Saturday, December 8, 2012

Holiday Baking

Cinnamon is a Christmas smell. Like the piney green scent of fir trees or the spicy sweetness of narcissus, cinnamon is required for it to smell like Christmas. These cinnamon sugar biscotti are incredibly easy to make and absolutely delicious. Dipped into a latte so that the traditional snap of the biscotti is gently softened to a satisfying bite and covered with foamy milk - it's yummy milk and cookies for grownups.



2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, baking powder and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add 1 egg; beat well. Add egg yolk; beat well. Mix in vanilla, then dry ingredients.

Transfer dough to work surface. Divide in half. Shape each half into 9-inch-long, 1 1/2-inch-wide log. Transfer logs to baking sheets. Beat remaining egg in small bowl. Brush logs with egg. Bake until golden and firm to touch (dough will spread), about 50 minutes. Cool on baking sheets. Maintain oven temperature.

Mix 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in small bowl to blend. Using serrated knife, cut logs into 1/2-inch-wide diagonal slices. Place biscotti, cut side down, on baking sheets. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon sugar over each biscotti. Bake until pale golden, about 20 minutes. Cool on racks. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Store in airtight container.)


I have been making these for years and while this recipe is incredibly easy, the dough is a bit too crumbly to handle well. It helps if you add just a touch of water after you have added the dry ingredients, and this requires some judgment. You want the dough to just come together. Also, since I like the taste of cinnamon (that's the whole point, really!), I make the cinnamon sugar topping with more cinnamon, so that the mixture is decidedly brown and smells heavenly. The cooking times have never worked for me. I find that the first time in the oven should be closer to 30 to 35 minutes and the second baking should be between 10 and 15 minutes. At any rate, just keep a close eye on these until you find what works for you. Also it helps not to let the cookies cool too much before slicing them for the second baking. When they are too cool, they crumble. Use a bread knife and go easy to reduce crumbling.


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