As an antidote to the previous post, I thought I’d post a modified recipe from a celebrity chef I don’t hate: Todd English.
Known for his Mediterranean-inspired cuisine and his string of restaurants in Boston, Todd English has co-authored a couple of cookbooks: The Olives Table, a nice collection of fairly fancy but still inventive and doable recipes, and The Figs Table, a slightly more informal and family-style book. The books are both highly usable and very readable, my main criteria for decent cookbooks. Besides clearly knowing what he’s doing, he’s kind of cute and seemed like a decent guy (by chef standards) the couple of times I’ve seen him on TV.
The basic biscotti recipe in the Olives cookbook was quick, easy to modify, and a huge hit with my coworkers. I would absolutely use it again. Here, as inspired by Todd English, we have:
Walnut-Chocolate Chunk Biscotti
(Makes approx. 4 dozen cookies)
1/2 cup walnuts
2 oz. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon each grated lemon and orange zest
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Toast and coarsely chop the walnuts. (I used a frying pan to toast the nuts, but if you have the time and patience, the oven gives much more even and idiot-proof results.)
Combine the nuts, chocolate, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs, one at a time. Add the zests and the vanilla, beating well to combine.
Add the flour mixture and mix thoroughly, but take care not to over-beat the dough, which would make the cookies tough.
Shape the dough into two 8-inch logs on the parchment-lined cookie sheet, leaving several inches of space between them (chilling the dough thoroughly before baking will help reduce the spread). Bake until the logs begin to turn golden, about 20-25 minutes.
Let the logs cool just enough to handle (don’t let it cool completely, or you won’t get a clean cut). Thinly slice the logs on the diagonal, into 1/2 inch or thinner slices, then lay the biscotti cut-side-down on the cookie sheet. Bake the cookies again until crisp and golden, then cool on racks. (The original recipe said 5 minutes per side, but it took ten minutes per side followed by turning the oven off and leaving the cookies in there to cool to get a proper biscotti texture.)
Store in an airtight container.
Note: You could easily exchange the walnuts for almonds (the original nuts in the recipe, and most traditionally Italian), pistachios, macadamias, or any other nut you like. You could leave out the chocolate or substitute any other kind of chip (milk chocolate, white chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, etc.) or dried fruit. You could use almond extract instead of vanilla (also very traditional), and leave out the citrus zests entirely or boost the citrus flavor with lemon or orange extract, as you like. You could add ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, mace, or even finely ground black pepper, as my mom used to do. As long as you don’t mess with the butter-egg-flour-leavening ratio, it’s pretty much wide open.