I’m so grateful to readers who want to know more about something I’ve cooked or baked. I love sharing recipes, both directions. A couple of friends wrote to me after receiving their holiday biscottis, saying almost word for word the same thing: “I love biscotti. And this is by far the best I’ve ever had.” One of them added, “Give a woman biscotti and she enjoys bliss for 3 days. Teach a woman to make biscotti and she will have a lifetime of bliss!” I immediately set out to create a biscotti tutorial, and here it is.
First, hightail it to King Arthur and get a biscotti pan. You might find one elsewhere but why not get the best. This takes all the suffering out of forming the initial loaf for baking. Then make sure you have a couple of not-so-usual ingredients, espresso baking powder and candied ginger. Here are the two I use.
I think it’s best to buy espresso powder rather than try to grind your own beans down small enough. This is made from organic beans powdered so finely that they readily dissolve, but if you like a bit of extra crunch you could grind your own.
Here’s my recipe, modified slightly from the original. For one thing, I put all spices in order of amount so that I can just set them all on the counter and run through my measuring spoons, saving the liquids for last of course. It’s simple because you just put all ingredients except the last three into the mixing bowl, mix on low til incorporated, and then whip on high for 90 seconds, which is just enough time to weigh out the flour. I do start by chopping the candied ginger smaller so I have that ready when it’s time to add flour and ginger to the ribbony batter.
Mix in the flour and chopped ginger on low until the flour is just barely incorporated, don’t overmix. The texture is like damp sand, but sticky. Here’s where that biscotti pan pays off. The original directions call for gathering it together with your hands and forming it into a loaf on parchment paper. In my experience with this dough, there is no gathering possible. I line the pan with a sheet of 9×13 parchment paper (and an aside, I used to think it wasteful to pay a little more for pre-cut parchment paper instead of the roll, but it is such a time and frustration saver). Then evenly dump the mixture into the pan…
…and gently press flat with your fingers or a spatula.
Bake in preheated 325℉ oven–and make sure that it’s been preheating through your whole mixing process–for 40-45 minutes. For me perfect is somewhere around 43. If you bake it too long or not long enough it makes it harder to cut later. Don’t turn off the oven! Once the pan is out of the oven, I lift the loaf out of the pan with the paper handles and let it cool on a rack for ten minutes.
Then you slice the loaf diagonally with a serrated knife into ¾” slices. I think it slices easier if you flip the loaf over onto the cutting board and cut across the smooth bottom rather than try to cut across the textured top. See what works for you. You’ll be making this more than once!
Slice slowly, smoothly, gently, don’t saw it like you might bread or pieces will break off. If the knife gets sticky from the ginger pieces, you can rinse and dry it partway through. No need to be too precise about the width of the slices, you’ll get about a dozen, plus a few shorter pieces from the diagonals at each end. Naturally, these are too small to give away so you must eat them yourself.
Lay out all your pieces on their sides, on a cookie sheet lined with 12×16″ parchment paper and put them in the oven. They won’t spread any more, so you don’t need to worry about spacing. I like to set the rack one notch above middle. Bake for 7-8 minutes then remove the pan, flip each biscotti onto its other side (except the corners, no need), and bake another 7-10 minutes. The longer these bake here, the crunchier the cookie. During this last bake, I melt the chocolate, but you can do it later. I’ve tried microwaving but did not get the consistency I wanted, so I do as the recipe suggests and melt in a stoneware bowl over simmering water–not boiling, and not touching the bottom of the bowl. You can use any kind of chocolate, but I prefer extra dark; it both melts better and tastes better than semi-sweet chips. Break it into bits and melt til it’s smooth and runny. Once the biscotti are out of the oven you can ice them any time.
Turn the biscotti rightside up on the cooling rack over the parchment paper they cooked on. (This is important, because once the chocolate sets and you put away the biscotti and the rack, you’ll have a bunch of chocolate drops on the paper that you’ll need to clean up. And by clean up, I mean eat.)
Using a teaspoon–the kind you stir ice-tea with–I drip one spoonful over the top of each cookie and let it drip down the sides here and there. Nothing fancy. You can use more or less chocolate than called for. Then, patience. Wait til the chocolate sets solid before doing anything else. This can take some hours, and will depend on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen. I’ve tried setting these out in the cold mudroom to speed up the set, but don’t like the result. You’ll know they’re set when the shine is gone. Best to leave them even longer before boxing, bagging, or tinning them, but certainly you ought to try one with a cuppa something hot at this point. And that, my dear, is how you make the best biscotti ever.
And now, Sandra, here’s the answer to your question, which motivated me to post the biscotti recipe today. Here’s how I made the fried grits.
I tweaked the basic recipe above, incorporating elements from the variations. I used 2 cups water and 1 cup milk, a large pat of butter, salt, and less than a cup of grits but not as little as ¾ cup. I poured the grits in slowly, stirring steadily, before the liquid boiled and stirred constantly after it boiled, for… awhile. More than five minutes, less than 15, until it was thick and smooth. Near the end I stirred in about a quarter cup of broken up white cheddar and cooked a bit longer til there was no crunch left. It was thick but pourable, and I poured out most of it into a glass container a couple inches thick, let it cool to room temp, and put it in the fridge. To fry, I melted butter in a small, non-stick Greenpan skillet, sliced the cold grits ⅝” thick, and fried on both sides til crispy. So simple, so delicious! I use only silicone tools on these expensive-but-worthit pans. Enjoy!