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Friday, December 14, 2012

Cinnamon Pecan Biscotti

My morning cup of coffee is one of my simple pleasures in life.  I'm not a big breakfast eater, so I tend to like something on the lighter side.  Biscotti (also known as Prato bread or twice-baked biscuits) is made to be dunked in coffee or tea, and is a delicious side to my morning cuppa joe.  

Biscotti is a bit labor intensive, but the rewards are worth it, and it makes a great gift if you're inclined to share it.  The entire process takes about 1-1/2 to 2 hours from start to finish, but the prepared biscotti will store in an air-tight container for at least a month (if it lasts that long!).  

I've been making this specific recipe for years.  It is a delicious combination of pecans, cinnamon, and other spices.  We have an abundance of pecan trees, so there are always plenty of pecans for me to make this.  If you do not have enough pecans for this recipe, it is fine to just use what you have or omit them entirely; however, you may need to add more flour to make up for the loss of volume if you choose to not add nuts. 

We like it as it is, but you can also jazz it up by dipping half of the prepared biscotti into melted white or dark chocolate, and then allowing it to cool.  My family is not fond of this method, but it makes for a beautiful and delicious treat if you choose to try it! 

Cinnamon Pecan Biscotti 
1/2 cup (one stick) butter, room temperature 
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla OR 3/4 teaspoon vanilla along with 3/4 teaspoon anise extract (traditional)
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1-1/2 cups chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, pistachios or whatever you have) 

Cook at 375 for 25-30 minutes.

Cream together the butter, sugar, and eggs.  Add vanilla to mixture and blend.  In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients well.  Add to the butter/eggs/sugar mixture a little at a time, stopping periodically to stir dough away from sides and detach it from the mixing blade.  Once finished, the dough should resemble a heavy, sticky cookie dough.  
Cover the dough and allow to rest while gathering supplies for the rest of the recipe and allowing the stove to preheat.  Or, if you wish to finish this recipe later in the day or the next day, stop at this point and refrigerate the dough.  Once you begin cooking, you're in it until the end!

When ready, divide the dough in half.  Turn it out onto a floured surface and roll it into a log, like you were rolling snakes from Play-Doh in school.  

When the logs are ready, place them on a cookie sheet several inches apart and flatten slightly.  

(Don't worry you  OCD folks, I did fix that thumbprint in the log above.)  :-)

Bake at 375 degrees for about 25-30 minutes.  Begin checking the logs at the 15 minute mark, as temperatures can vary for ovens, and your oven may cook faster than my oven.  Loaves are done when the middles are touched lightly and spring back. Do not allow to burn on the bottom.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes. Do not cool any longer, as once these cool significantly they will not be able to be sliced without breaking apart.

Slice into 1-2 inch slices on the diagonal.  I have found it is easiest to use a long, serrated bread knife and to use a pressing and rocking motion rather than a slicing/sliding motion.  This keeps the sides of the loaves from tearing loose.  Place slices on their sides on the cookie sheet.

Place back in the oven and set oven temperature to 200 degrees.  Allow to dry for 10 minutes.  Remove the slices from the oven, flip all of them over to the opposite side, place back in the oven, and allow them to dry for another 10 minutes.  Remember:  The point of placing them back in the oven is to speed the drying process, not to toast them, thus the low oven temperature.  

Remove biscotti from the oven and allow to cool and dry completely.  Store in tins or covered containers and enjoy dunked in your favorite coffee, tea, or hot chocolate... and it's not bad dunked in milk, either!

This is like cookies and milk for grownups!

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