Biscotti are crisp, twice-baked cookies perfect for dipping into coffee or tea. Somewhat tricky for the novice baker, the texture and flavor of biscotti can be greatly improved by following a few basic tips. Preparing ingredients properly, paying attention to consistency, and baking cookies upright can all make the process of baking biscotti simpler and more successful. An infinitely malleable cookie, it also helps to experiment with different flavors and additives with every batch.
One of the keys to baking biscotti perfectly is proper preparation of all ingredients. All-purpose flour and wheat flour can both be used in biscotti recipes, but all-purpose flour may give a superior texture. Flour can also be sifted for a finer, more crumbly texture. If a recipe calls for nuts to be added, consider looking for nuts that are skinned, as the skin on almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts can become bitter when cooked. For chocolate biscotti recipes, consider using a Dutch-process cocoa powder for the strongest flavor and best texture.
Consistency is key to great biscotti. In the mixing process, be sure that all ingredients are fully and evenly incorporated by regularly scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl for any loose batter. When properly mixed, the dough should be quite stiff and reminiscent of bread dough, rather than soft cookie dough. If dough appears too sticky, it can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for an hour for a firmer texture. To get evenly-sized biscotti, use a kitchen scale to weigh the dough, then divide into logs by weight rather than simply by sight.
Most recipes call for baking biscotti twice: once as large logs, then again sliced into individual cookies. One of the best ways to simplify the baking biscotti is to slice the individual cookies thickly enough so that they can stand up during the second baking. If they cannot stand up, the cookies will need to be flipped over halfway through baking and may not be crisp throughout. Standing the cookies up ensures that the baking biscotti brown evenly, and saves the baker from having to attempt to flip hot cookies over while avoiding burns and spills.
Experimentation with flavor is nearly endless when it comes to these crisp cookie delights. Consider making a Spanish-influenced version with fruity olive oil instead of butter, saffron strands, and muscovado sugar. Try a healthy variety by using whole wheat flour, cranberries, and almonds. For extra decadence, dip finished cookies in melted dark chocolate, then drizzle with caster sugar or a ribbon of white chocolate. If the basic baking principles are followed correctly, nearly any flavor of biscotti is sure to be a hit.