When I was in the 10th grade, I had just begun to poke around in the kitchen. My mother had a worn, 3-inch binder full of hand-written family recipes and anonymous magazine clippings. Among them was a recipe for biscotti that I took to immediately. It was simple, straightforward, and terrifically delicious.
Around the same time, my mother and step-father were married. Both had been married before, and neither wanted a huge party. They wanted a fun, intimate celebration with their family and close friends. And they certainly didn't want a big cake.
And so, I found myself making 250 pieces of biscotti for the reception.
Almost a decade later, I find myself coming back to this recipe again and again. It is incredibly adaptable to whatever you have available in the kitchen. No almonds? No problem! Use whatever nuts you have around (I'm particularly fond of pecans). Have a few handfuls of dried cranberries lying around? Throw 'em in.
This version uses fragrant orange zest to bring some citrusy brightness to these dreary winter months, and rye flour to round out the cookies' almond flavour. If you don't have rye flour, sub in an equal amount of all-purpose flour. Your cookies will still be delicious (I promise.)
The one thing I must insist on is under-baking the cookies slightly. Doing so gives the majority of the cookie with the familiar crumbly texture of biscotti, but leaves the very middle with the tiniest hint of chew, which separates this homemade version from rock-hard store-bought versions in the most delicious way.
Orange and Rye Biscotti
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup rye flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup nuts (I used a combination of walnuts and almonds)
pinch kosher salt
2 tsp orange zest
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1 egg white
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt butter and set aside to cool slightly.
In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, baking powder, and salt. Stir in nuts.
Measure sugar into a medium bowl, and add orange zest. Using your fingertips, rub zest into sugar until it is fluffy, the lightest orange colour, and smells like the dreamiest creamsicle you could ever imagine.
Add melted butter, eggs, almond extract, and vanilla, and whisk together until smooth.
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, and mix until just combined. Turn out onto a floured countertop, and separate into two 'loaves' of approximately equal size.
(Mine are nowhere near equal size. Don't be like me.)
Whisk egg white slightly, and brush on top of the loaves. This is what gives them the unappetizing sheen seen above, it will look better on the finished cookies. Trust me.
Bake for 20 minutes. Pull from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Remove loaves to a cutting board, and with a large chef's knife, cut each loaf into slices approximately 1-inch thick (slightly smaller if you want slightly crispier cookies, slightly larger if you want chewier ones). Place slices back on the pan, standing up. Bake again for 20 minutes.
Let cookies cool completely on a rack.
When cookies are cool, melt the chocolate in a double-boiler (or in a microwave, if you've got one). Pour into a shallow dish or plate, and dip the bottom of each biscotti into the chocolate.
Place onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and leave until chocolate is set (a quick foray in the refrigerator or freezer will jumpstart the process.)