I am baking almost daily right now and Matthew’s charming take on very special biscotti will definitely find a slot in my roster, somewhere between the strong espresso and glass of Vin d’Orange. And always with close friends. Thanks, Matthew! -Maggie
Growing up in a large Italian family, there was never a lack of desserts or baked goods. In fact, it often seemed like each and every occasion had its own designated pastry which needed to be in attendance. The reality? I think my family just liked food, and there could never be enough of it for fear that someone might actually have room left in their stomach following a food-filled celebration.
One baked good that made the rounds on a regular basis was biscotti. Generally, the treat was presented at low-key gatherings, such as a small group of friends or family coming together at a kitchen table, accompanied by coffee and conversation. For me, biscotti is a more intimate baked good, served to those people of whom we were especially fond.
There was often a straightforward, run-of-the-mill almond biscotti. Sometimes there would be chocolate chips or even a biscotti half-dipped in chocolate. Those were really exciting to me as a kid (as were most things that involved chocolate).
This biscotti takes that chocolate excitement into account, but also adds in a few more creative elements. By swapping in cornmeal for the standard flour base, this recipe takes on a heartier texture and a subtle change in taste. Chopping up freshly candied ginger slices and putting them into the final mix also adds a unique taste. The spice of eating candied ginger on its own is subdued quite a bit within this recipe, creating a mild hint of the freshness and bite that is true ginger flavor.
The other element that stands on its own against all the other uniquely independent flavors is that of the fennel seed. Perhaps my love of this spice stems from my Greek and Italian roots, but there is something about this flavor that when used appropriately can add another dimension to many dishes and treats – this particular biscotti being one.
When making this biscotti for yourself, it is important to note that the cornmeal makes this mixture less binding than if you were to use regular straight-up flour. To counteract that, and to be sure your biscotti log holds together while baking and while slicing, the dough must be really compacted together on the baking sheet. When you think you’ve done a good enough job, compact it a little further. Doing this, while at the same time shaping your dough, will ensure a sturdy batch.
Enjoy this baked good with a warm cup of your favorite beverage, and add in friends to the mix for an even more delightful experience. If you have a unique biscotti recipe of your own, feel free to share your tips!
Ginger Cornmeal Biscotti
- 1 cup coarsely chopped almonds
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 orange, zest only
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 4 ounce bar dark chocolate
- 3/4 cup chopped candied ginger
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon anise (fennel) seeds
- 3 large eggs (1 for egg wash)
Preheat over to 350° F. Toast chopped almonds in stove top pan until lightly browned and aromatic. Remove from pan and let cool.
In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium to high heat. Turn off heat and add in orange zest. Let cool.
Mix together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda and anise seed. Add in 2 eggs one at a time, mixing well to combine after each egg. Add in butter-zest mixture and almonds and mix well. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.
Form the dough into a log on a pan lined with parchment paper. Be sure to thoroughly compact the dough well. Brush with a coating of egg wash (1 egg and tablespoon of water). Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Lower oven temperature to 200°F.
Carefully cut log into biscotti slices (you may choose any width you’d prefer). Once sliced, place onto parchment lined pan and put back in oven for forty-five minutes to an hour to dry out.
Cool on wire rack and enjoy.
Photos taken and styled by Matthew Petrelis.
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