Yesterday was a beautiful day. When it is nice and sunny outside, there is a golden glow that brightens the inside of our house, masking the dust on the windowsill and the unswept floors. It gives our living space an illusion of cheeriness despite the constant clutter of mail (mostly unopened), books, notes, to-do lists, a sweatshirt or two, and the well-loved blanket crumpled on the couch... I simply love it! This is our life and we somehow manage to navigate it well-enough despite our seemingly immature ways.
That light illuminating our house inspired me to get busy in the kitchen and formulate a yoga class sequence as I went out for a walk. When I got home, I pulled out the vegetable scraps that I save in the freezer and proceeded to make vegetable stock that was later used for Ottolenghi’s Mushroom and Herb Polenta from Plenty. It was divine!
While the vegetable stock was cooking, I perused my cookbooks for something to bake that will be perfect for dessert, breakfast, or snacks. This almond biscotti recipe leapt out of the page from my recently acquired cookbook, Salt to Taste, a gift from my mother-in-law for my birthday. The ingredient list consisted of things that are already in our pantry and the baking process is simple.
I like biscotti because it is easy to enjoy at any time of the day without feeling too indulgent. We had it with ice cream last night, DFJ had it with his espresso this morning, and I am currently enjoying two with my latte while writing this post at 3:00 in the afternoon. I did a little research and found out that biscotti are particularly great dipped in sweet late-harvest wine with a shot of espresso. Unfortunately, we don’t normally have sweet wine on hand.
This almond biscotti recipe is simply delicious! It is like a lighter version of a butter cookie, dry enough to definitely be a biscotti, but teeters to the side of chewy. These biscotti have an uncharacteristic tenderness and the way it yields to your teeth when you bite into it is delightful. I am a big fan of orange zest and thus added more than the original recipe required. The orange zest infused into the sugar definitely gives it lively notes of orange flavor. Initially, I was skeptical about the half pieces of almonds in the dough and thought them to be too big. However, after eating a few, I realized how lovely it is to truly taste the almonds when they are cut more generously into halves versus slivers. The amount of sugar in the dough is just enough for a trace of sweetness to linger on your tongue after your last bite.
Slightly Adapted from Salt to Taste: The Keys to Confident, Delicious Cooking by Marco Canora
½ cup (75 g) whole, raw almonds with skin
scant ¾ cup (150 g) sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest (zest of one orange)
5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (75 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups (170 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (125 g) white, whole wheat flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
a tad of butter, for greasing
Cut the almonds in half, crosswise, and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, use your fingertips to massage the orange zest into the sugar until the granules take on an orange tint and the zest is evenly dispersed. Mix the butter into the sugar with an electric mixer until the mixture resembles small clumps of wet sand. Add the eggs and the vanilla extract and mix on high speed until the batter is smooth and creamy.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and freshly grated nutmeg.
Pour the flour mixture into the wet mixture and mix on low-speed until everything is well-combined and the dough comes together. Add the almonds into three portions. At this point, the dough will be harder to handle so use a plastic or wooden spatula to cut into the dough and fold the almonds in.
Move an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Thoroughly grease a baking sheet with a tad of butter.
Divide the dough in half. Lightly flour a clean work surface and scoop out half the dough with your hands. Gently form it into a ball, then roll it into a 12 inch or so long log on the floured surface. Transfer the log onto the greased baking sheet. The log will deform upon transfer, so ease the dough back into a nice log using your fingers, flatten the top with your fingertips, and smooth out the sides to even the length. Repeat this procedure for the other half of the dough.
Bake for 24-25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the time. When you pull the logs out of the oven, the bottom should be golden brown and the top just a shade of golden. Place the baking sheet on a cooling rack and let cool for 10 minutes.
Lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees F.
Use a serrated knife to slice the logs into ¾ inch thick biscotti. Place the slices back into the baking sheet, cut-side down and toast in the oven for 7 minutes. Turn the biscotti the other cut-side down and toast for another 7 minutes, until they dry out.
Remove from the oven. Place the baking sheet on a cooling rack and allow the biscotti to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.