Saturday, December 02, 2006

Christmas Biscotti

Pretty, golden biscotti, studded with green pistachios and red cranberries, are a nice change-of-pace ingredient for your holiday cookie gift basket. These American-style biscotti are tender and crunchy, as opposed to Italy's harder, denser cookies. They're very good keepers; wrap them airtight, they'll stay fresh at room temperature for at least a week. Don't be afraid to make them ahead, then store them away (they freeze well, too), till it's time to pack your gift boxes or bags.

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter
2/3 cup (4 3/4 ounces) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon (to taste) pistachio flavor or cranberry-raspberry flavor, optional 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour OR King Arthur 100% Organic White Whole Wheat Flour, or a combination 1 cup (4 ounces) shelled pistachios
1 cup (4 ounces) dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) one large (about 18" x 13") baking sheet. Or lightly grease a 12" x 5 1/2" x 2" biscotti pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, flavor, and baking powder until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs; the batter may look slightly curdled. At low speed of your mixer, add the flour, stirring until smooth. Stir in the pistachios and cranberries. The dough will be quite soft and sticky, but should hold its shape when you drop it from a spoon.

To bake biscotti on a baking sheet: Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet, and shape it into a rough log about 14" x 3" x 3/4" thick. The dough is easy to work with, as long as you keep wetting your fingers. Bake the dough for 28 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool on the pan for 20 minutes.

To bake biscotti in a biscotti pan: Press the dough into the prepared pan, wetting your fingers and using them to smooth the top. Bake the dough for 35 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and after 5 minutes loosen the edges with a table knife, and gently turn it onto a piece of parchment or a clean work surface. Let it cool for 20 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Using a spray bottle filled with room-temperature water, lightly but thoroughly spritz the baked log, making sure to cover the sides as well as the top. Softening the crust just this little bit will make slicing the biscotti much easier.

Wait another 5 minutes, then use a serrated knife to gently saw the log, on the diagonal, into 1/2" to 3/4" slices. Start at an outside edge, rather than sawing down through the center; this will help prevent biscotti from crumbling, though you're bound to have a few broken ends no matter how careful you are. (Call them samples for the cook.) If you've used a biscotti pan, you may choose to cut the log crosswise, rather than on the diagonal, depending on how long you want the biscotti to be. Set the biscotti upright (rather than lying flat) on the prepared baking sheet, and tent them with aluminum foil; just lay a flat sheet of foil over the top, not pressing it down anywhere.

Return the biscotti to the 325°F oven, and bake them for 40 to 50 minutes, depending on how thick you've cut them. They should feel dry to the touch, and should just barely be starting to brown around the edges. Remove them from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool. Once they're cool, store airtight, to preserve their texture. Biscotti can be stored at room temperature for a week; for longer storage, wrap airtight and freeze. Yield: 12 to 18 biscotti, 5" to 7"; the number/size depends upon the angle you cut them.

©2006 The King Arthur Flour Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

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