Monday, February 7, 2011

On Valentine's Day, bake biscotti for those you love

Cherry Pecan Biscotti by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate the ones we love and what better way to celebrate than by baking? Chocolate is traditional and a good place to start – who doesn’t love brownies or cake or fudge? In my house, I bake biscotti for my valentine.

My husband likes the crunchy texture and fruity flavors in this twice-baked, butter-less cookie. You’ve probably seen biscotti in jars at cafés, the dry spears just perfect for dunking in a latte. My biscotti are crisp, but not tooth-breaking tough; they are enjoyable even without an accompanying cup of joe.

Although there are two trips to the oven, this is still a very simple cookie. First, you mix the dough, shape it into two loaves and bake for 25 minutes. When done, remove the loaves from the oven, let cool slightly, then slice loaves on the bias to show off the crispy crust. The cookies are delicious at this point – chewy and soft – but a final toasting in the oven will yield the crispy crackle of true biscotti. If you still want a taste of chocolate, you can gild the lily by dunking the cookies halfway into melted chocolate chips.

Baked loaves, ready for slicing. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Cherry-Pecan Biscotti

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup pecan meal (see note)

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup dried cherries

1. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare pans - a half-sheet baking pan with Silpat or parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend flour, pecan meal, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until dough is formed. Stir in dried cherries.

2. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead several times. Form the dough into two flat logs about 9 inches long and 4 inches wide. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 or until the loaves have risen and are lightly browned on top. Let cool on cutting board for 10 minutes.

3. While still warm, slice on the bias, about 1/2 inch thick, or a little less. You know what bias means - diagonal. This will give you the classic, elongated biscotti shape. Place on baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes at 350. After 5 minutes, flip cookies over and toast other side for five minutes. Remove from oven and cool on baking rack. Store biscotti in an airtight container at room temperature.

Sliced biscotti, ready for the second baking. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Note: Pecan meal is available in local grocery stores by the packaged nuts. If not available, use chopped pecan pieces, whizzed in the food processor for about 15 seconds.

Biscotti are one of my favorite cookies to bake - what about you? What flavors do you like? Do you plan to bake for Valentine's Day?


Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday said...

Cherries are perfect for Valentine's day. And these biscotti look perfect. Anyone who gave me biscotti would win my heart ;)

DessertForTwo said...

Valentine's Day baking gets me so excited!
While I'm busy making sweets for my sweet, I wish someone would make me simple, crunchy biscotti!

The Teacher Cooks said...

Perfect for the cold mornings we have had! Cup of joe and biscotti!