Up until a few days ago, I’d never made biscotti at home. I don’t know what switch got flipped in my brain, but suddenly it seemed like a great idea. Plus, adding a Persian twist (Persianizing, as my friend My Persian Kitchen says) would be a way to get creative. What if I upped the ante and tried to make them vegan? Hmmm, now that’s a thought.
By the way, did you know that the cookie dates back to Ancient Persia? From WikiAnswers:
The earliest cookie-style cakes are thought to date back to 7th century Persia A.D. (now Iran), one of the first countries to cultivate sugar (luxurious cakes and pastries in large and small versions were well known in the Persian empire). According to historians, sugar originated either in the lowlands of Bengal or elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Sugar spread to Persia and then to the Eastern Mediterranean.
With centuries of culinary history behind me, you’d have thought my cookies would be perfect on Take One. Ehhh, not so much. My first attempt looked promising, but ultimately ended up overbaked. It was totally due to miscalculations and wrong assumptions on my part. I thought the cookies weren’t done, so I kept baking them. I swear they looked undercooked. Almost raw in spots.
Thankfully they didn’t burn, and still tasted fine when dunked in tea and allowed to soak, but unless soaked a bit, they were a hazard to my dental work, and that of anyone else who ate them. Lesson learned.
The very next morning, I made another attempt. Humbled, I learned from past mistakes, followed the recipe to the letter, and got perfect biscotti:
I made two types– for half of the biscotti I added pistachios, cardamom powder, and dried cranberries to the dough. For the other half, I did sour (tart) cherries, almond extract, and slivered almonds. Tart cherries were on offer at my local Trader Joe’s this week, by the way. Love that, because they’re not always there, and their dried bing cherries get a thumbs down from me. Sorry, TJ’s. I call ‘em like I see ‘em.
Taste-wise, the sour cherry biscotti were my favorites. But the pistachio cranberry cookies, while no slouch in the taste department either, were notably more photogenic. This is probably due to the interplay of the green pistachios against the dough and in contrast to the jewel-toned dried cranberries.
So yes, while the combo of tart/sour cherries and almonds was my personal favorite, the cool thing about biscotti is how easy it is to customize them to fit your own tastes and pantry. Next time, by the way, I think I might just have to dip these biscotti in chocolate. And/or add in some vegan chocolate chips. That would be awesome. But I’ll make sure to stay true to the recipe’s general directions! Wouldn’t want to disappoint my ancestors too much, after all. ;-)
Adapted from a recipe on RecipeZaar.com http://www.recipezaar.com/Vegan-Almond-Biscotti-32416
Makes 30-40 biscotti
3 cups of flour (I used equal amounts of organic pastry flour and all purpose flour)
1 Tablespoon baking powder (Yes, a Tablespoon!)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup of agave necar OR 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
3/4 cup of smooth unsweetened applesauce or apple butter
1-3 Tablespoons neutral tasting oil of choice (I used coconut oil; Use more oil for softer biscotti, less oil for crunchier biscotti)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
For Sour Cherry and Almond Biscotti: 1/2 cup tart (sour) cherries AND 1/2 cup almonds
For Cranberry Pistachio and Cardamom Biscotti: 1/2 cup cranberries AND 1/2 cup pistachios AND 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom
1. Preheat your oven to 325 F and lightly oil one large or two smaller cookie sheets.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, salt, baking powder, and cardamom powder if using.
3. In another bowl, mix together the agave or sugar, applesauce, oil, and extracts. (Use more oil for a softer biscotti, less oil for a crunchier biscotti)
4. In thirds, gently add and stir sugar mixture into the flour mixture. Batter will be very thick. Add the nuts and fruits. Finish the mixing with your hands.
5. With floured hands, shape the dough into two 3-inch wide “logs” about 3/4 inch thick, with the ends squared off. (Measure if you have to; I did!)
6. Bake the logs for about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, and cool on a wire rack. As they cool, drop the oven temp to 300 F.
7. Cool the logs on a rack for 15 minutes. Cut the logs carefully with a sharp knife straight across into 1/2 inch wide slices.
8. Place the slices cut side down on the cookie sheets and bake for 5-10 minutes more.
9. Turn the slices over and cook 5-10 minutes more, or until golden on bottom. NOTE: The biscotti might look under-cooked. They almost certainly are not. They will harden up as they sit.
10. Cool on racks, then store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.