Buongiorno, le mie belle!
Oggi, noi facciamo i biscotti!
Punxutawny Phil must not have seen much last month, because it feels like we’re bypassing spring and hurdling straight towards summer. I don’t mind, though. After a strange and indecisive winter, the ability to expose my legs again is welcomed with open arms and open-toed shoes (flip flops.)
It’s also time for lemon everything: lemonade, lemon poppyseed muffins, lemon deodorant.
As the first signs of spring were approaching a few weeks ago, I felt an overwhelming urge to buy bags upon bags upon bags of lemons and make anything I could think of. I started with biscotti and muffins, and am thinking of expanding into curds, cupcakes, and carnivals. And I mean selling. I want to sell my lemon things at carnivals.
But I joke.
Though biscotti were originally meant for dipping in coffee or wine, I wouldn’t recommend dipping these in a Cabernet Sauvignon, per se. Coffee, on the other hand, Dio mio! Whenever I don’t feel like committing to a breakfast food, which is every morning even though I love breakfast foods but can’t be bothered to make any, I grab the Biscotti Box, an aluminum box that I have unofficially designated for biscotti, a bowl of coffee, and have at it.
I have no regrets, until I get to the end of the bowl of coffee and all the soaked cookie crumbs are spread out as if to tell me I have a bleak future waiting for me.
I used to think that biscotti should be as hard and crispy as possible, because they were going to be soaked in liquid crack…I mean…coffee. While I was working through a few different biscotti recipes, I kept trying to get the perfect amount of crispiness without too much browning, and during a springtime event at work, while one of the chef instructors was carrying around a plate of apricot biscotti, I realized that the perfect amount of browning is…no browning.
Biscotti are like a game being played between the temperature of the oven and the amount of moisture in the dough: lower temperatures mean slower baking, but less browning. If the temperature is too high, the loaf burns before it’s dry enough to slice well, resulting either in burnt cookies or burnt and squished cookies. If the temperature is too low, you’ll probably have kicked the bucket before the dough is ready to slice.
Keep the oven temperature anywhere from 275 F to 300 F. The loaf, which dries out and firms up as it cools down, should be nearly non-squishy (like 90% non-squishy) when you press down lightly with a finger. You don’t want to see any brown, except perhaps on the bottom where the dough touches the pan. Softer dough means your cookies won’t keep their shape when you slice, and too-dry dough means the cookies crumble when you cut.
Biscotti take time, but they’re not difficult or daunting, and once you’ve sliced the loaf into cookies, the rest is all downhill. Make these the night before, and enjoy them the next morning. And the best part is, they’re basically stale cookies to begin with, so they last a hell of a long time, unless acted upon by outside forces (my mouth. The outside forces are my mouth.)
lemon white chocolate biscotti
adapted from Cooking Light
makes approximately 2 dozen
240 – 270 g AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
180 g sugar
2 – 4 ounces chopped white chocolate
zest and juice of a large (~75-gram) lemon or 2 (~38-gram) baby lemons OR 1/2 tsp lemon oil OR 2 tsp lemon extract
extra lemon juice, if needed (if using lemon oil, adding some lemon juice is suggested)
Preheat the oven to 275 – 300 F (135 – 150 C), put the oven racks in the center of the oven, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda.
In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat sugar, eggs, and flavorings until uniform. Mix in dry ingredients.
If the dough dry and crumbly, add lemon juice until it comes together into one cohesive mass. If the dough is more batter-y, add a little more flour so it firms up, until it’s only a little bit sticky*.
Use your hands, wet or floured, or a bowl scraper to transfer the dough to the baking sheets, and divide into 2 – 4 loaves. If the dough sticks a lot, flour your hands or wet them with water, and mold the loaves into long, thin, flat rectangles. Longer and thinner means more even and faster baking, and easier cutting. The logs will puff up and round out a little bit in the oven.
*I generally prefer to use the least amount of flour I can without compromising the integrity of the pastry. More flour means drier, less flavor, and less pleasant mouthfeel. 270 grams is a good amount for making dough that you can handle without having to add too much liquid, or knead the dough.
Bake the logs for 30 – 50 minutes, until barely soft anymore when pressed lightly with a finger. If they start browning around the edges before that point, turn the oven temperature down.
Remove from the oven, transfer immediately to a wire rack, and let cool until you can handle them, 10 – 15 minutes.
Using a serrated knife, slice the logs about 1-2 centimeters thick, and place the cookies, cut side down, back onto the cookie sheets.
Bake 10 – 15 minutes, flip, and bake again another 10 – 15 minutes, until mostly firm when squeezed. The cookies will harden and crisp up as they cool on the wire rack.
Remove and transfer immediately to a wire rack again.