Do you remember the first time you tasted biscotti? Do you remember what ran through your mind? Perhaps it was something along the lines of, “This stupid cookie stick is stale. Rude.” That was my first reaction. But then again, I was just a kid. I didn’t know that biscotti are supposed to be hard. I didn’t know anything about drinking coffee. And I didn’t know that the singular of biscotti is biscotto. I’ve come a long way.
Now I’m completely on board with biscotti. It’s not just because I’ve realized that nibbling something homemade, crunchy, and sweet along with a hot beverage is one of life’s ultimate pleasures, but because they can be made with whatever you’ve got on hand. Truly. You can make them with or without butter. You can swap up the nuts. You can forgo the fruit. You can experiment with flours. Brown sugar. Granulated. Whatever. They’re so forgiving. And, despite their simple ingredients, they always feel sort of sophisticated and fancy.
Lately I’ve been holed up in my apartment working on my first cookbook. It’s going well! Most days I wake up feeling like the luckiest girl in the world, drinking coffee and baking in my pajamas. But occasionally, I seem like a disheveled recluse running up and down the 6 flights to my apartment multiple times a day because I go through about a billion more eggs than I can store in my fridge. Yesterday was one of those days.
But I wanted to bake something tasty for you. And I wanted a treat for the teatime break I was planning on taking. The thought of going to the grocery store yet again made me want to weep. Then I remembered my faithful friend Biscotti. Easy, delicious, and versatile. I baked them up with pine nuts and chocolate because those were the only ingredients I had on the 6th floor whose destiny had not already been determined. But if you don’t have those things, feel free to make substitutions. Have you got almonds? Maybe some dried apricots? That’d be good. If you don’t have cocoa powder, just swap it for flour to make plain biscotti. Use some lemon or lime zest instead orange. I threw in some butter, which makes a slightly softer cookie, but you can use a little less for a crunchier bite. Whatever you have. Whatever you like. The world is your biscotto. Go (pine) nuts.
Chocolate Orange Biscotti with Pine Nuts
Makes about 50
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 cup pine nuts
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
sanding sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter, and orange zest until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture and beat until just combined. Beat in pine nuts and chocolate.
2. Split the dough in half and roll each half into a 12-inch log. Transfer the two logs to a parchment-lined baking sheet at least 2 inches apart. Using your fingers, gently press the top of each log so that it is about 2 inches wide. Sprinkle the tops with sanding sugar, if using. Bake until puffed and set, about 25 minutes. The top will look dry and cracked. (In a good way.) Transfer sheet to a rack to cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°.
3. Transfer the logs to a cutting board. With a serrated knife, cut each log into 1/4-inch slices. I think they look pretty cut on the diagonal. Transfer the slices to parchment-lined baking sheets and bake until the cookies are crisp, about 18 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.