Several months ago, the lovely and talented Daisy over at Daisy’s World did a giveaway featuring hazelnut flour and polenta from Bob’s Red Mill. As one of the lucky winners, I was tasked with sharing a recipe using one of the products. I can do that, I said. The moment the box arrived on my doorstep, with my winnings tucked securely inside, I tore open the bags and went to work.
I’m still working on finding a polenta recipe worth sharing–I slipped quickly into the tasty rut of topping it with crispy mushrooms and sausage, and haven’t deviated much since. The hazelnut flour, on the other hand, has gotten a serious workout. I’ve worked it into chocolate chip cookies, blended it into mole sauce, and used it as a crust for turkey tenders. But I keep getting drawn back to the most unassuming recipe I’ve tried: hazelnut biscotti.
They’re deceptively simple, these cookies, with the round richness of hazelnuts front and center. Unlike many biscotti recipes, which bulk up with butter, these rely only on the fat within the hazelnut flour itself. (Near as I can tell, that brings them closer to the spirit of the original Italian almond biscotti, which contain no added fat.) They’re pebbly-crisp and subtly nutty, with a breath of cinnamon for warmth and a kiss of orange zest for brightness. And they’re flecked with chopped hazelnuts–but finely chopped, almost invisible, not the massive tooth-testing nut-hunks you usually see in biscotti.
“Biscotti” translates to “twice cooked,” which is where the cookies get their unmistakable shape and nubbly texture. First, the dough is formed into logs, and baked until it puffs and sets, almost like a cake. Then it’s sliced, breadlike, into thin flat cookies, which are toasted on both sides until they’re dry and crumbly all the way through. These work best when they’re formed small and sliced thin, for maximum crumbly crunch. Once they’ve cooled and crisped, you could dip them in chocolate, if you wanted to. But I prefer them naked.
These are nice enough on their own, but they’re just about perfect with a cup of tea. Coffee or hot chocolate would work also, but good black tea is my favorite. Dunked in something hot and soothing, these biscotti make an ideal after-dinner wind-down.
Hazelnut Biscotti (makes about 3 dozen small cookies)
Adapted from Gourmet
Note: Make sure the cookies are completely cooled before putting them in an airtight container for storage, or they’ll soften overnight. If they do soften, just toast them in a 350º F oven until they’ve dried out and crisped up again.
2 cups cake flour OR 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour + 1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp hazelnut flour*
2 large eggs
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract, almond extract, or hazelnut liqueur
1-2 tbsp cold water, or as needed
1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts, toasted and cooled
4 oz melted, tempered dark chocolate (optional)
*If you don’t have hazelnut flour, place 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts in a food processor, along with the sugar, and pulse until finely ground.
Preheat oven to 350º F and place an oven rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour (or flour and cornstarch), baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add sugar and hazelnut flour, and stir to combine. Beat in eggs, one at a time, followed by orange zest and extract or liqueur. Mix until a crumbly dough forms; if it’s too dry, add water, 1 tbsp at a time, until it just comes together. Add chopped hazelnuts and gently knead them in with your hands.
Turn the dough out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a log about 10 inches long by 2 inches wide by 1 inch thick. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the dough is set and opaque all the way through. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let cool for about 10 minutes. Keep the oven on.
Transfer the dough logs to a cutting board and discard the parchment paper. Using a serrated knife, carefully slice the logs crosswise, on a slight diagonal, into cookies about 1/2 inch thick. Lay the cookies flat on the now unlined baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart. Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottom; flip and bake for another 10-12 minutes, or until golden and firm on both sides.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. Let the biscotti cool completely, then dip or drizzle with chocolate (if using) and let the chocolate set. Serve the biscotti with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate for dipping. The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 month, or 2 weeks if chocolate-dipped.