Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hazelnut Biscotti

I recently took the CSET exam, and one of the essay prompts was about how wise people find joy in the simple things in life. I wrote about cooking. I described the entire process: browsing through cookbooks and food blogs, shopping for groceries and imagining the possibilities, actually making the food, and then tasting and sharing my creation. Cooking (particularly baking) has been many things to me, and recently I have come to appreciate its therapeutic value. No matter what else is going on in my head or in my life, I can let it all go and focus on the ingredients in front of me and the empty canvas that is the oven.

I will start this blog with my biscotti. Secret: biscotti just means twice-baked cookie, which is exactly what they are. But people are much more impressed with biscotti, probably because they are rarely fresh and often overly crunchy. Mine are not.

3/4 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350.
Toast hazelnuts on baking sheet for about 15 minutes, then wrap in a dish towel and let sit for about 8 minutes. Rub towel over hazelnuts to peel off skins (they are bitter). Chop peeled hazelnuts.
In medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Mix into egg mixture. Stir in hazelnuts.
Shape dough into two equal logs, approximately 12 inches long. Place logs on baking sheet and flatten out to about 1/2 inch thickness.
Bake for about 30 minutes until edges are golden and center is firm. Remove from oven to cool.
Use serrated knife to slice loaves diagonally into 1/2 inch slices.
Return slices to baking sheet, one cut-side down.
Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, turning over once.
Let cool, then drizzle with melted chocolate if desired.