotti. I made my (previous) “go-to” recipe, Williams-Sonoma’s cranberry and almond biscotti, as well as an experimental recipe that featured the flavors of orange and honey. Mmmm… orange and honey sound delicious, do they not? However, the recipe (or maybe my lack of ability to execute it well) produced bone-dry, crumbly and pretty much flavorless cookies. Meanwhile, the Cranberry Almond one from Williams-Sonoma pleased me like always: moist but crunchy, almost smooth enough to melt in your mouth, and specked with crunchy nuts and chewy fruit. Yes, I thought this confirmed my belief that this recipe was best.
But I had one problem. They didn’t really feel authentic enough. I think this stems from the fact that the recipe is pretty non-traditional–using butter where typical biscotti recipes call for no fat, or if any, a couple tablespoons of oil. The biscotti were certainly tasty and I enjoyed them to no end, but they just tasted more like shortbread cookies than biscotti. They were crunchy, but still soft and creamy due to the magic that butter typically lends to the texture of things. You could dip them in your coffee or tea, but by the time it would reach your mouth all that was left would be dissolved sugars and mushy cookie. Don’t get me wrong, they definitely had their charms on me, especially considering the fact that I didn’t want to have to dip them in a liquid of any kind. But still, I didn’t want to have to forewarn everyone I gave them to that they weren’t traditional and that they should be eaten like regular cookies. I wanted to be able to give a couple to my dad with a hot cup of coffee and him be able to actually eat them with crunch. I had wanted to make biscotti after all, not regular cookies.
And so, in the back of my mind, I tried to remember that I should try a more “authentic” recipe if I came upon one. That moment came only a few weeks later, when the May 2011 Bon Appetit magazine came in the mail. (As a separate note, don’t you just love when fresh magazines come in the mail? Feels like Christmas!) It was the “Italy Issue”, and as I scanned through it marking recipes I wanted to try, I came upon a page that featured Karen DeMasco’s pistachio and dried-cherry biscotti. The pictured biscotti looked like exactly what I was aiming to try, and the trusted name of Karen DeMasco only further reinforced my confidences about the recipe. I didn’t get to try this recipe out until I was in a usable and working kitchen (thanks, mom and dad!) that had both pistachios and dried cherries, which happened to be yesterday.
As I took quick nibbles from the loaf after its first bake in the oven, I already loved what I was tasting. Not only does this recipe have a leg-up simply because, in my opinion, nothing beats the combination of tart dried cherries and fragrant pistachios, but the texture is spot on too. I finished baking the biscotti the second time in the oven and waited impatiently for them to finish cooking so I could judge them (this is assuming I have some sense of judgment and palatable tastes). And the verdict? I think these are a winner. They are crunchy–even after dipped in coffee–but they aren’t dry and void of texture or flavor. Rather, the texture is perfectly balanced with the crunch of the cookie and pistachios and the chew of the cherries. I also love the small addition of rolled oats in the recipe (yes, I know, not typical or traditional), which allows for an overall better texture. When it comes to flavor, I also loved the addition of orange and lemon zest as well as the almond extract. It didn’t overpower the cherry and pistachio flavors but rather gave it a well-rounded, full-flavored taste.
And so, the winner of my biscotti trials is Karen DeMasco’s recipe. A comment: I noticed on the Epicurious website that some reviewers said the dough was too dry and that they added additional oil. I thought for a second that mine wasn’t moist enough while I was making it, but after working with it for a little bit it came together wonderfully and had a crumbly, soft texture. You might want to keep that in mind though–pictured above is the texture of the dough before I shaped it, for reference. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did, because in my opinion it is pretty classic in both flavor and texture. I’ve posted the recipe below, but if anyone desires a wonderfully soft and shortbread-like biscotti recipe like my once beloved Williams-Sonoma recipe, feel free to ask me and I’ll share it as well. In fact, I’ll probably still be making that recipe just because I loved the type of cookie it produced. But when I want biscotti biscotti? I’ll turn to this.
Pistachio and Dried-Cherry Biscotti
From Karen DeMasco, via Bon Appetit, May 2011
Makes about 4 dozen
Amy’s Notes: My recipe yielded more like a little over 2 dozen than 4 dozen, but mine might be slightly larger and shaped differently. Also, I slightly chopped my cherries and pistachios beforehand– while I still left a fair amount whole, it seemed a bit weird to just dump them in without a little chop.
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (see comment above recipe–you may need more but be cautious)
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the first 6 ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. Blend on low speed for 30 seconds. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and the next 5 ingredients. Add egg mixture to flour mixture; beat until combined. Fold in cherries and pistachios.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface; divide in half. Using floured hands, shape each dough half into a 16-inch long log. Brush of excess flour; transfer logs to prepared sheet, spaced 5-inches a part. Flatten each log into a 2-inch wide strip. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until browned and set, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack; let cook for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 250 degrees and arrange 1 rack in the top third of the oven and 1 rack in the bottom third.
Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer biscotti to a work surface. Using a serrated knife, cut each strip diagonally into 1/3-inch thick slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on baking sheets.
Bake biscotti, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until crisp, about 40 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to racks; let cool. Do ahead: Can be made 3 days ahead. Store in a airtight container at room temperature.
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