I love biscotti. This is not so much for their taste, although they are great, but for the way they fit into my romantic vision of the life I would like to have. In this life, I spend my mornings at my favorite neighborhood cafe reading, drinking coffee, and eating biscotti. I might do some writing in this cafe as well. (This writing, of course, flows naturally and holds my attention for hours at a time. In my dreams I certainly do not spend more time on social media sites than my papers.)
Alas, it is a rare day in which I spend my morning at a cafe (or writing effortlessly). But at least I can now make a crackerjack biscotti. Although I have made decent pistachio biscotti before, I was not able to attain the right crispness. They were delicious, but I wanted the real thing. This time around, I decided to test (and tweak) two different recipes. Both came out quite well, with the perfect biscotti consistency. The first was a lovely chocolate cherry biscotti recipe from Ready for Dessert, by David Lebovitz. I altered the recipe slightly by adding a tablespoon of espresso powder, but I don’t feel like this was enough of a change to justify posting it here.
The second recipe, however, was the clear winner to my taste testers and me–caramelized almond biscotti. These delightful treats had a rich almond flavor and a strong biscotti crunch. Absolutely my favorite biscotti so far, hands down.
This recipe calls for caramelizing almonds. To create the caramel, you heat sugar and water together until the mixture caramelizes. After stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves, leave the mixture entirely alone until it deepens in color.
Some recipes suggest wetting a pastry brush and gently brushing the sugar that sticks to the sides of the pan back into the mix, but I find this unnecessary. It’s better to leave the process alone until you are ready to add the almonds. As always, be very careful with hot sugar.
Bake for 35 minutes, then cut them diagonally into biscotti-shaped cookies and allow to cool. Bake again, at a lower temperature, to achieve the perfect consistency. Serve with coffee, and transport yourself to a trendy cafe with outdoor seating and balmy weather!
Caramelized Almond Biscotti
about 5 oz blanched almonds
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup almond paste
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a medium-sized pot, cook the sugar and water over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves (you should stop feeling the graininess of the sugar, and the mixture should turn a milky white color). Stop stirring and increase the heat to medium-high. Allow to cook undisturbed until the mixture turns a deep amber color. Remove from heat and add the almonds simultaneously. Mix quickly, then pour the mixture onto the prepared pan. Allow to cool and harden, then chop the almonds roughly by hand.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the almond paste and butter at medium speed for about one minute. Add the sugar and beat for an additional minute. Add the eggs one by one and beat at medium-low speed until well combined. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.
- Add the dry ingredients about 1/3 at a time, beating low until combined.
- Using a wooden spoon, add the caramelized almonds and mix well.
- Divide the dough in half, and one by one set out onto a lightly floured surface and form each half into a long (approx. 12x2x2″) log. Brush off as much flour as you can with a dry pastry brush, then transfer the logs to one of the prepared baking sheets. Using the heel of your hand, gently press on each log lightly to slightly flatten them out.
- Bake for 35 minutes, until the logs begin to brown slightly. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Transfer the logs to a wooden cutting board and using a serrated knife, cut into diagonal 1/2-inch slices. Transfer the slices, cut sides down, onto the baking sheets (use a new sheet of parchment paper for the previously used sheet). Bake for an additional 20 minutes, switching the position of the baking sheets halfway through baking.
- Set the baking sheets on wire racks to cool, then transfer the cookies to the racks to cool completely.