Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Almond-less Biscotti and Coconut Sticks


Biscotti and Coconut Sticks

Some of my favorite "biscotti" are just biscotti-shaped butter cookies. I suppose whether or not you like biscotti depends on how you define them. Are Almondinas biscotti? What about Mediterra's decadent chocolate-hazelnut cookies?

I usually associate the term with crunchy, twice-baked cookies that don't involve much butter. I'd say once you make something richer than the biscotti at Enrico's, you're making cookies.

When you read a biscotti recipe, consider the ingredients. Egg whites will make the dough stiffer and crunchier. Egg yolks and butter will contribute to a richer taste and crumbly texture.

I tried two different biscotti recipes last week: Cook's Illustrated's spiced biscotti, and Alice Medrich's almond biscotti (minus the whole almonds). Both recipes omitted butter. One called for 3 eggs, while one called for 2 eggs and 2 yolks. While both recipes insisted the final cookies would be crunchy but not tooth-breaking, I found them slightly too hard.

I much preferred Alice Medrich's coconut sticks, which are very similar to the almond sticks with cocoa nibs I make so frequently. They are once baked, biscotti-shaped cookies that are pleasantly crunchy and rich tasting. I really liked the coconut taste- they reminded me of these macaroons from my childhood, only fancier and more delicate.

I'll leave you with recipes for the almond biscotti and coconut sticks, which are pictured above. If you have a great recipe, let me know. I would love to be able to replicate Mediterra's biscotti...they're pretty amazing.

Almond Biscotti
from Alice Medrich's Cookies and Brownies

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3 large eggs
2 tbsp amaretto, or 2 tbsp rum with 1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp anise extract (optional)
1 cup whole almonds, toasted and chopped
Cookie sheet, lined with parchment or greased and floured

Preheat the oven to 300F. Position a rack in the middle of the oven.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or fork. Set aside.

Whisk the eggs, amaretto, vanilla, and anise extract, if using, in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in the flour mixture and then the almonds. The dough will be thick and sticky. Scrape the dough into a long log shape lengthwise on the cookie sheet. Flour your hands and shape the dough into a long flat loaf about 10 inches long and 5 inches wide.

Bake until firm and dry, about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Transfer the loaf carefully to a cutting board. Using a long serrated knife, cut the loaf on the diagonal into slices 1/2 inch wide. Lay the slices, cut side down, on the cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes; turn each cookie over and bake for 15-20 minutes longer, or until the cookies are golden brown. Place the cookie sheet on a rack to cool. Cool the cookies completely before stacking or storing. May be stored, airtight, for several weeks.

Coconut Sticks
from Alice Medrich's Cookies and Brownies

6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened dried coconut
1 cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp water
1 or 2 cookie sheets, lined with parchment or greased (I didn't bother greasing or lining them)

Using the back of a large spoon or with an electric mixer, in a medium bowl mix the butter with the sugar and salt until smooth and creamy, not at all fluffy. Mix in the vanilla. Mix in the coconut. Add the flour and mix with your fingers, pinching and gathering the mixture until it resembles damp crumbs. Drizzle in the water and continue to mix with your fingers, pinching and gathering the dough until the water seems well distributed. The dough will not form a smooth, cohesive mass; it will be crumbly, but it will stick together when you press it. Turn it out onto a large sheet of foil. Press the dough into a 6x9 inch rectangle a scant 1/2 inch thick. Fold the foil over the rectangle, and wrap the dough airtight. Slide a cookie sheet under the package and refrigerate it for 2 hours or overnight.

(*Or, you can do all of that in a food processor. Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter, chilled and cut into pieces, and pulse until the mixture looks well combined/sandy. Add the water and vanilla and pulse until the mixture begins to look damp. Add the coconut and pulse until the mixture starts to clump together. Turn out onto a piece of foil and continue with the recipe)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Position rack in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

Use a long sharp knife to trim 1 short edge of the dough rectangle. Then cut a slice a scant 3/8 inch wide. Use the knife to transfer the slice to the cookie sheet, placing it cut side up. Cut and transfer each slice, placing them at least 1 inch apart. If some break, just push them back together or bake them broken; they will look and taste great anyway.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until the cookies just begin to turn golden at the edges. Rotate the cookie sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.

Slide the parchment carefully onto a rack or set the pan itself on a rack to cool. Cool cookies completely before stacking or storing. Cookies are most delicious on the day they are baked (*I disagree). May be stored, airtight, for several days.


Christina said...

The biscotti recipes I like to use come from the Once Upon a Tart cookbook and usually are richer than the traditional biscotti recipe. I guess you'd consider those to be more like cookies, but either way we look at it, the original idea remains!

Your recipe for coconut sticks sounds really great and definitely unique,

Patricia Scarpin said...

You make such amazing photos, Lisa! And your recipes look absurdly delicious (the one I have tried, the ranger cookies, were a hit here). :)

Now, I have to add more of your delicious ideas to my to try list. ;)

eatme_delicious said...

Beautiful photos! I'm saving the coconut sticks recipe. I just posted some biscotti on my blog. They have 3 whole eggs, and no butter (oil instead).