Cinnamon + Roasted Hazelnut Biscotti
I love morning coffee. It's a ritual for my husband and I that largely influences our outlook on the day ahead. Without it, we're foggy and unmotivated. I love those quiet moments when we can connect and chat. It started during our honeymoon, and two years later, we still make time for it while our son sleeps. The only thing that changes is which pastry we eat alongside.
This time, it's biscotti! They're classic dunking cookies but, sadly, they're often poorly executed. If you can even find them in coffee shops anymore, they're usually flavorless, lacking enough nuts, and hard as a rock. They're always disappointing, so I've just stopped buying them. Why bother when a muffin looks so much better?
But homemade biscotti is a different creature altogether. When homemade, you get ultimate creative freedom. Want lavender almond? Orange pistachio? Chocolate chestnut? You got it. And you can significantly ramp up the nut-to-dough ratio. In fact, this recipe calls for so many nuts that I had to add another egg just to hold it all together! To top it off, you can ever so slightly under-bake them in order to keep them from ending up crack-your-teeth-hard. These are just soft enough that you can even eat them dry - no dunking required.
This time, I chose to make cinnamon hazelnut cookies because the flavors pair so well with coffee. Now, because I chose to toast the nuts, this recipe does require a little more TLC. But the impact on flavor is incredible. The raw nuts get lost in the cinnamon-spiced dough while the toasted nuts shine. It's absolutely worth the extra effort; just be sure to use your oldest, ugliest kitchen towels since the skins will stain them. You'll also want to wash them with your dark clothes. The stains spread to my husband's undershirts while in the wash - whoops.
So if you're realizing that you've never had a good biscotti, or if you're looking for something to snack on while you start your day, give these a try. The unsung biscotti can be truly delicious, and it deserves better than being dried out and stuffed inside a jar behind a stack of smooth jazz cd's at Starbucks.
Cinnamon + Roasted Hazelnut Biscotti
Modified from Joe Pastry
Yields about 12 large cookies (plus 2 end pieces)
420 grams (3 cups) whole hazelnuts, shelled
219 grams (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
200 grams (1 1/4 cups) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional: 1 egg white plus a little water
Optional: large, crystalline sugar (for garnishing)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour the whole hazelnuts onto a clean, rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes, until the skins have blistered and the flesh has turned golden (see Note 1 - this method will stain your towels). Remove them from the oven and place them in the center of a kitchen towel (or two doubled-up if the towels are thin). Wrap them up, cover the bundle with an upside-down mixing bowl, and allow it to sit in the enclosed space for 10 minutes to steam. You don’t have to use a mixing bowl, per se; just keep the bundle in a small space so that the heat doesn’t escape. After steaming, vigorously rub the nuts together inside of the towel to dislodge the skins. You may need to do this a couple of times, sifting out the flakes of skin in a colander and shaking out the towel in between. It’s okay if some of the skins are still stuck to the nuts afterward. Unwrap the towel and smash the hazelnuts into coarse pieces. The easiest way to do this is either with a large mortar and pestle, seen above, or by smashing them with a flat, heavy object (like the bottom of a cast iron skillet). Then set them aside.
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and set aside. In a different bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, and extract, then beat with a whisk for about 10 seconds, until light in color. Next, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix together with a spatula to form a dough. Then add the nuts and use your hands to distribute them evenly. Dump out the dough onto your lined baking sheet and press it into a rectangle about 12 inches long and 3/4 inch thick forming a flat loaf.
Optional: beat the egg white with about a half a teaspoon of water, then brush it over the top of the loaf with a pastry brush (or your fingers) to help with shine and browning. Optional: if desired, sprinkle the top of the loaf with crystalline sugar for added texture.
Bake at 350°F on the center rack for approximately 30 minutes until the loaf has puffed up a bit and the internal temperature reads 200°F on an instant read thermometer. Then, remove the loaf from the oven and allow it to cool completely for at least an hour or so. If not, it may crumble when you try to slice it.
Lower the oven temperature to 200°F. Using a large, sharp serrated knife, slice the completely cooled loaf into 3/4 inch wide slices. Then arrange them on their sides on a lined baking sheet. Bake at 200°F for roughly 30 minutes until they’re dry and just slightly crisp (don’t allow them to take on more color; see Note 2).
Store for up to a week in a dry, air tight container at room temp and enjoy!
- There are two different methods for skinning hazelnuts. I prefer the roasting and steaming method, but it will stain your kitchen towels (so be sure to use some you don't care about). Others prefer boiling them á la Julia Child then toasting them for 10 minutes. This method is less messy, but it's much more time consuming since you have to peel each individual nut between boiling and roasting. It’s up to you.
- As mentioned, I prefer my biscotti slightly softer than those you’ll find at a coffee shop. I like them to have just a little bit of chew to them instead of a hard crack, so I cook mine for 30 minutes after slicing. But if you prefer hard, snapping cookies, let them bake for 40 minutes or more the second time around. Just check them for firmness, and don't let them take on more color.