The moment I saw Ellen the baker, a fellow participant, pulling a tin of homemade biscotti from underneath her bed, I knew I was in the right place. Molly O’Neill’s Longhouse Food Scholars program in Rensselaerville, New York—a place where food would be discussed all day long and where a group of people from all over the country could gush about their shared passion.
Normally when I think of biscotti, I imagine long, stale logs of cookie, which you inevitably slobber on it as it cuts the sides of your mouth. Ellen’s biscotti are something else, something special. They’re toothsome and soft, giving way to fudgy graceful bites.
Of course, I asked Ellen to teach me the craft of making biscotti.
Ellen reminded me I should always sift the dry ingredients—a step I usually skip over—and later when it seemed like the dough might crack, she said, “It’s okay. At the end of the day, it’s just a cookie.”
While chopping chocolate, Ellen told me about creating this recipe during years of working in restaurants and bakeries. She made it her personal mission to take the idea of a biscotti but make it more chocolaty. We melted butter with the chocolate in a double boiler. Her trick is to use melted chocolate, combined with an under baked approach for a richer flavor and texture.
While waiting for the biscotti to bake, we were sitting writing and heard a friendly neighbor through the window, “What’re you all making in there? Chocolate chip cookies?”
Ellen sprung from her chair and said, “When you smell the chocolate take them out!”
Makes 24 biscotti/Ellen Gray
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder (Ellen uses Dutch Process)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 ounces butter
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
- 2 eggs, plus 1 egg white for a wash
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 6 ounces chopped dark chocolate
- 6-8 ounces coarsely chopped almonds (or your preferred nut)
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baker powder and salt. Set aside.
In a double boiler, or very carefully in the microwave, melt the 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate with the butter.
In a mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the eggs and almond extract with the sugar until fluffy. Add the melted chocolate mixture. In three parts, slowly add the dry ingredients. Add the 6 ounces of chopped dark chocolate pieces.
The dough will be sticky. Turn the dough onto parchment paper, form a ball and cut in half. Roll each half into a log, cover in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap, and slightly press the tops of the logs to form a flattened cylinder. Place the logs on a parchment-lined sheet tray. Mix the egg white with a tablespoon of water and brush all over the tops.
Bake for about 25 minutes. The tops will still be soft to the touch. Let them cool.
Slice the logs crosswise with a serrated knife into the size of biscotti you prefer. Then stand them up on a sheet tray again and bake at 325 degrees for 5-10 minutes depending on how crispy you like them. I would do closer to five. Then let the biscotti cool again before eating.