When my husband and I first opened our wholesale only bakery, we specialized in biscotti. With a couple tried and true base recipes, we were able to offer our customers more than 20 different flavors with a choice of chocolate dips. My personal obsession with organic blue cornmeal led me to develop a recipe that included pecans and spices and I would dip them in a blend of Mexican and semisweet chocolates which gives the chocolate a slightly grainy appearance from the sugar crystals. While they weren’t our top selling flavor, they certainly were one of our favorites. The bakery has long since closed and we have moved on but those biscotti, they make appearances in gift packages frequently.
In my opinion, biscotti should not be so hard that they need to be dunked to enjoy them. The cornmeal in the recipe helps to increase the softness of this recipe and to add a slightly sandy texture. The combination of cinnamon and ground chili give a depth and warmth to the flavor profile while the pecans add a little more crunch along with their wonderful buttery-nut flavor. Then there is the chocolate used in the dipping; Ibarra chocolate has long since been a secret weapon in my baking arsenal. Do yourself the favor and seek it out for the most authentic tasting Mexican chocolate. However, if blue cornmeal is not available, use any other whole grain cornmeal, white or yellow, but make sure it is just cornmeal without any other ingredients such as leaveners or lime added. When baking biscotti, don’t be tempted to use pretoasted nuts. The second bake to dry the biscotti can scorch the nuts and give them a bitter taste so always use raw nuts.
The dough can be shaped into 2 large logs or 4 small logs and when I am sharing these, I will bake them into small logs so that I have plenty to fill the packages. The secret to perfect slicing is to let the logs sit overnight before cutting them. The moisture in the log will distribute evenly and soften the edges preventing them from crumbling as you slice, of course it also goes without saying that using a sharp, serrated knife will also ensure clean cuts. Since biscotti are dried, they have a long shelf life making these the perfect gift to share since you can make them well ahead (as long as a month) of the madness and store them air tight till it is time to pass them out!
Mexican chocolate tends to be a bit grainy. The reason is that most of the popular brands are meant to be used to make hot chocolate drinks and the sugar crystals which are whole and visible when you chop up the disks, melt when heated. Usually, the chocolate is flavored with cinnamon and at times, almonds to further add depth and character to hot chocolate or any other item you might make with it.
When I blend in Mexican chocolate to dip biscotti, the crystals remain visible since the chocolate is not heated enough to melt them. While some may find this objectionable, I like the texture it adds and it gives the final product a unique appearance.
biscotti have long been a favorite homemade gift for sharing in my kitchen. they hold up well for weeks if kept air tight and that means they are around after the holidays when you may actually have time to brew a cup of tea or coffee and actually enjoy them. to package them, buy a tea cup and saucer set from the thrift store and fill it with biscotti. depending on how large the cup is, the one above is actually pretty small, you could also throw in a few tea bags or a sample size packet of coffee. wrap it in cello and tie it up with a ribbon-picture perfect!
you could also just stack them and wrap them like the biscotti on the left and in the center. if you are frugal, save the trays that produce comes in, wash them and fill them as I did in the package on the right. the black box came with mushrooms in it and when we used them up, I simply washed and dried it and lined it with tissue paper before filling it biscotti.
Preheat the oven to 350. Line to half size baking pans with parchment paper and set aside. Melt the butter over low heat taking care not to boil it. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, pecans, cornmeal, baking powder, cinnamon, chili, baking soda and salt until completely combined.
Mexican chocolate dip
12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces Mexican chocolate, chopped
Place the chocolates into a heat proof bowl and set it over a pot of barely simmering water. Stir to melt the chocolate and when it is half melted, turn off the heat. Continue to stir until most of the chocolate is melted and then remove it from the heat. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and is slightly warmer than body temperature.
Dip the bottom of each cookie into the chocolate and place it upright on a tray lined with parchment paper to set. If it is a warm or humid day, refrigerating it for 5-10 minutes will speed up the process but do not leave the pans in the fridge any longer than that or you will lose your shine on the chocolate.
When the chocolate is fully hardened, remove the biscotti from the paper and pack them up airtight to keep them crispy. Be sure to keep them away from warm or sunny spots to prevent the chocolate from melting.