blue corn-pecan biscotti dipped in Mexican chocolate

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.

blue corn-pecan biscotti dipped in Mexican chocolate
makes 40-80 pieces
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup pecans-roughly chopped
1/2 cup blue corn meal
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla-Mexican if you can find it

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.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla to combine them. Pour the eggs and the melted butter over the dry ingredients and stir to form a soft dough. Do not hesitate to use your hands to knead it slightly to form a soft dough but keep in mind, the more you mix it, the tougher it will be in the dry stage.

To shape the biscotti, divide the dough into 2 or 4 equal pieces. Stretch the dough out so that it is the length of the pan, about 16″ long, and then pat it down to about 3/4 inches in height. The larger sized logs will be nearly 3 inches wide while the smaller ones will be around 1 1/4 inches wide. If the dough seems too sticky to work with, moisten your hands with a small amount of cold water and then shape them. Bake the logs until they are slightly firm and spring back when pressed, about 25-28 minutes for the large logs and 20 minutes for the smaller ones. Allow them to cool for at least 4 hours, or over night before slicing.

Preheat the oven to 350. To slice the logs, place them on a cutting board and carefully trim away one end using a sharp serrated knife. Slice the biscotti 3/4 inches apiece and place them back onto the sheet pan so that they are standing up. Place the pans into the oven and turn it off. Do not open the door for at least one hour. To check for dryness, gently squeeze a slice, if it gives, it isn’t dry. Repeat the process by heating the oven to 300 degrees, return the biscotti to the oven and turn off the heat. Check them after 15 minutes. Do this carefully to be sure you do not over bake them. Allow them to cool completely before dipping or packing them.

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.

this recipe also appears on where it is currently entered in the best edible gift contest.  to see it, follow this link and be sure to visit my page

semolina-pistachio cantuccini; tuesdays with dorie

a day late and a dollar short-almost.  thought this challenge was next week and nearly missed it. luckily, cantuccini are easy to make with this recipe from nick malgieri and the recipe from baking with julia is the same as this recipe on his website.  since i really did not want approximately 80 cookies in the house, i made one third of the recipe.  still, i ended up with about two dozen small, crispy cookies.
honestly, i am a bit of a biscotti snob.  when i first opened my wholesale only bakery in 1997, all i made were biscotti.  my husband and i sold them to nearly every coffee house in town.  my preference is for a softer texture and by softer i do not mean chewy or moist.  my biscotti are dry like a biscotti should be; the difference is that they do not need a soaking to bite into.  luckily, neither did these cantuccini when sliced according to nick’s directions-1/4″ thick.

 today also happens to be my husbands birthday.  he loves biscotti and i knew he would enjoy these.  to bake a cake for just the two of us is really a waste and with a cookie like these, i knew they weren’t going to get stale before they were gone.  the recipe calls for whole almonds and since i was making just a third of the recipe, i only needed 1/2 cup.  and of course, i didn’t have that many.  they quickly became almonds and pistachios.  just to make it interesting, i subbed semolina flour for half of the all purpose flour and added a little kewda water.  if you have never heard of kewda water, it is a floral flavoring similar to rose water and is quite common in indian cooking.  to find it, visit and indian or pakistani market, they are sure to have some.

 nick takes one step in slicing the biscotti that very few recipes follow and it is also something i learned on my own many years ago just by trial and error.  to get perfect slices with almost no breakage, you must let the baked cookie log cool completely.  wrap it up and slice it tomorrow if you have to.  the reason is that the internal moisture will distribute as the biscotti cools and when completely cold, the crispy outer crust will soften and prevent the edges from breaking as you slice through the log.  so listen to nick and listen to me-let it sit!!!

 beautiful, clean slices.  love the color that the semolina and the pistachio give the cookies slices.

 and this is how the log looked after i sliced it-see, no broken pieces!

the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee in the late afternoon.  too bad the husband wasn’t here to share them-he went morel hunting instead.  what can i say, it is his birthday-and i have a feeling i know what we are having for dinner tomorrow…happy birthday darry!

to see what the other bakers came up with, visit the tuesdays with dorie page!

holiday cookie round up: biscotti

each holiday season, i make cookies, lots and lots of cookies.  it is a tradition in our house to make all kinds of cookies and give them as gifts.  for my mother, i make apricot biscotti and if i can, i dip them in white chocolate.  they turned out beautifully this year.  the biggest surprise is that i actually did the dip by hand-no tempering machine since mine is out of commission until i can replace the probe.

for the round up, each day this week, i will be posting photos from a different batch of cookies that i baked for the holiday.  if recipes are available, i will include them or links to them.  each day this week, i will post photos from a different batch of cookies that i baked for the holiday so be sure to visit daily!

biscotti are such and easy cookie to make.  they mix up quickly and are easy to shape.

divide the dough into as many pieces as you like and stretch it out to form a log.

once you have the length of the log, work on getting the width and the thickness-it is best if the log is uniform in shape and thickness so that it bakes evenly.

bake them and let them cool completely.  contrary to what most recipes tell you, biscotti will slice cleanly and perfectly after the first bake only if you let them sit for 4-6 hours or even overnight.  the moisture within the log has time to distribute and soften the outer crust.  that way, you can slice them with a serrated knife and not have them crumble or break.

perfect slices with a light dip of pure white chocolate
all ready to be packed up and shipped to mom

for the rest of the family, i make something chocolate.  this year, i made marbled almond biscotti.

just like the apricot biscotti, the dough is portioned out.  the two doughs are stacked and are now ready to make marbled logs.

using a little cold water on my hands to prevent the dough from sticking, i stretch and pinch the balls of dough to make the logs.

before going into the oven, the are shaped so that they are an even width and thickness.
the layers remain separate and form lovely patterns in the sliced logs.
using my old ruler, i mark the logs every 3/4″ so that the biscotti are uniform in size.  
marbled dough is a favorite of mine.  no two ever come out the same.

hard to believe that the holiday season is coming to a close.  in the blink of an eye, it was the day after christmas…to see the rest of the cookies i made this year, check back.  i will be posting photos all week.

a tale of two biscotti’s-tuesdays with dorie

i must have blinked; somehow, it is suddenly tuesday and time for the next (tuesdays with dorie) post from baking with julia. even better is the fact that this month, we will do 3 recipes.  first up is the hazelnut biscotti recipe hosted by jodi of homemade and wholesome and katrina of baking and boys! be sure to visit either of their blogs for the complete recipe or better still, buy a copy of the book baking with julia and bake along with us.

baking biscotti is something special for me.  years ago, i developed a series of recipes for biscotti and we actually opened a small wholesale bakery that specialized in biscotti.  we baked more than 20 flavors and had about 40 wholesale accounts as well as a small mail order business.  fast forward 15 years and i have moved on; i no longer operate my own baking business.  however, i still get requests for biscotti and bake them as gifts for friends and family.  in my current baking job, i make them just to grind them into crumbs and make cookie crust pie shells with them.  suffice it to say, i was curious to try this recipe.

upon reading the recipe, i realized that i had the option to change the nuts used.  that was a good thing since i had a severe shortage of hazelnuts (none actually) and in the 105 (no not kidding) degree heat, no desire to go out to the store.  i chose pistachios and lemon zest to flavor mine since that is one of my favorite biscotti combinations.

first step was to measure out all of the ingredients.  since my pistachios were already skinned and toasted, i eliminated the blanching and toasting step from the recipe.  actually, whenever i make biscotti, i always use untoasted nuts.  the reason behind this is that they have the potential to become over toasted in the second bake and that can give the biscotti a bitter and burnt taste.

this is a very lean recipe.  by lean i am referring to the fact that the only fat in the dough is what is present in the egg yolks and the nuts.  low fat isn’t a bad thing unless you have dental issues because lean biscotti are hard biscotti.

the instructions for shaping the logs suggests flouring your hands.  with the number of logs i have baked, i can tell you don’t use flour, use a little water instead.  a small amount of moisture on your hands will allow you to quickly shape the logs without the dough sticking to them.

out of the oven, i let them cool completely before slicing them.

be sure to use a very sharp serrated knife for clean cuts.
pistachios add nice color to the slices

since i am also working on what i hope will be my next book, i mixed up a batch of my own recipe.  these are chocolate with almonds and coffee beans.  the biggest difference from the twd recipe and mine (besides the chocolate) is that these have a little less egg and a generous amount of butter.  that difference results in a lighter, softer crunch.  one guaranteed to be friendlier to your smile!

be sure to check out the tuesdays with dorie page to see the biscotti’s from all of the participants!