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IMG_4253I participated in a holiday cookie exchange at the office last December which prompted a few of my co-worker friends to ask me to teach them how to make biscotti.  I had not thought my biscotti was anything to write home about, but I was certainly on board with hosting a party to make it with them!  It made for a fine evening of mixing, baking, slicing and tasting different types of biscotti, all the while sipping on a couple of nice wines.  (Wine is optional for hosting a biscotti party, but I highly recommend it).  When I mentioned this biscotti-making-experience in the company of another group of friends, they also thought that a biscotti party would be in order.  And so, I hosted a second biscotti-making-experience party just a week ago.  What a fun way to spend some time with friends, especially on a snowy, sleeting, yucky evening, and it just so happens that April in this part of Minnesota, is still snow-covered.  In fact, we have been homebound in a blizzard today.  My fingers are crossed that this was the last major snow dump of the season.  Sigh.  On to the biscotti………….

To plan a “biscotti-making-experience” party (let’s just call this as a “BME” party, shall we?) my first task was to choose which biscotti recipes to use.  I have searched out and tried lots of biscotti recipes in the last few years and so it was a tough call, but finally settled on four of them.  In advance of party day, I made copies of the four recipes for each friend to take home at the end of the evening.  I replenished my stock of unsalted butter (Land O’ Lakes, of course) and eggs, nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, and almonds), crystallized ginger and chocolate for melting.  I wanted everyone to be able to participate in each aspect of the BME, but yet have an assortment of biscotti cooled and ready to take home at the end of the evening.   The following describes how we had 4 kinds of IMG_3952biscotti ready to send home with each of the guests.

Recipe #1 Gingerbread Biscotti was to be dipped in white chocolate so I made it the day before so that it had plenty of time to harden before my friends came for the BME party.  Recipe #2 Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti was in the oven for its’ initial bake when the guests arrived.  This biscotti was to have chocolate drizzled across the top, so again, we needed to allow time during the party for it to cool and firm up.   We had some soup while it baked.  Recipe #3 Orange Pecan Biscotti required at least a half hour to chill before shaping, so I mixed the dough ahead of time.   It was cold and ready to be shaped into the narrow, squat rectangles at the start of the BME party.  Recipe #4 Biscotti Toscani would be made from start to finish by the guests.  The only advance preparation that I did was to place the ingredients and the measuring utensils, etc. on the counter.   It is the simplest of the four recipes that follow.

Recipe #1           Gingerbread Biscotti                  30 servings

I actually doubled this recipe so that we could munch on these during the party and still have plenty left to send home with guests.  These are my favorite of the four biscotti.

½ c. butter, softened                                  1 tsp. ground ginger

½ c. sugar                                                 1/4 tsp. ground cloves

½ c. firmly packed dark brown sugar            1/4 tsp. salt

2 large eggs                                               1 c. almonds, slivered or sliced

2 c. all-purpose flour                                   1/2 c. chopped crystallized ginger

1 tsp. baking powder                                   8 oz. white chocolate, melted

IMG_42451 tsp. cinnamon

  1.  Preheat oven to 375 F on Convection Bake.   (Convection Bake enables you to bake two large sheets of biscotti one above the other at the same time.)  Beat butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy.  Gradually add sugars, beating well.  Beat in eggs.
  2. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients; add to butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended.  Stir in almonds and crystallized ginger.
  3. Divide dough in half.  Using floured hands, shape each portion into a log 3“ wide and 1“ high.  (Tip:  I use a pair of bench scrapers to evenly shape the long ends of the biscotti “loaf”).  Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet, or USA Pan sheet.
  4. Bake 25 min.  Cool 5 minutes on cookie sheet; remove to a wire rack, and set aside until cool to the touch.  Reduce oven temperature to 325 F Convection Bake.
  5. Cut each log crosswise into ~5/8-3/4” slices with a serrated knife.  (A diagonal cut is characteristic for biscotti and will make a nice long piece of biscotti for dipping in coffee.  If you cut them just wide enough, the pieces will stand on the long edge and I prefer to bake them that way, on ungreased cookie sheets.)
  6. Bake 14 minutes.  If they won’t stand on the long edge, lay them flat, bake for 7 minutes, flip them over and bake another 7 minutes.  Cool completely on wire racks.
  7. Dip one end of each biscotti in melted white chocolate.  May need to thin the white chocolate with a little cream.  Place biscotti on wax paper until chocolate hardens.

Recipe #2            Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti                    60 servings

Note:  To toast hazelnuts, place whole nuts in a baking pan and bake in a 350 F. oven until golden brown under skins, 10 to 12 minutes.  Wrap the nuts in a clean kitchen towel and rub to remove loose skins.  Lift nuts from towel (discard skins).

½ c. butter, at room temperature                 3 c. all-purpose flour

¾ c. sugar                                                  1 T. baking powder

3 large eggs                                                1 c. chopped toasted hazelnuts

1 T. grated orange peel                                 1 ¼ c. semisweet chocolate chips

IMG_38661 tsp. vanilla

  1. In a bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until smooth.  Beat in eggs, orange peel, and vanilla until well blended, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  2. In another bowl, mix flour and baking powder.  Stir or beat into butter mixture until well blended.  Stir in hazelnuts.
  3. Divide the dough in half, and place each on ½ of a buttered or cooking parchment-lined 12- by 15-“ baking sheet, about 1” from outer edge.  With floured fingers, pat each strip of dough into a flat 13“ loaf, about 5/8” thick and 2“  wide.
  4. Bake loaves in a 350 F oven until golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. When cooled 5-10 minutes, with a sharp knife, cut loaves crosswise into ¾ “-thick slices.  If theSeparate slices slightly and tip each onto a cut side. If they are wide enough to stand on a long edge, they will not need to be flipped over in oven.
  6. Return to oven and bake until cookies are slightly darker and firm and dry to the touch, 15 to 20 minutes longer.  Gently slide biscotti onto racks to cool completely.
  7. In a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (bottom of bowl should not touch water), stir chocolate chips often until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes.  Spread chocolate on one side of each biscotti.  Place cookies in a single layer, chocolate side up, on baking sheets, and chill until chocolate is firm, about 20 minutes.  Or, drizzle the warm chocolate (thinned a bit with cream) across the biscotti as they lay close together, on wax paper.

            Recipe #3            Orange Pecan Biscotti                 48 servings

    4 large eggs                                     3 1/3 c. flour

    1 c. sugar                                        2 tsp. baking powder

    IMG_39511 ½ T. grated orange rind

  8. 1 c. chopped pecans

    2 T. vegetable oil

    1 tsp. vanilla extract

    1 tsp. almond extract

    1)    Beat sugar and eggs at high speed with electric mixer for 5 minutes or until foamy.  Add orange rind, oil, and extracts, beating until blended.

    2)   Combine flour and baking powder; add to sugar mixture, beating well.  Fold in pecans.  Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes or until firm.

    3)   Divide dough in half; shape each portion into a log about ¾” high on a lightly greased baking sheet.

    4)   Bake at 325 F. for 25 minutes or until firm.  Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes.  Remove to wire racks to cool.

    5)   Cut each log diagonally into 5/8-3/4” slices with a serrated knife.  Place on greased baking sheets standing upright on long edges, if they will balance.

  9. 6)   Bake 325 F for 15 minutes.  Turn cookies over, and bake for 15 more minutes.  Remove cookies to wire racks to cool.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

    Recipe #4             Biscotti Toscani                     42 Servings

    We made these with the chocolate chips mixed into the dough.  If you wish, the chocolate can be melted and spread over the cooled biscotti.  Either way is delicious.

    1/3 c. butter                                      2 ¼ c. all-purpose flour

    ¾ c. white sugar                                1 ½ tsp. baking powder

    2 eggs                                              1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

    1 tsp. vanilla extract                           ¼ tsp. salt

    ¼ tsp. almond extract                        ½ c. toasted almond pieces

    2 tsp. orange zest                             1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

  10. Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Grease and flour a large baking shee
    1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, vanilla, almond extract, and zest.  Combine flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.  Stir into the creamed mixture until just blended.  Mix in almonds.  (If you decide to add the chocolate chips to the dough at this point, increase baking times by 5 -10 minutes.  Divide dough into two pieces.  Form into long flat loaves about ½” tall and 12 inches long.  Place the loaves 2” apart on the prepared baking sheet.
    2. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until a light golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes.
    3. With a serrated knife, cut diagonally into slices about 5/8” thick.  At this width, they may be able to stand on the cookie sheet.  Bake an additional 10 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
    4. If you did not mix the chocolate chips into the dough, place chocolate chips in a small, microwave-safe bowl.  Melt chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 20 to 30 seconds until smooth.  (Be careful not to go overboard on melting the chocolate or it will seize up.)  Use a spatula to spread chocolate onto one side of each cookie.  To thin the chocolate, you may add a tablespoon or two of canola oil to the chips as they are melting.  Let decorated biscotti stand at room temperature until set.

    IMG_4209 I learned some clever things while hosting these parties.  One of my friends is an amazing truffle artist and taught us one of her truffle embellishment techniques. She uses a table fork dipped in melted chocolate to spatter across the biscotti.  Very pretty!   I would love to hear from others about any baking parties you may have hosted, and/or any of your favorite biscotti recipes and decorating tricks.  Happy baking!  BTW, I WILL return to blogging about making bread very soon.