Several years ago, I agreed to make homemade biscotti for the favors, to be placed in perfect little white drawstring pouches and given to guests at a reception.
There were something like 200 guests and each bag got two. And I’d never made that many biscotti before.
I’d never made food for anything so important before, either, so this was a serious undertaking.
Luxuriously, only working part-time while attending grad school two nights a week. My schedule was mostly my mostly, and so I planned to make some cookies ahead of time, to ensure I’d get everything done.
There were three kinds: chocolate chip anise, double chocolate, and lemon pistachio. In the end, the pistachio is what nearly put an end to me.
The memory is crystal clear: my dad and I sitting on the couch, he with a bowl of shelled pistachios, I with a bag still to crack, a waste basket on the floor between us.
We were slowly, methodically working our way through the massive bulk-purchased bag, trying to achieve however many cups of shelled nuts I needed for the batches at hand.
I learned a few things that day: cracking and scraping the skin off hundreds of pistachios will give you blisters; only inexperienced amateurs would purchase the in-shell nuts for that very reason; and mostly, my dad is the nicest man I have ever known.
Surprisingly, I did not recoil when I found a new biscotti to try: chocolate pistachio. Can you believe I still had pistachios from two years ago, which had not gone bad? [Editor’s Note: We typically wouldn’t recommend keeping them quite this long, though there can be exceptions, especially if stored in a deep freezer. See our article on nuts for snacking for more tips and ideas.]
That very same massive bag, the one we’d labored through for hours, had not yet come to an end. I almost threw them out – it had been two years, after all. But I tasted a few before baking, and they were delicious.
This may garner criticism, but I figured the heat of the oven would cook out anything else I didn’t notice.
Sitting at the counter, alone this time, I cracked shells and rolled nuts between my hands to remove the brown skins coating the bright green nuts.
After at least an hour of this, I was done. I didn’t achieve a cup of pistachios as the recipe requested, but I would make do. As in life, one learns to work with what’s available.
The result, after baking and double-baking the dough: a container filled with beautiful, delicious biscotti, with a refined, more subtle flavor than previous batches I’ve made.
The pistachios, which filled only half of my total lot, give the cookies a slightly salty flavor that works beautifully with the chocolate.
These desserts are so easy to make that I always feel a little embarrassed when people praise them. “You make biscotti?” they say, as if I’m some sort of gourmet.
“Look,” I want to respond, “can you make cookies? If so, you can make these. I promise. They are forgiving and delightful and impressive. Try them.”
Martha Stewart’s Cookies available in Paperback and Kindle from Amazon
This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookies.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In small batches like this, I like to use a large sized convection-capable toaster oven. In this case I’m using my beloved Breville Smart Oven Pro (note that they just introduced an even larger Smart Oven Air that is on my must-have list).
Chop your pistachios and arrange your mise en place.
Step 2 – Mix the Ingredients
Add the cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt to a small mixing bowl and whisk together.
Add the butter and sugar to a large bowl and beat with a hand mixer, or use your stand mixer on medium until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Switch to low speed and incorporate the eggs.
Add the remainder of the dry ingredients. The dough should stiffen. If your machine does not have enough power, you may need to use your hands to finish up (and look at upgrading to a stand mixer with some power).
Finally, add the pistachios and chocolate chips.
Step 3 – Form and Bake
Form the dough into a 12-by-4-inch slightly flattened log. Bake for about 25 minutes or until firm.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F and allow the log to cool.
Step 4 – Cut and Bake Again
Place the log on a cutting board and use a good serrated bread knife to cut it into 1-inch-thick slices.
Place the slices cut side down back on the baking sheet, and bake for an additional eight minutes.
The biscotti should still be slightly soft in the center but nice and crunchy throughout the rest of the cookie.
The cookies will last for about a week before becoming stale if stored in an airtight container. They can also be frozen if placed between layers of parchment or waxed paper.
But they won’t last that long.
Let me tell you:
These things are revolutionary. It’s like a band of angels suddenly appeared on your tongue. They are life changing.
And there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that goes better with chocolate biscotti than a good cup of French pressed coffee.
If you love biscotti, then don’t forget to check out these other glorious recipes:
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Photos by Mike Quinn, © Foodal / Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published August 22nd, 2008 by Shanna Mallon. Revised and updated November 5th, 2017, with additional writing by Mike Quinn.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.