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Sunday, February 1, 2015

February ABC challenge: Orange, Date & Almond Biscotti

I'm still sort of "baked out" from Christmas, so I haven't done much lately.  But I'm a big biscotti fan, and it's an easy cookie, so I was happy to have these to make.

I found this recipe a little fussy, so while I followed the quantities (other than doubling the salt -- I would use salted butter next time), I did not follow the method.  First,  it seems to be a new trend in baking to "infuse" the butter with the citrus peel.  This seems unnecessary to me; we've been using citrus peel in baking for generations by just creaming it in, and that's worked fine.  I don't see a reason to dirty another pan just to melt them together.  I also rarely use parchment.  Again, the recipes I grew up with rarely called for it, and generally a light greasing of the pan is sufficient.  Using parchment wastes money and paper.  I didn't even attempt to roll a log out of that sticky dough.  I did what I usually do, which is to dollop the dough right onto the greased cookie sheet and then smooth it into shape with wet fingers.  Works like a charm.  And as for the egg wash... why???

I baked the sliced cookies longer than called for, as they still looked a little blond and seemed soft. Besides, I like biscotti good and crunchy.

I halved the recipe, which yielded 15 cookies (small ones on the ends).  Here's what I used and did:

1/8 cup unsalted butter, softened
zest of 1/2 orange (about 1/2 tablespoon), finely grated 
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 ¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup whole almonds 
¼ cup dried dates, diced
1 large egg, well beaten

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet down the middle and set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, orange zest, sugar, and salt, and then beat in the egg until well combined. (Add eggs one at a time if making the full recipe.)  Beat in the vanilla extract and almond extract. Sift together the flour and baking powder and add to the bowl, along with the almonds.  Stir until nearly incorporated, then add the dates and stir until evenly distributed and all flour is mixed in.  Dollop the dough down the middle of the baking sheet.  With wet fingers, form a log that is about 12 inches long and about 3 inches wide. Bake until golden brown and slightly cracked at the surface, 20-25 minutes.

Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and let biscotti log cool on pan for about 10 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

Transfer log to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, slice it diagonally into ¾-inch-thick slices.  DO NOT SAW BACK AND FORTH.  Here's my nearly fool-proof biscotti-slicing technique:  using a very long, serrated knife, start at the far edge and make one angled cut in a forward motion, cutting through the top part of the far side; draw the knife down and back in one long backward motion to slice through the rest of the log while keeping your thumb on the near edge to support it through the backward slice.  Each cut should take only one forward/backward motion.

Nearly perfect slices.  The breakage on the left happened
 when the knife caught on an almond.

Place cookies, cut-side-down, back on the baking sheet and bake until very lightly golden, dry and crisp, about 7 minutes per side.  Or, for crunchier cookies, stand each cookie up and bake up to 20 minutes longer.  They will get crunchier as they cool.

I baked the logs for 23 minutes, and my oven was a little hot at first (375F.)  I twice-baked the cookies on the first side for 7 minutes as called for, but by then the oven was a little cool (275F.)  They seemed really soft, so that's when I stood them up and baked for the second 7 minutes.  They still seemed soft, so I baked them standing up another 5.  Now they're perfect!

Conclusion:  I'm not loving this recipe.  It's a little sweet, and the almond flavor didn't come through at all.  Neither did the orange much, for that matter.  But they tasted familiar in a somewhat unpleasant way, and then I realized that the dates with the sweet cookie were reminding me of Quaker 100% Natural granola cereal.  Not a favorite of mine.  But dipped in coffee for breakfast, I'm sure I'll be able to force them down.  (Heheheh.)
Update:  After a day, some of the vanilla wore off, and I realized it was the heavy vanilla flavor with the dates that gave them that breakfast cereal taste. Surprisingly, I liked these better then, and I could also taste the orange better as well.  Still not as good as my usual recipe, though.

Original recipe:  Orange, Date & Almond Biscotti via Scientifically Sweet


  1. Sorry to hear you didn't like them. They sure look pretty! I thought they were a bit too sweet too. Maybe I used more zest than specified because I didn't measure but they were nice and orange-y. I'm glad that you can eat them, dunked in morning coffee :)

    1. I just posted an updated "conclusion". My zest sat out, grated, for several hours before I got a chance to use it, so it might not have been full-flavored. I didn't measure, either, just eyeballed it. But I'd use more orange, more almond, and less vanilla.

  2. Yeah, that's too bad you didn't like them. I also baked mine a few minutes longer on the second side since they didn't seem to crisp up, but I noticed they got harder as they cooled. I have a huge sweet tooth so that is probably why I loved these so much. Hopefully the coffee helped or you can always pawn them off on a friend or family member.

    1. They were very much enjoyed dunked in a good cup of coffee. It's pretty hard to make a "bad" biscotti! (Wait, I take that back -- somehow the commercial bakeries manage.)

  3. I like your thought process behind the baking; I question every step in the recipe as well. I infused the orange flavor in the melted butter, but in the microwave. The orange flavor came through nicely. I agree with you totally on shaping the dough on the sheetpan. The egg wash is a misstep.

    1. Great minds...! :) I can see infusing liquids or oils if you aren't going to use the source of the flavor for anything else, but in this case both butter and zest were being incorporated into the batter, so how does infusing help? I just don't get it. Oh well.

  4. I like the method that you have used to make these.. Great technique for slicing them.
    I doubled the orange zest and the taste came through.

    1. Good call on doubling the orange! I would double the almond as well, myself, but I know some people didn't use the almond extract at all. I really like almond flavoring.

  5. Yes, to doubling the orange. I'd thought to add cardamon or something, maybe, as well.

    1. I think cardamom would be an excellent addition!

  6. I think this could have even used orange extract - they really tasted more of almonds than anything else to me - which wasn't bad, but wasn't orange-y, and a fair bit sweet.

    1. I'm towards the end of my bottle of almond extract, so perhaps it's not as strong anymore. I couldn't taste it.

  7. Great job! I had crumbling. Thanks for your tips on how to avoid that.