Saturday, August 3, 2013

Maple Walnut Biscotti (Mandelbread)

Call them biscotti, mandelbread, zweiback or rusks....these double baked cookies are not only delicious, but easy to make as well.  


Although the meaning has morphed, the English word "biscuit" is related to the word biscotti, which in Medieval Latin means "twice cooked."  As an aside, and mostly because gardening is another interest of mine, the Latin root "cotus," is also found in the word "terracotta," or cooked earth.

But back to cookies....twice baked cookies are found in many cultures. The cooking technique is ancient, a hard dry cookie (doesn't sound very appealing, does it) that was included in military rations (think "hardtack" during the American Civil War).  For an army or navy on the move the value was obviously in how well the biscuit kept; in our kitchen I'm glad that the cookie keeps well, but it rarely lasts more than a few days.  Eli recently claimed to have eaten 50 at one sitting after a long bike ride.

The baked product will keep well for a week when loosely wrapped; for longer storage I like to double wrap them and keep in the freezer, defrosting as needed.

Most maple-walnut biscotti recipes I've seen use maple syrup, some use toasted nuts. This recipe doesn't use toasted or roasted nuts (but I can't imagine it would hurt). When it comes to maple flavoring I use maple extract and  maple cream.  Maple cream is the product that results from further reduction of liquid while making maple syrup; some recipes actually call for you to cook down the syrup, so this is a time-saver in that it's already been reduced to a thick paste when you purchase it. As I mentioned in another posting, I purchase maple cream (and a few other items) on-line from The Green Mountain  Maple Sugar Refining Company in Vermont.  (This is not an advertisement or endorsement, I'm mentioning it to hasten any search you may need to make.)

In our home we don't use call these cookies biscotti, but rather "mandelbread or mandelbrot."  Mandel in Yiddish and German means nut or more specifically almond and since this recipe contains neither almonds or almond flavoring, but is still a twice-baked cookie. I'm opting for describing them as biscotti, a cookie-type which appears to allow for more variation in flavoring.

Equipment:
This is an easy cookie to make and requires no exotic kitchen equipment.  I hand mix the dough in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon.

  • Large bowl, wooden or other large mixing spoon
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • A good quality baking or cookie sheet (the cookies burn easily)
  • Parchment paper to line the pan (makes clean up much easier)
Choreography:
  • Ingredients are blended together by hand, in the order listed
  • Form 4 logs on a lined baking sheet, flattening the top surfaces 
  • Bake the logs, remove from the oven, slice while hot, allowing for space between each slice and bake again. Cool in the oven.
  • Once you can handle the cookies, place them in a container and watch as they seemingly (and magically?)  disappear......
Ingredients: 
1c canola or another neutral oil 
¾ c (5oz) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 t vanilla
1-2 t maple flavor (I use 1 t, some of my taste tasters recommended more assertive maple flavor)
1 t kosher salt
4 Tbsp (4oz) maple cream

1 c  (3.8 oz) chopped walnuts 
1 c (4oz) chopped dried fruit (the choice is yours  and depends on your tastes preference-  any combination of raisins, apricots, apples, pears, prunes, cherries, blueberries will work equally well) 

4 ½ c (20 oz) all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder

Procedure: 
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, position the shelf in the top third of the oven 
2. Sift together the flour and baking powder, set aside
3. In a large bowl, mix the oil and sugar. Add the eggs, extracts, salt and maple cream. Mix well
4. Mix in the nuts and dried fruit
5. Add the flour mixture and mix well. You will have a thick, oily dough
6. Divide into four portions, forming 4 logs, about 1.5 inches wide, 7-8 inches long, slightly flattened at the top. 

7. Slip into the oven, lower the heat to 330 and bake for 30-35 minutes,until the the bottom of each loaf begins to slightly brown. Remove from oven and cool for less than five minutes
8. Using a small, sharp knife, slice each log into 1- 1.5 inch slices, separating each individual slice. You can lay the cookie slices on their side if you have room, but this is not necessary. 



 9. Return the sliced cookies to the oven, lower the heat to 300 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes. Turn the oven off, leaving the cookies in the cooling oven. The cookies will be dry but not hard. The maple taste, for whatever reason, is more pronounced when the cookie has cooled for several hours. 
10. Cool completely in the oven, store in an airtight package. This cookie can be double-wrapped and frozen for at least a month


Yield: about 4 dozen cookies