‘Tis the season to be jolly…
Well, perhaps 2020 may not exactly be what history would remember as a joyous year. But I do like to see the bright side of things and focus on all the happy moments, and there have been plenty.
One such highlight is being able to spend more time exploring other opportunities and recipes.
But if you are feeling a little down and are looking for something to cheer you up, might I suggest these pistachio, cranberry, orange and dark chocolate biscottis?
This batch makes around 50 pieces, plenty to keep you happy for days. And if not, feel free to double or even triple it! They last for at least a couple of weeks in an air tight container 🙂
I realise that biscottis are not really a common item that one would see in Asian culture (at least it wasn’t a common snack whilst I was growing up), but I seriously love them when they are done right. And by right, I mean nice, crisp and for me… thin.
The more common biscotti which you might find on the internet are usually thicker and chunkier, but I tend to find them not as satisfying to eat. However, do not let it deter you from making these in that style if it’s what you prefer. After all, this is a personal preference.
Thickness aside, one thing they definitely need to be is crunchy/crisp.
These are dunkers, and by that, I mean you dunk them in your coffee or tea. So they need to be able to resist and absorb the hot coffee without crumbling and turning into a “wet cake” the moment it touches the liquid. It should also still have a slight snap to it just to round off that satisfaction.
And although the “crispiness” does come from the double bake, please take care not to turn them into toast, or worse still, burnt toast. You do not want dry biscotti, and these are good enough to be consumed with and without dunking them in liquid. (I just have them straight up with a cup of warm tea to accompany me in the mornings)
The Different Degrees of Biscotti
Time, temperature, thickness, sugar quantities etc will all affect the final product. But, with that being said, it is a rather simple recipe.
The main rule of thumb is to ensure you do not over bake it.
You can take it out early and if it is not as crisp as you would like it to be, that’s all good. Simply place it back into the oven for another 1-2mins if that happens.
However, once they have been over baked, you won’t be able to salvage it. This is not to say it will taste bad, but rather the toasty flavor will overwhelm all the other delicate flavors and take away from the subtle sweetness and bright flavours of the zest.
Please also do take note that not every oven is built the same, some may run hotter, some cooler so do keep your eye on the first batch that you make just to get a good gauge for the bake times. Hot spots may also affect your biscotti as well but having your fan-mode on will help with reducing that effect.
You would have also seen in the video that I did a comparison between the effects of different thickness etc. A thicker biscotti will take longer to bake as compared to a thinner one. Should you decide to go for a thicker biscotti, I recommend baking it at potentially 130 or 120 even just so you do not end up with a biscotti that is too dark in colour by the time it is ready and crisp through.
I use a bread knife as I find that it makes it really easy to slice the dough up. Just use a gentle sawing motion and your knife should go through the dough rather easily.
Thickness of the log
One other consideration is the thickness of the log. In my recipe I shape it to 1-1.5cm tall.
It just purely because I like skinnier longer slices. But feel free to make it 2 cm or even 3 cm if you want chubby wider slices. Or if you want skinny slices but not as long, simply increase the length of the dough rather than width. Hope this makes sense?
Essentially, shape the log however you wish to.
The only consideration is that a fatter log will take longer to bake. Just be sure it is thoroughly baked through, and hollow when you knock on it. Depending on how tall your log is, you might want to consider baking it at 140C instead of 160C so that it doesn’t take on too much colour.
Flavour and Sweetness
This biscotti isn’t too sweet, mainly because most of it’s sweetness comes from the dried fruits that are added to the biscotti and the dark chocolate which it is coated in.
I went for dried cranberries which are usually quite sweet and 70% dark chocolate which has a nice bitterness to it without being overwhelmingly sweet.
I do not toast my nuts before adding it as the nuts do get toasted whilst they bake and toasting them before hand will results in a really strong nutty fragrance (which can be rather overwhelming) and a chance of burning them too.
If you do not plan on using dried fruits or coating it in chocolate, you could look at increasing the amount of sugar in it.
Otherwise, you could also look at reducing it to 40g should you wish too for a less sweet version but I find that it is rather bland and tasteless when I did so. The choice is yours to play with.
With the amount of mix-ins, I have found that the amount I had provided makes for a nice dispersion of ingredients in each biscotti.
Adding more may start to compromise the structure of the biscotti because of how thin they are and less would run the risk of having too little mix-ins in some slices.
You would have also noticed that I press the dough down to around 1cm-1.5cm for the initial bake which is really quite thin. But that’s mainly because I am after longer biscotti slices as oppose to chubbier ones, it also allows the biscotti to bake more evenly with a nice colour gradient without too thick of an outer crust.
Should you wish for your biscotti to be shorter than mine, I recommend keeping the height at 1-1.5cm but simply making the length longer rather than wider to give you more slices at a shorter length.
First things first, be sure that the chocolate you start with for this process is in temper. I use coverture chocolate for mine but essentially your chocolate should have a snap to it when you bite into it and shouldn’t have write streaks on them. (This is different from any white colour that shows from abrasion due the chocolate pieces knocking against one another in a bag. Those white abrasion marks are totally fine. )
There are many ways to temper chocolate, and the traditional way requires the melted chocolate to be cooled over a large surface area whilst constantly being agitated to realign the cocoa crystals. However, you might find it a little too troublesome for coating biscotti (I know I do).
Before I go into the method in the video, I’ll just quickly touch on tempered chocolate.
What is tempered chocolate?
To describe it, tempered chocolate usually has a shine, sets and feels cool to the touch, and has a nice “snap” to it when it breaks.
Untempered chocolate may feel clamy to the touch, melt easily, and struggle to set. To work around that, a fridge is used as it usually helps set the chocolate due to the colder temperature, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the chocolate will feel brittle and without that satisfying snap.
But the key thing is, if you live in a place that is warm, a tropical climate or are currently experiencing a nice hot summer, chances are your chocolate going to soften and start to melt. And as such, if you are giving them as gifts, I suggest simply keeping them uncoated with chocolate, just to refrain from creating a mess should the chocolate melt at room temp.
Another important thing is that no matter which way you decide to go with, please please please, do not add them into the dough as chocolate chips.
As nice as it may sound… can you imagine cutting the thin slices whilst the chocolate are gooey?
You’ll leave a mess and a nice hole where the chocolate would have been.
The next thing to note with chocolate is that should it not be tempered correctly, you might see a cocoa bloom on the surface which appears in the form of white specks or streaks. It hasn’t gone “bad” and is edible, it just means that the tempering wasn’t perfect. But it’s still totally edible though the experience may not feel quite as smooth.
And the last thing (I know, me and my notes… lol), as with all chocolate products, water and chocolate do not mix well (at least not when it’s just a few drops of water) so take care not to use wet utensils or have water drip into your chocolate.
Now, if you do live in a warm climate and reeeeeally want to coat it in chocolate, or just love lots of toppings on your biscotti, might I recommend dipping it in the melted chocolate and simply sprinkling on some chopped toasted nuts, dried fruits, or even cocoa nibs perhaps?
Something to “coat” the chocolate to prevent sticky fingers should it melt or soften due to the climate. This way there will be a protective layer between the chocolate and your fingers 😉
Texture and Eggs
I know many people have asked about eggs etc in my recipes. I haven’t tried replacing it so can’t speak for it, but I would like to talk about the consideration of eggs in the capacity of what I would do for the biscotti.
The eggs is a binding agent that holds the dough together, without it you would have nothing beyond a small amount of butter which just wouldn’t work.
You would have seen that I had opted for using just only egg whites in my recipe.
Egg whites help with providing lift and aeration but also a lighter texture to the biscotti as compared to a whole egg.
If you like yours with more “weight”/density, you can use a whole egg instead. Simply replace the quantity of egg white with a whole egg in the same weight measurements as per the recipe. For example, if you need 55g of egg white, use 55g of whole egg.
Now what if you are thinking… “but Sara, I like mine *even* lighter and we are already using pure egg whites.” Well, there is another method which is to beat the heck outta the egg whites and sugar to get yourself a meringue.
The structure of a meringue in itself is all about aeration. Tiny bubbles of sugar holding in air to form a semi-stable structure. If you start with more air your dough will naturally be lighter as well. But this will mean that you will have to be gentle with mixing the ingredients in to ensure you do not knock all the air out, it will happen, but you just don’t want *all* the air gone if not it defeats the purpose.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. I wouldn’t go with all egg yolks in your dough as you will find that the dough may be drier than expected, definitely denser but also more crumbly.
Another factor is flour, I use a blend of all-purpose and bread flour, but I have used a blend of wholewheat and all-purpose previously etc. It comes down to your preference and what flavour you like along with texture. Bread flour has a higher protein so it is firmer. All-purpose will yield a slightly softer dough, wholewheat might make it a little drier and denser as it absorbs more liquid.
The rule of thumb is to consider the type of flour you would like to use and it’s properties, but you can also simply stick with just good old reliable all-purpose flour and get a perfectly delicious biscotti.
Go crazy and flavour your dough however you feel like you want it.
For something like a cocoa base dough, simply replace a small part of the flour with cocoa powder. Around 20g would do the trick.
You can even add essence and flavorings to the dough but do so before you add the flour to ensure the flavouring is well mixed in.
And honestly, don’t stick with just treating it like a sweet treat, how about considering using them as crackers to go with cheese? Add a little salt, reduce the sugar to around 40g and perhaps add some chopped herbs and spices.
And… have that packet of chia seeds or sesame seeds which you never found a use for because exercising turned into more of an ideal than reality? Add some in as well.
And a last suggestion before I stop my ramblings, replace the butter with sesame oil, or olive oil for an extra boost of flavour. I like butter and the clean flavour profile so I stuck with butter for this particular flavour combination, but you could add a flavoured oil instead.
Mixing it in
Alright, I lied, there is one more thing. I add the fruits, nuts etc. in before the flour. Why? This is because I find that you end up with a better dispersion of ingredients through the dough.
Now, do not go over the top and decide to add more ingredients to your dough. I am one who loves to be generous with the ingredients, but you will learn the hard way that if you are slicing this thinly, the more mix-ins you have the more you tend to compromise the integrity of the slices.
I have found that 95g of mix-ins to be a pretty perfect amount, a little bit of everything in each slice.
Another thing to note is that, when shaping the initial dough to being 1cm in height, where possible, try to nudge any piece that sit on the top to sit within the dough. Encasing the ingredients reduces the chances of them falling out when you go to slice it as the dough cradles the mix-ins.
Alright! I think that covers my notes, as per usual, here are some highlights:
- Slice the biscotti to your liking, you do not “need” to have it as thin as I did. The thinner it is the more brittle it is but I personally like a brittle crisp crunch to my biscottis. (It also makes me feel less guilty about consuming multiple pieces. 😛
- Temperature and hot spots affect the bake, so keep your eye on the first batch to get a good idea on how your oven works.
- The thinner it is the fast it will bake, but also, the thinner it is the more cautious you will have to be with your bake times. It can turn from pale to golden in a matter of 1-2 minutes.
- Do not turn your biscotti into toast, please thread on the side of caution and I would prefer that you remove it from the oven too soon rather than too late. As little of a colour on it is ideal, so long as it is crisp and has a nice snap it is ready.
- The minute it starts to turn golden you will notice a change in flavour.
- Flavour your dough however you feel suits, I like using zest the oils in the skin permeates the dough nicely, but you can choose to leave it out.
- The type of eggs you use and the treatment of it determines the texture of your dough
- I used very minimal flour when shaping the dough into a log, as always, where possible, reduce the chances of adding any additional flour.
- The thickness of the dough log itself is up to you, so feel free to make them thicker if you want wider slices when you go about to slicing them. But a thicker dough will take longer to bake.
- Always temper your chocolate when you are coating it to ensure a nice snap and shelf stability
- Should you leave in a warmer climate but want to coat your biscotti with chocolate, consider a layer of additional topping on top of the chocolate to “seal it in”
- These will keep easily for a couple of weeks in an airtight container or even longer.
How to make Thin, Crisp Biscotti
Makes around 40-50 thin biscotti depending on your slices
What you’ll need
- 80g bread flour
- 55g ap flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 12g melted butter
- 55g egg whites
- 60g granulated white sugar
- Zest for half an orange
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 50g unsalted pistachios (weight without shell)
- 45g dried cranberries
- 70% dark chocolate to coat (I used 100g-130g for this batch, but it depends on how generous you are with your coating )
Preheat your oven to 160C (fan forced).
In a bowl, whisk egg whites and sugar together until foamy.
Zest half an orange into the egg white mixture and whisk until it releases it’s oils. The eggs should start to take on an orange colour.
Add cranberries, pistachio, melted butter and vanilla extract and fold it into the mix.
Add the baking powder in and give it a mix to ensure it is incorporated.
Using a spatula, fold in the flour until combined.
Transfer the dough to a baking tray lined with parchment paper and pat the dough down to a 1-1.5cm tall rectangle.
You can use a very light dusting of flour should you notice the dough sticking to your hands or you could use a parchment paper and work gently. The dough is soft so it should take shape rather easily.
Bake at 160C for 20 mins until it sounds hollow when you knock on it and is baked through.
Once baked remove from oven and drop the oven temperature to 140C whilst the dough cools.
Let cool either on the tray or a wire rack for 5-10 mins or until warm enough to handle, and begin to slice into thin slices, ideally with a bread knife as it makes it easier to slice.
I go for something between 1/8-1/4″ thick slices depending on how accurate my slicing is.
Lay each slice out on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake for another 10-12 minutes. Go by the visual and colour cues rather than the timer for your first batch. Use my 10-12 minutes as a gauge as not all ovens are made equally. Rotate your tray mid-way to ensure even baking.
Once it is crisp and the very slightly bit pale yellow in colour, it is ready to come out of the oven.
Immediately transfer to a wire rack to cool and to stop the baking process from the residual heat on the tray.
These should take no time to cool. Whilst that is cooling repeat with the remaining dough.
Once cooled, store in an airtight container.
To coat with chocolate
To quickly temper chocolate, melt 2/3 of the chocolate that you plan on using a microwave in 30 seconds blasts or over a pot of water.
Once melted, add the remaining 1/3 and mix it in. Please do not put this back over a pot or in a microwave. The residual heat from the 2/3 of the chocolate should be warm enough to melt your chocolate. Chocolate callets are perfect, but if all you have is a block of chocolate, please chop it up to allow it to melt more easily.
At this stage, some will suggest it is ready to use, but I would suggest waiting.
Continue to stir it and let it cool to 30-32 degrees which is the ideal temperature for you to use your tempered dark chocolate. White chocolate would be around 28C.
Coat your biscottis by dunking it in the chocolate and shaking off the excess or you could apply it on in a thin coating like I did.
Let it set at room temperature until firm.
Store in an airtight container, these will last at least a couple of weeks.
Should you find that you may have stuffed up your tempered chocolate, you can either add additional unmelted temepered chocolate to bring it back to temper or you could just use the untempered chocolate and chuck your coated biscottis into the fridge to chill for 10-15 mins or until firm once you have coated it.
Enjoy and happy holidays!
5 Comments Add yours
Fantastic recipe! My batch turned out perfect. I used thinly diced dried apricots and pecans as that’s what I had on hand. Really pleased with my results 🙂
How does one slice through the biscotti so clean and neatly? Mine was crumbling and breaking up as i cut… I used a bread knife with the jagged edge btw.
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Hello… is it possible to substitute the pistachios with almonds or hazelnuts? Will they be too hard to slice through? Thank you!
Hi Melissa, I used whole almond instead of pistachio. It works for me. Happy Baking 🙂