A comfort when you are ill, no matter what ails you.
A friendly voice on the phone.
A ready invitation for dinner.
A hug and a smile just when you need it.
Judy is all of this and more. And she asks for nothing in return.
But, she doesn’t turn down offers of dessert. Judy and I share an affinity for not-too-sweet after-dinner treats. And she is always ready to try any dish that emerges from my kitchen. When she and her husband Bruce lived just a few short stairs from me, I was always bringing down tastes of my creations — a white bean dip, chatzilim (eggplant), and quinoa – for an honest opinion. The sweet ones we often shared around a cup of tea or coffee. They critiqued some of my less successful experiments – a challah that fermented and two attempts at apple cake before I came up with this one that still does not meet Judy’s discerning palate.
Judy’s recent favorites are a nearly flourless chocolate cake and chocolate almond biscotti. I made these biscotti last week and brought over a tin for dessert after she and Bruce shared a pot of chicken soup to keep out the cold. A few days later, Judy returned the empty tin and requested a refill.
Chocolate Almond Biscotti
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts. These biscotti are very crispy without being hard. The recipe suggests that they are best at least 2 days after baking, but I find them pretty good immediately after baking and I did not find an appreciable change in their texture. The use of chocolate crumbs made from chocolate chip gives them a double chocolate flavor with small bursts of chocolate.
Makes over 3 dozen cookies.
- 3/4 C sliced blanched almonds
- 1 3/4 C all-purpose flour (divided)
- 1/2 C chocolate chips
- 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa
- 1 t baking soda
- 1/4 t salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 C sugar
- 1 t vanilla extract
Position racks in lower and upper third of oven and preheat to 350°F.
Toast nuts. Toast almonds on baking sheet until golden – start checking after 8 minutes to avoid burning. When you can smell the nuts, they are generally ready.
Reduce oven to 300°F.
Make chocolate crumbs. In a food processor or blender, chop chocolate chips with up to 1/2 C flour to make chocolate crumbs. The addition of flour prevents the chocolate from becoming a big chocolate blob.
Mix dough. Beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla until well combined. Sift in the remaining flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in this flour mixture, and then stir in the chocolate crumbs and toasted almonds. The dough will be very thick and sticky.
First baking. Using a spatula and floured hands, shape dough into long skinny loaves – either 3 12-inch loaves or 2 16- to 18-inch loaves onto a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Make sure to leave 2.5 inches between loaves. Bake for 45 minutes on the lower rack. Remove from oven and cool on the pan.
Slice loaves. Carefully peel loaves from parchment or Silpat, and slice on a diagonal (45° angle) into 1/2 inch slices.
Second baking. Bake again at 300°F for another 20-25 minutes. The easiest way to bake is to place sliced biscotti directly on the oven rack. Alternatively, you can place biscotti on two baking sheets. After 5-6 minutes, rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back. After another 5-6 minutes, flip all the biscotti over. Then, after another 5-6 minutes, rotate pans again. As you might guess, I prefer the direct on rack method.
Storage. Cool biscotti completely on racks. Biscotti may be stored in an airtight tin for several weeks at room temperature.