I think if there is one talent I have in life, it is planning and logistics. There are few things in the world more beautiful to me than a well thought out itinerary that can be smoothly executed or a calendar that is completely organized. I love lists and schedules and plans. When everyone else complained about the first day of school in high school and college, I secretly loved it because it meant I got to go home and put all of the project and test dates in my calendar and make a plan. And if we’re being completely honest, part of the reason my husband graduated only one summer semester behind his peers after transferring into a five year dual degree program halfway through college is because I sat down with his degree requirements for an entire afternoon and made charts and did research about what classes he needed to take when. Otherwise he would have totally missed that Spanish class that was only offered once every two years (that may be an exaggeration, but you get the idea).
The funny thing is though, there are aspects of my life where I am completely not organized at all. Yes I make plans, and yes I have good intentions, but things just don’t happen. Case in point: my freezer and my pantry. I am so good at buying things with the intent to use them, but the amount of unused expired things I threw out from my pantry last summer before Evelyn was born was embarrassing.
Luckily my freezer extends the life of things a bit, but I still find things in there that have gone unused. I tried at one point to make a freezer inventory to keep track of, but it was just too much to handle. So things like hazelnuts have been sitting in my freezer door since last Christmas, waiting to be used. I did make some cookies earlier this year. But perhaps I got overly excited about buying hazelnuts last year, because there is still a bag and a half in there. I had dreams of gallons of hazelnut gelato this summer…but, well…I’m still not quite sure where summer went.
So, recently rediscovered, the hazelnuts have been partially used. I am such a fan of chocolate and hazelnut together, as I think is most of America, but the truth is that my favorite way to have it is separate but together. As in, not already mixed together, but chocolate and hazelnut separate that you take a bite of together. I know that sounds really odd and particular, but it’s the truth. I think the flavors are better if you can taste them separately first and then let them come together. So here we are with this biscotti: crunchy and crisp, perfect for a fall breakfast, and a perfect use for my hazelnuts. And now to search for some more hazelnut recipes. Because you better believe that even though I haven’t even used my full supply from last year, when they reappear in my store later this fall I’ll buy another bag or two.
I made a couple of changes from the original recipe. First of all, I omitted the tablespoon of espresso powder called for. I am in the school of thought that coffee makes the chocolate taste like coffee, not more like chocolate. But if you love coffee in your chocolate, feel free to add it back in. Second of all, there a few a notes about the hazelnuts that mostly boil down to this: hazelnut skins are stubborn, so prepare more than you are going to need so you don't come up 1/2 cup short. Also, this dough is almost more like a brownie batter than a dough, so be prepare with lots of flour while you work with it.
- 1 cup whole hazelnuts (or more if, like me, you can never get all the shells off)
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for your counter top)
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder (preferably Dutch process)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread hazelnuts out evenly on a baking sheet. Toast for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned and the skins on some of them are beginning to crackle off. Remove them from the oven and immediately place them on a clean kitchen towel (not terry cloth). Fold the towel over them so they are sandwiched in between, and rub them inside the towel so that the skins come off (I find you have to rub them for a good 5 minutes or so to get as much skin off as possible). (One note--I always find it helpful to toast more hazelnuts than are needed, because I always have a decent amount of stubborn ones that the skin refuses to come off of.) Set the nuts aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large bowl, mix the eggs with an electric mixer just until blended. Remove 2 tablespoons of the eggs and set aside. Then add the sugar and beat until blended on medium speed. Then add the flour mixture in 3 batches, beating on low speed after each batch just until combined.
- Divide the dough in half and place half of it on a well floured work surface (really...sprinkle more flour than you think you are going to need on your work surface, and then add more). Using well floured hands, pat the dough down into about an 8 inch square. Scatter half the hazelnuts evenly over the surface of the dough, pressing them down slightly into the dough. Then gently roll up the dough to form a log. Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet (you might need the assistance of a spatula or two). Repeat with the other half of the dough. Brush the tops of both logs (which will have spread out quite a bit) with the reserved egg.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, until the tops are slightly firm, but they don't look completely baked. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.
- Transfer the logs to a cutting board and slice slightly diagonally into pieces about 3/4 inch thick using a serrated knife.
- Return the slices to the baking sheet, laying them on their cut sides, and bake for 20 more minutes, until they are crisp. Serve at room temperature (and store in an airtight container).
adapted from The New York Times via Smitten Kitchen