Spicy Hazelnut Biscotti

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes about

    60

    biscotti

Appears in

The model for this recipe is an old Sicilian cookie called biscotti Napoletani (Neapolitan biscotti). Why a Sicilian cookie should be called “Neapolitan” is beyond me, but the recipe was shared in the late 1980s by Salvatore Maggio when I visited his pastry shop in Trapani, on the west coast of Sicily. I’ve made a lot of adjustments to the recipe over the years, and recently tried spicing it up, and it worked perfectly. Please notice that there are two quantities of hazelnuts in the recipe—one is ground with the sugar and the other is crushed to leave bits of hazelnut throughout the biscotti.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • cups (about 5 ounces/150 grams) whole natural hazelnuts (skin intact)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups (about 8 ounces/225 grams) whole natural hazelnuts, gently crushed into ½-inch (6-mm) pieces
  • cup water
  • cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
  • 2 cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans lined with parchment or foil

Method

  1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Combine the sugar and cups hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and grind to a fine powder, pulsing repeatedly.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the ground hazelnut mixture, the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Stir in the crushed hazelnuts.
  4. Stir the water, honey, and orange zest together and add to the bowl. Use a large rubber spatula to mix the liquid into the dry ingredients. At first the dough will seem dry, but as the sugar gradually melts, the dough will begin to hold together.
  5. Scrape the dough onto a floured work surface and squeeze it together. Divide it in half and roll each half into a cylinder a little shorter than one of your baking pans. Transfer the logs of dough to the pans, keeping them well apart from one another and from the side of the pan, and use the palm of your hand to flatten them slightly.
  6. Bake the logs of dough until they have puffed and spread and feel firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 30 minutes.
  7. Slide the baked logs on the paper to a rack to cool completely. Reset the racks to the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  8. Once the logs have cooled, use a sharp serrated knife to slice them ¼- to ⅓-inch (6- to 8-mm) thick—if you slice them too thick they will be unbearably hard. Reuse the paper from the first pan and line up the biscotti, close to one another on the 2 pans, cut sides down.
  9. Bake the biscotti until they are lightly toasted (you can tell when they’re ready because the pieces of hazelnut throughout them will look toasted), 20 to 25 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, place the pan from the lower rack on the upper one and vice-versa, turning the pans back to front at the same time. If you know that your oven gives strong bottom heat, stack the pan on the lower rack on top of a second one for insulation.
  10. Cool the biscotti on the pans on racks.

Storage

Keep the biscotti between sheets of wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.

variation

Hazelnut Biscotti: If you want some nonspicy biscotti, omit the spices except for the cinnamon. Omit the orange zest. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract to the honey and water. Almonds also work well in this nonspicy version.

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