Sunday, June 1, 2014

Jasmine-infused Biscotti

My first encounter with biscotti was on my trip to Florence in 2007. Enjoying the beautiful late afternoon wandering around Florence's ancient streets, I stopped at a little cafe and ordered a pot of Earl Grey tea and two biscotti. Also known as cantuccini, these twice-baked cookies certainly satisfied my sweet tooth. Traditionally made with almonds, I have experimented over the years adding different nuts and dried fruit.

The following recipe is one of my favorites - steeping the dried fruit in strong Jasmine tea before chopping them into small pieces adds that extra special flavor. I like to try different dried fruit and have used dried cherries, apricots, cranberries and pistachios for this batch.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs, divided
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup of dried fruit (tart cherries, apricots and cranberries)
2 tbsp loose Jasmine tea

  • Preheat oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
  • Place whole dried fruit in a bowl. In a separate bowl prepare Jasmine tea infusion by pouring 1 cup of boiling water of tea leaves. Let steep for a few minutes and strain the hot tea through a fine sieve into the bowl with fruit. Discard tea leaves. Allow mixture to infuse for 10 minutes. Drain fruit and preserve liquid. Chop fruit into small pieces and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl whisk together 2 eggs and one egg yolk reserving the remaining egg white in a small bowl. Add vanilla and almond extracts and 2-3 tbsp reserved Jasmine tea to the egg mixture.
  • Pour egg mixture into the flour mixture and, using a wooden spoon, stir to combine. Keep adding small amounts of Jasmine tea if the dough is too stiff to handle. Add chopped up fruit and knead to combine (I use my hands for this last step).
  • Lightly flour a baking sheet, divide dough into four parts and shape each part into a log. Place on lined baking sheet and brush with the reserved beaten egg white.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, transfer to wire rack and cool completely.
  • On a cutting board cut each log with a serrated knife diagonally into 1/2-inch slices.
  • Return slices to the lined cookie sheet, bake for 7 minutes on one side, flip cookies over and bake for another 7 minutes. Place on wire rack and let cool completely.

These are hard cookies - they are delicious dipped into tea or vin santo. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

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