Sundays with Sparky: The Best Holiday Biscotti, Ever!

Sundays with Sparky: The Best Holiday Biscotti, Ever!

Light, crispy biscotti are actually a much easier cookie than you would think – don’t be worried about the whole “twice-cooked” thing, once you’ve done with the first bit, they’re no more difficult to make than toast from bread.  We’ve been making versions of this recipe for years now, but a few years back I finally hit on a flavor combination that says Christmas to all of us.

I know kumquats are an unusual ingredient – if you’ve never had a kumquat before, they’re a berry-sized citrus fruit that you eat whole.  The smaller the better – the large ones have seeds, which are very bitter.  Slicing them makes seeding easier.  They are delicious raw, just pop them in your mouth – nature’s sweet tarts.  They give the cookie a lovely warm orange flavor that makes you think of fireplaces and mugs of hot cocoa. (You can substitute orange zest, but you will need a LOT of it to make this recipe work – two full oranges’ worth. Use organic oranges.)

2013-12-05 07.24.594 egg whites (use large eggs, or buy them separately in a carton)
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla  (or just use vanilla sugar, or both like I do)
2 tbsp sliced fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tbsp sliced, seeded kumquats
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp mini chocolate chips (or 1 tbsp cocoa nibs)
2 tbsp pistachios

Prepare two standard loaf pans by lining them with aluminum foil COMPLETELY.  This batter is unforgivingly sticky, so you don’t want to expose your pan at all – to make it easier to get your foil into the corners, form it around the outside of your pan, then put it insided – and plug up any tears or holes with extra foil.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you….  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2013-12-05 07.31.37Since we didn’t have any shelled pistachios, I set Sparky to that task first – if you find a pistachio that’s hard to open, use another pistachio shell as a lever to pry it apart.


2013-12-13 06.01.45After he had a little pile, he chopped them up a bit and moved on to the cranberries and kumquats, which were sliced, sprinkled with 2 tsp of sugar and set aside.


2013-12-05 07.51.00-1Sparky used the whisk attachment on our hand blender to whip the egg whites and the sugar together – we’ve found that it’s a good idea to cover the bowl with a towel, because sugary-egg-white-spatters are really awful to clean up.  We waited for the “stiff peaks” stage, where the egg whites become glossy and the dollop that sticks to the whisk develops a point that stays upright when turned upside down.  (You’re now done with the hardest part of the recipe.)

The flour was carefully folded in with the baking powder, and then all the remaining ingredients.  (You can actually do this whole thing in the stand mixer if you switch from whisk to paddle at this point.)  Pour the batter into your two prepared loaf pans and spread it evenly.

Bake at 35o degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the cake springs back when you poke the middle with your finger.

2013-12-05 09.16.32Remove from the oven and cool completely – I recommend wrapping the loaf tightly and freezing it, especially if you’re using chocolate chips – otherwise it’s difficult to slice  (at this point, you can wrap it, freeze it, leave it in the freezer and slice up cookies to bake fresh whenever you need them during the holidays.)

Sparky pulled out our frozen loaf, and using a serrated knife (a regular knife will squash the loaf before it cuts it) he sliced off 1/8 inch planks.  I won’t tell anybody who ate the two end pieces…but let’s just say cooks get privileges.  We laid the planks out on a cookie sheet and popped them in a 300 degree oven until they were golden brown (about 15 minutes)

Your entire house will be perfumed with the scent of orange, vanilla and chocolate, as will the coffee you dip these in.  Enjoy!2013-12-14 05.56.55

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