Spicy Hazelnut Biscotti {ModBak}

Today I present to you the first biscotti recipe in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge. Unlike the biscotti regina I made back in January, which was actually a cookie (biscotti is, after all, “cookie” in Italian), this is what I would consider a classic biscotti recipe. It’s twice-baked, very crunchy, and made for dunking in coffee or tea.

What makes these biscotti unique is the addition of lots of spices, including some that might surprise you — ginger, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, and black pepper. The dough also contains lots of hazelnuts, some of which are ground with the sugar, while the rest are chopped up and stirred into the dough. A bit of honey and orange zest round out the flavorings.

The dough came together very quickly, although it was a bit powdery after I initially mixed it up. I worked it on a floured board until it held together, then I formed it into a log, put it on a cookie sheet, and flattened the top. I baked the log at 350°F for 40 minutes, until it was firm and nicely browned.

I cooled the log on a rack for half an hour or so, then cut it into 1/2-inch slices. I put the biscotti back on the cookie sheet and returned them to the oven, this time at 325°F for about 20 minutes, until they were dry and firm.

The aroma of the spices filled the house like Christmas at grandma’s. They smelled so good, I couldn’t wait for them to cool before trying them. I brewed a cup of French roast coffee, grabbed two biscotti, and headed for the living room.

How do I describe these biscotti? Crunchy, sweet, spicy — all those things, but so much more. The combination of flavors is absolutely genius, perhaps Nick Malgieri’s finest work.

These would be a perfect for the holidays, when spicy treats are on everyone’s minds. But don’t wait until then to make them. They’re too good not to enjoy year-round.

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Sicilian Fig Bars {ModBak} — Move Over, Newtons!

When I saw this recipe in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of The Modern Baker, I knew I wanted to make them. I love figs, and I’m especially crazy about Fig Newtons. So I signed up for the official Modern Baker Challenge post and added figs to the grocery list. I have been trying to bake the recipes in this section in order, but once I had figs in the cupboard, I couldn’t wait to make these.

The ingredients list is short: figs, water, apricot preserves, dark rum, cinnamon, and cloves. And other than the figs, I had everything else on hand. After snipping the figs into a saucepan, I added the remaining ingredients, brought it to a boil, and simmered everything for 10 minutes or so, until the figs were soft.  I puréed the fig mixture in the food processor, then set it aside while I prepared the dough.

 

The dough for the fig bars is the same dough used to make biscotti regina. I made a double batch of the biscotti dough, half of which I used for the regina, and the other half to make these fig bars.

Beginning with 1/3 of the dough, I rolled it into a 12-inch rope.

I flattened the rope into a rectangle about 4 inches wide.

Then I spread 1/3 of the fig mixture on the dough,…

… folded the top half over the center,…

… and folded up the bottom half. I pressed the dough to seal it, then flipped it seam side down and put it on a cookie sheet.

I made three dough cylinders, which I put on an unrimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

I baked the bars at 350°F for about 20 minutes, until the dough was firm and golden. As I removed the pan from the oven, I inadvertently tipped it ever so slightly. Unfortunately, given the flat, rimless cookie sheet and the slickness of the parchment paper, that was enough to send 2 of the 3 cookie bars sliding off the tray and onto the bottom of the oven. Note to self: next time, use a jellyroll pan.

I let the remaining bar cool, then cut it into cookies. They weren’t pretty, but they were delicious. Both the dough and filling reminded me of my beloved Fig Newtons, especially in texture. But the filling was much more flavorful. The apricot preserves added a little citrusy sweetness, while the rum, cinnamon, and cloves gave it a spicy depth.

My fig bars could never pass for Fig Newtons. But I would pass up Newtons for these fig bars any day.

Speculoos {FFwD}

This week for French Fridays with Dorie I chose Speculoos — sweet, spicy, crispy cookies that beg to be dipped in coffee and are perfect for Christmas.

The dough is sweetened with granulated and brown sugars. The spiciness comes from ginger, cloves, and a healthy dose of cinnamon. After mixing the dough, I divided it in half and patted one piece into a rough circle, which I then rolled between two pieces of waxed paper.

I rolled out the other half of the dough and then put both sheets of dough into the refrigerator. The recipe says to chill the dough for at least three hours. I made the dough on Sunday and baked it on Tuesday. It held up well (the recipe says it will keep in the refrigerator for three days), although it did dry out a bit. I reread the recipe and noted that, while the recipe itself only mentions wrapping the dough in plastic wrap to freeze it, the sidebar says to wrap it if you’re going to keep it in the fridge for a few days, too. I also found that the waxed paper on top of and between the sheets of dough stuck to them a bit, and the dough had to be handled very gently as it had a tendency to crack.

Dorie uses a 1 1/4-inch round scalloped cutter to cut her Speculoos. The smallest cutter I had was 1 1/2 inches, which was still very small.

I cut out a pan of cookies and let my daughter cut out a few gingerbread people with the rest of the dough.

There is gingerbread dough in the fridge, and we will most likely bake and decorate Christmas cookies this weekend, so I didn’t bother gathering and rerolling the dough. One pan of Speculoos seemed like enough.

I baked the cookies in a 350°F oven for about 11 minutes, just a bit longer than the recipe says to bake them. They smelled really good baking, almost like a cinnamon-scented candle. I let the Speculoos cool for a few minutes before sampling them. They were delicious. The cinnamon flavor was prominent but not overpowering. You could easily change the taste of these cookies by altering the kind or amount of spices. Had I added more ginger and less cinnamon, they would have tasted like crisp gingerbread cookies.

These cookies are perfect for dunking in coffee or tea. And cut into small circles, they would be perfect for a holiday party.

I enjoyed making and eating these cookies, and only wish that I had rerolled the scraps of dough to make more of them.