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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Orange Anise Biscotti with White Chocolate

I'll let you in on a little secret: biscotti is actually absurdly easy to make. This was a dangerous revelation for me because going to the store to buy them was the only thing standing between me and regular delightful biscotti consumption. But now I carry that heavy knowledge with me. With just a little bit of time and a little bit of effort, and a tiny touch of knife skills, I can whip up drool-worthy biscotti with ingredients I always have hanging around the house.

Sigh. You can see where this is going right? So now is when I'll publicly confess that I have made no fewer than seven different kinds of biscotti in the last month. That's right, I have been on what can only be described as a biscotti bender.

My husband proclaimed this batch "The best...yet." They are wonderful because they are an homage to the essential, traditional anise flavor of biscotti, but the use of orange adds a nice citrus twist on the more conventional lemon. And while these certainly won't compete with broccoli for the title of "wonderfood," I have experimented and tinkered my way into a biscotti recipe that maximizes some hidden goodness (nutty flax seed) and reduces the sugar and butter to a level that provides the greatest satisfaction, flavor and texture without busting your waistline.

Orange Anise Biscotti with White Chocolate

by The Skinny Gourmet (E. McDonnell)

Makes 16 biscotti

1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 teaspoon ground flax meal
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter (salted), melted and cooled
1 egg, lightly beaten
zest from one orange (about 1 Tablespoon)
1 teaspoon pure almond extract

Optional topping: 2 squares of White Chocolate (I recommend Godiva or some other high quality white chocolate, because poor quality white chocolates do not melt well)

Preheat the oven to 350F

In a small skillet on the stove-top, toast the anise seeds until fragrant. Remove from skillet into mortar and pestle and crush seeds. You may also crush the seeds with a meat tenderizing mallet or a spice grinder.

Melt butter in microwave or stove and set aside to cool.

Combine all the flour, baking powder and flax in a medium bowl. Toss or sift to combine well. In a separate bowl, combine sugar, zest and anise seed. Mix well to combine and infuse the zest throughout the sugar.

Lightly beat the egg and combine the egg, almond extract, and cooled melted butter with the sugar. Mix to combine.

Add the wet mixture into the dry mixture. Mix until well combined. I prefer to mix at this stage with my hands, turning the dough over to incorporate the dry ingredients.

Roll the dough into a log approximately 12 inches long. I like to press in the ends of the log a little more square so that the two biscotti cut out of the ends will not be shortchanged on volume.

Put the log onto a well seasoned baking stone or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently press the top of the log so that it is less spherical and more like an oval from the side.

Bake on the center rack until golden, about 30-35 minutes. When you gently press the top of the log, it should not give way easily, it should be somewhat firm and resistant. Remove from oven to cool for 5-7 minutes.

Up to this point, biscotti are actually remarkably easy to make. Dreamy. In my opinion the only technical challenge to making them is successfully cutting them.

Tips on Cutting

Using a serrated knife, such as a high quality bread knife, cut gently through the center of the loaf. I recommend you first drag the knife gently but with some pressure across the top of the loaf. Cutting through the top is rarely problematic: it is the sides that are likely to crumble. When it comes time to cut through the sides and down to the baking stone, instead of cutting back and forth like a saw, gently cut in from the sides towards the center of the loaf, repeating so that you always cut "in" rather than "out." It may also help to hold a finger or two on the loaf next to the cut to help the sides stay in place.

And if it crumbles I recommend you grin broadly and eat the part that fell off. It is the delicious reward of being the chef.

I like to get 16 servings out of my loaf, so I make a center cut, then gently subdivide each half again, giving me guidelines for where the loaf will be cut into quarters. Then, working from the center cut out, I gently make three cuts per quarter (for four total biscotti per quarter) all about 1/2 inch apart. This method will help you get the desired number of servings out of your loaf, which is particularly helpful if you are watching your waistline.

Separate the biscotti on the stone so there is room for air to circulate. Instead of cooking them for several minutes on each side and flipping in between, I recommend that you sit the biscotti up so that both of the newly cut sides are exposed to air (see photo below). Return them to the oven and bake 12-16 minutes, or until sides are firm to the touch and the tops are not overly browned.

Remove to a wire rack to cool. When biscotti are cooled, carefully melt 2 squares of good quality white chocolate according to package directions. I recommend 30 seconds in a small dish in the microwave. Stir melted chocolate to smooth. Using a silicone brush or your finger, paint a small amount of white chocolate on the top of each biscotti. Two squares should be enough to allow a small taste of white chocolate on each. If you prefer a more generous portion of white chocolate, consider painting only part of the 16 biscotti, or use three squares of white chocolate.


Susan from Food Blogga said...

Anise and orange are just lovely together, aren't they? And you even snuck flax seed in them? How awesome are you?

Grace said...

biscotti is useless to me unless there's some form of chocolate involved. high quality white chocolate icing = fine by me (and in no way optional). :)

Marianna said...

wow, these sounds amazing!!! definately will have to try this biscotti flavour!

Tarah said...

These photos are leaving me drooling. They look fabulous! I could really go for one this morning with some coffee :)

Peter M said...

I remember the aroma from the anise when I pounded some for my biscotti.

They look great and we need to have coffee together...all dunk in!

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of combining traditional flavors with something new, and those few tablespoons of ground flax meal are a nice addition as well. And, I think I'd certainly be opting for the "optional" white chocolate.

michelle @ TNS said...

i like all the little biscotti soldiers lined up around the round platter. their formation is impressive.

Becky said...

oooh these look so good! i've never see biscotti made before.

Erin @ The Skinny Gourmet said...

Susan, I love the pairing of orange and anise. It makes me want to put them together in other things. Orange cupcakes with anise frosting? who knows. And I pretty much put a little flax into everything I bake. if a superfood is that easy to use, i can't help myself.

Grace and Cookinpanda: I like your take on "not optional" chocolate. I did do one almond biscotti that was (gasp) chocolateless, but I pretty much agree with you.

Marianna, glad it sounds good!

Michelle, my army of tastiness. Actually that was just the best way to get the cut sides exposed for the second round of baking, but I was really enamored of how they looked around the baking stone, so that became a focal point.

Becky: take the plunge. I worried they would be fussy to make and so unnecessarily avoided them for too long!
Tarah, I am inordinately happy with these photos. Truthfully I shoot with only natural light and I dont even have a tripod (I balance the cam on a roll of paper seriously) so I was pretty pleased when they came out lookin' so cute.

Peter, I was surprised how aromatic the anise was when pounding. Cooking always has such sensory memories.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I've never tried this combo before--it sounds like a really good one! I keep saying I'll make biscotti one of these days and I drool over every recipe I stumble across. This looks really tasty

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

This sounds like a wonderful flavor combo!

Have you ever tried Chovic chocolates? It's made in Spain and it's pretty amazing stuff. I love their Opal white chocolate. If you can find some Stateside, I'd definitely give it a try!

Kevin said...

Those biscotti look great all covered in white chocolate!

Erin said...

Hello, just "found" your site. The photography is beautiful. And your post about the little-guy-vs-big-guy-coffee-shop juxtaposition was witty and clever. Thanks for the biscotti inspiration--I am always looking for a few more ways to utilize my star anise. Thanks! I'll be visiting again.

Erin @ The Skinny Gourmet said...

Mike-Don't wait any longer. It really really is stinking easy to make them at home. Welcome to the dark side, where biscotti are available as often as you like.

Mevrouw-Never heard of that brand, but always in search of tastier chocolate.

Kevin-The white chocolate was a nice almost creamy touch to these. Too often the taste of white chocolate is so subtle it gets lost amid other more overwhelming flavors, so I really liked how the subtle white chocolate worked with the subtle orange/anise.

Erin-"witty and clever" is a great compliment. Comments like that really put a smile on my face. Thanks! Please do come back again. Bring your friends! :)

Julie said...

Cute new picture of you Erin! I love how you added flax meal. What a genius way to sneak in a little more goodness.

Jaime said...

Biscotti: very good. Biscotti with something drizzled on top: heavenly!

Emily said...

Just made these tonight and they are fantastic! Just perfect -- my new favorite biscotti recipe. And in my humble opinion, no white chocolate is needed at all...

pjcim said...

Hi, Just past threw. WOW! We just luv biscotti, I too have have around 8~10 different kinds for Christmas, so this will be my NEW addition. We have having a 30 yr family reunion on june 6th 2012. And of course these are all Italians. So I will surprise the families with UR NEW flavor. OMG! I cant wait. Many thanx,& God Bless! <3

Erin said...

@Emily and Pjcim: Thanks so much! Glad to hear you are enjoying them in your house...

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