Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gingerbread Biscotti

It seems to me that as soon as we get Halloween out of the way every year, I am ready to get into the kitchen and start baking festive treats! Festive holiday treats, that is. And right up there at the top of my list of favorite holiday nibbles is Gingerbread Biscotti. I love anything gingerbread. I can't get enough of it this time of year. In my former life, when I worked for Starbucks, I was particularly obsessed with their take on Gingerbread Biscotti. Dotted with macadamia nuts and dipped in white chocolate, they were interesting and spicy and just so good.

Well, I have finally found a biscotti recipe that just may rival the Starbucks version. I'm always willing to try something traditional that contains unusual ingredients, and these biscotti fit that bill. They contain the spices you normally taste in gingerbread, such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. But then you throw in some ground black pepper and ancho chile powder (one of my husband's favorite secret weapons for chili) and these biscotti become over-the-top zesty and delicious.

My biggest concern with this recipe was, would they be too spicy? The answer is no, they're just perfect. I loved the addition of the pepper and the chile powder; both added a deeper warmth without burning your mouth. The biscotti dough was easy to work with; even though the recipe calls for you to cut the dough into two equal logs for baking, I just shaped mine into one big mass, and it worked out fine. I like to do it this way because then the very center of your mass remains kinda soft, and even after the final bake of your biscotti slices, they still retain just a hint of chewiness.

This recipe utilizes almonds in place of the macadamia nuts, which I thought was a great substitution. In the future I will try these with the macadamias, because i'm just partial to them. When you don't have them on hand, though, almonds are definitely the way to go. These biscotti also contain some candied ginger, which I had never worked with before until now. My verdict is: score! I loved it. The ginger zings you with added spicy flavor, concentrated in a little sugar-coated nugget. It's a flavor surprise when you bite into one.

Finally, I dipped the bottoms of my cooled biscotti in some white chocolate, then sprinkled my gingerbread men sprinkles over the chocolate. They turned out so cute, and they were unbelievably scrumptious. The added bonus here is that my two year-old enjoys gnawing on the end pieces. You know, the log ends that you never know what to do with? Turns out they make a great teeting biscuit! Who knew?

Gingerbread Biscotti
adapted from My Own Sweet Thyme
makes about 24 biscotti

1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground ancho chile powder
2 Tbsp. minced candied ginger
1 cup whole almonds, chopped
1/4 cup white chocolate, for dipping
Holiday sprinkles, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. One at a time, add the eggs. Blend in the molasses and mix to combine.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, and ancho powder until combined. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until just incorporated. Fold in the candied ginger and nuts.

3. Divide the dough in half (oops, I didn't do that!) and turn onto a lightly greased baking sheet. With greased hands, shape each half into a log approximately 3 or 4 inches wide and 1 inch high. Make sure the logs are 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until set in the middle, then remove from oven.

4. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Cool biscotti on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then remove to a cutting board. Carefully cut each log into 1/2-inch slices. Place slices back on the baking sheet, cut side down.

5. Place slices back into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Flip the biscotti over and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set biscotti on a cooling rack.

6. When cookies are cool, melt 1/4 cup white chocolate until smooth. Using a spoon or small spatula, spread white chocolate over the bottom edge of each biscotti. Allow each to dry white chocolate-side up. If desired, sprinkle with holiday decorations. Keep in an airtight container.

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