There is never a wrong season to enjoy a cookie; however, there might be a right cookie for a certain time of year. Embracing fall and winter is all about creating that balance: outside the world becomes cold, just getting out on a hike becomes more of a process, the layers, the gear. And then inside: with our fires, blankets, and holidays there is a cozy which, spring and summer, in all their glory, do not possess.
Biscotti pair into this seamlessly. A warm cup of cider, tea, coco, coffee, mulled wine . . . they each have a snug cookie dunking partner. They also are perfect for shipping, as you think of winter care packages or holiday gifts, biscotti in a tin or sealed tupperware, will last 3 weeks and still taste great. A triumph not many baked goods can claim.
Below I offer a basic recipe, which you can dress up or down, from a sophisticated little treat to a shamelessly untraditional full on dessert in hand held form.
The pictures here show my favorite combination, crystalized ginger and cardamon - perfect with most teas, sublime with chai.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1-1 1/2 cups add-ins, see below
Crystalized Ginger and Cardamon: 1 1/3 cup crystalized ginger, chopped if in strip form, 1/4-1/2 tsp cardamon, 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Add the spices in at the beginning when you are creaming the sugar, vanilla and butter. Add the ginger bits towards the end. Delicious with teas, cocos, and hot toddy's.
Nut and Chocolate: 1 tsp lemon or orange zest if you like a slightly more complex taste, added in to the creaming butter stage. 1 1/3 cup chopped nuts (pistachios, hazelnuts or almonds are most traditional, yet objectively pecans or walnuts could work as well). You'll mix in the nuts just before forming the log. You could add chocolate chips to the dough here; however, part of the chocolate will burn during the second bake. I prefer to use chocolate to coat the biscotti post second bake, once cooled, to prevent any potential bitterness, and then you have this silken chocolate exterior which melts with each dunk. Dark, milk, or white chocolate - is completely up to you. As is, these are delightful with coffee, coco, or mulled wine if you are a red wine, chocolate, nut, fruit person. For children's coco (or your own) before the chocolate sets, you can also roll them in mini marshmallows and mini chips just to reinforce the over the top chocolate-ness, crushed peppermints, crushed malted milk balls, crushed - insert your favorite candy bar that, I mean, once I tried red hots for a cinnamon chocolate coco experience. **If you are going the peppermint or candy bar, marshmallow route ... you will likely want to forgo the citrus zest. The citrus zest when paired with orange zest, glace cherries, pistachios etc... then dipped in dark or white chocolate, this makes sense, and is lovely. Orange or lemon zest and red hots or peanut butter cups ... would be wrong. Yet, red hots or peanut butter cups with just a vanilla dough and some coco, if you're 8 years old, or 48, how fun. This gets to be the playful creative part, the design part, where it can be as simple or complex as you want to go.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper, or if you don't have it as I didn't yesterday, foil with some cooking spray works just as well.
Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend.
Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, vanilla and salt in a large bowl to blend.
Beat in the eggs.
Add the flour mixture and mix just until blended.
Stir in the your add-ins be they nuts, ginger, or possibly dried fruit
Form the dough into a log on a prepared foil sheet or parchment. They recommend about a foot long and about 3-inches wide; however, I have yet to bring a ruler out. The imperfect ones are for the cook's pleasure, and I have yet to meet anyone who would deny themselves a cookie based upon a measurement.
Bake until light golden, about 30 minutes.
Cool for about 30 minutes.
Place the log on the cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4-inch-thick slices.
Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake the biscotti until they are pale golden, about 10 minutes per side.
Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely.
If you are adding on a chocolate layer - usually about 14 oz of chocolate is enough to coat this batch. Stir the chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until the chocolate melts. Dip half of the biscotti into the melted chocolate. Gently shake off the excess chocolate. Place the biscotti on the baking sheet (parchment paper) for the chocolate to set. Sprinkle/coat with any other fanciful delights. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, about 35 minutes, or on the counter for longer until set.
What I Can Do, by Mary Oliver
The television has two instruments that control it.
I get confused.
The washer asks me, do you want regular or delicate?
Honestly, I just want clean.
Everything is like that.
I won't even mention cell phones.
I can turn on the light of the lamp beside my chair where a book is waiting, but that's about it.
Oh yes, and I can strike a match and make a quite the fire.