While we waited for the dough to proof, which is has to do twice, we whipped up batches of chocolate chip-pecan mandel bread. Mandel bread are a traditional Jewish cookie, similar to biscotti in that they are twice-baked. I tend to think of mandel bread as more crumbly, and biscotti as crunchier, but that may have to do with the particular recipe and baking time.
I had not made biscotti until a couple of years ago, but my husband all of a sudden became a coffee drinker and started buying the chocolate-dipped biscotti at Trader Joe's. In fact, I had sort of been anti-biscotti because I associate them with anise flavor (which I hate). But guess what? Biscotti come in all flavors, with all sorts of options for mix-ins, and anise is not a pre-requisite! So I decided to learn to make them as a surprise.
I found this great recipe for chocolate chocolate chip biscotti on The Italian Chef. They have just the right amount of crunch and bite. Sometimes I put dried cranberries in half (though my kids cannot be fooled). They are just the right amount crunchy, but not too hard. The chocolate flavor comes through really nicely. And I love the extra grittiness on my tongue from the sugar sprinkled on top. (I actually prefer granulated sugar to sanding sugar in this recipe.)
Chocolate Biscotti (adapted slightly)
Makes 3-4 dozen
4 eggs, divided
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (you can use up to 1 teaspoon, but I find that too strong)
2 1/4 cups (9 5/8 ounces) flour
3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (4 1/2 ounces) chocolate chips)
1/2 to 3/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)
sugar for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment. (I prefer parchment to a silpat because you are going to slice the cookies after the first bake, right on the cookie sheet. You don't want to slice through the silpat!)
In a large bowl, whisk together 3 of the eggs and the sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in melted butter and almond extract until combined.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Stir into the egg mixture, and then fold in the chocolate chips and dried cranberries, if using.
Divide the dough into fourths. Using 1/4 of the dough, drop by large spoonfuls into a line on the cookie sheet to form it into a log. I prefer the log to have a bit of height (not be too wide). Dampen your hands slightly so the dough will not stick to them, and form the dough into a smooth log. Repeat with another portion of the dough on the same cookie sheet, and form two more logs on the second cookie sheet. Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl and brush the tops of the dough very lightly with egg; sprinkle generously with sugar.
Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Spray lightly with a water bottle to make them easier to cut. Use a sharp knife (or a serrated knife) to cut each log diagonally into slices. I usually cut them about 3/4" thick, but you can do them thinner or thicker depending on how you big you like your cookies. Separate the cookies slightly to let the air surround them evenly. Return the cookie sheets to the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, depending on how hard you like your biscotti.
You can easily halve (or double) this recipe, and the biscotti freeze very well. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for several days; up to a week if they last that long!
I'm very satisfied with this recipe for traditional, crunchy biscotti, though I received a new challenge: the chewy deliciousness of fig biscotti from a special bakery in New York... this is a texture unlike any I've tasted before. They have areas of crunch with soft chewiness - almost cakey - from the large bites of fresh or dried fruit. Delicious, and a conquest for another day...