Recipe Project #43: Hazelnut Biscotti

Since we replaced the espresso machine back in September, biscotti keep sneaking into the house. Usually the rather processed sort. So I figured, why not make my own? This recipe is from Baking With Julia, one of the few relatively baking books on my shelves. They’re incredibly easy, especially since I cheated and bought prepared hazelnuts, and they provide an excuse to break into the Frangelico.

2 cups water
3 tablespoons baking soda
2/3 cup unblanched hazelnuts

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons hazelnut liqueur, such as Frangelico, or brandy
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.

To skin the hazelnuts, bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan, add the baking soda and the nuts, and boil for 3 to 5 minutes, until the water turns black. To test if the skins have loosened sufficiently, drop a nut into a bowl of cold water and rub lightly against the skin—if the skin just slides off, the nuts are ready to go. Turn the nuts into a colander and run cold water over them. Slip off the skins, toss the nuts onto a towel, pat dry, and transfer to a jelly-roll pan.

Place the pan in the oven and toast the nuts, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until evenly browned. The best way to test for total toastiness is to bite into a nut—it should be brown to the center. Remove the nuts from the oven and cool. Lower the oven temperature to 300F.

When the nuts are cool enough to handle, coarsely chop them and set them aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and reserve until needed.

Put the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk just to blend.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, liqueur, vanilla, and sugar. Add the dry ingredients to the liquid and stir with a wooden spoon to mix. Add the nuts and continue to mix, just until well incorporated. (Since this dough is stiff, sticky, and hard to stir, you might find it easier to just reach in and mix it with your hands.)

Flour your hands and lift half of the dough onto one side of the parchment-lined baking sheet. Pat and squeeze the dough into a chubby log 12 to 13 inches long. Don’t worry about being neat or smoothing the dough—it will even out as much as it needs to in the oven. Repeat with the other half of the dough, leaving about 3 inches between the logs.

First baking: Bake the logs for exactly 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes. At this point, the logs can remain on the pan overnight, if that’s more convenient for you.

Second Baking: Using a serrated knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices, cutting straight across or diagonally. (You can make the biscotti thinner or thicker, as you wish, and adjust the baking time accordingly.) Lay the biscotti on their sides on a cooling rack—you may need to use a second rack—then place the cooling rack in the 300F oven, directly on an oven rack. (Baking the biscotti like this allows the oven’s heat to circulate around the cookies, so there’s no need to turn them over.) The cookies may need to bake for as long as 15 minutes, but it’s a good idea to start checking them after about 10 minutes. When the biscotti are golden brown, dry, and crisp, remove the cooling rack(s) from the oven. Let the cookies cool to room temperature before packing them for storage.

The cookies will keep in an airtight container for about a month.

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