Saturday, August 15, 2009

[Cookie 033] Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti

Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti

Bonjour! Salut! J'ai vu Julie & Julia hier soir, et maintenant je suis francaise et tres heureuse--mais je parle la francaise tres mal. Man, I took 4 years of intense high school french, and NOW look at me. Or, rather, look at my poorly constructed sentences and laugh at me. Anyway, I loved the movie, obviously, and really got a kick out of Meryl Streep's performance. I kept trying to draw parallels between the Julie-Julia relationship and my Lizzie-Martha relationship, but really, they are very very different. For one, Julie's quest was much more extreme. For two, I don't necessarily idolize Martha (sorry, girlfriend!) like Julie does Julia.

Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti

But why am I talking about this movie? Especially when I'm about to discuss a cookie that is so quintessentially Italian: Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti! Oh, I'll tell you why. Because one of the main things that the Julie & Julia movie stresses is that cooking can be hard. You can have meltdowns. Stuff doesn't always turn out like it does in the book. And after you're done freaking out, you should shrug it off, learn from your mistakes and move on.

Butter Sugar

So, this is where the biscotti recipe comes it. It was hard. Quite hard. Actually, to be fair, only one part of it was difficult, and the result was rather yummy--but it was a tad frustrating. But let's start at the beginning.

Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti, pre-baked
Dough, pre-baked log

The dough is made of both flour and yellow cornmeal--equal amounts of each--and then studded with chopped pistachios and dried cranberries. Obviously, they would make very nice Xmas cookies, if you celebrate said holiday, but even if you don't the cookie still is very pretty. So you mix up the dough, form it into a log and then demi-bake it until the dough gets golden and a little cracked. Then you have to slice it up into biscotti. This is when I freaked out.

Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti, demi-baked
Dough, demi-baked and uncut

Disaster struck
A failed attempt at cutting the dough (sorry for the abominable photo

It just so turns out that slicing already crumbly dough that is filled with chunks of nuts and fruits is near impossible. Martha says to use a serrated bread knife, but the dough just crumbles apart as you saw through it. It wouldn't stay together for the life of it!! If it wasn't crumbly because of the crumbly nature of the dough, it was crumbling because the nuts and fruits are difficult to slice through. I ended up with a grand total of about 3 biscotti that held their shape. Fortunately, I could sorta mush the dough into place to get the cookies to stay together.

Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti, demi-baked
This is the best I could do!

In the end, they baked up nicely, but in my opinion weren't very biscotti like. Scones, more like it. But think about all the times you've had biscotti. It was hard, right? Like a brick! Or more like doorstop or something. Teeth-shattering and not so pleasant. These definitely weren't hard, but then again, maybe that means they weren't biscotti? I dunno, you can be the judge. Perhaps I should have formed the dough-log with more pressure and worked the dough more? Hmmm...whatever, I still have 2 more biscotti recipes, so I have time to master this cookie!

Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti

Okay, as for you, if you're up for a tricky little recipe, give it a go! The cornmeal is really yummy and they are rather purdy if you manage to cut the biscotti properly. But hear this: don't come complaining to me if you want to pull your hair out. Bon appetit! ...Or should I say Buon Appetito!

Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti

Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti
Makes about 2 dozen

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped pistachios
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Put butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar and mix until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs one at a time, until well combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture all at once; mix until just combined. Add lemon zest, cranberries, and pistachios and mix until combined.
  3. Transfer dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pat into a log that is roughly 14 by 3 1/2 inches. Bake until firm, lightly browned, and slightly cracked on top, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on sheet on a wire rack, about 15 minutes.
  4. Transfer log to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake cookies, rotating sheet halfway through, until they begin to brown at edges, 15 to 18 minutes. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 weeks.


{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 4.5/5
Ingredient Accessibility: 3/5
Tastiness: 4/5 (My parents adored them)
Attractiveness: 3.5/5
Is it worth it?: Hmm...if you've made biscotti and know something I don't, this is a good recipe! Otherwise, it's a little maddening to say the least!

Drink: Coffee. Espresso? Cappuccino? Choose your poison...
Song: Handle with Care -- Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
Activity: Reading poetry whilst wearing rectangular black framed glasses and a beret.


Marguerite said...

Usually when I make biscotti the log gets baked all the way through before I slice it. It looks like yours was still raw in the middle. This might be why it fell apart so easily. It also might explain the lack of crispiness. But I dunno, I've never tried martha's recipe. I guess just experiment and see!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Yes, I think you underbaked the biscotti the first baking time. Give it another try, but leave them in oven longer. I've got a good biscotti recipe on my blog - never fails.

diva said...

i always have problems with biscotti being underbaked. these look very pretty! awesome blog ;)

Patricia Scarpin said...

I have never made biscotti, can you believe it, Lizzie? Don't know why, to be honest. I absolutely love cranberries and pistachios together (used them in a panettone once, it was amazing) so this recipe calls out to me, even if I'm scared of slicing it in the first place. ;)

Lizzie said...

marguerite- thanks for the tip! i'll definitely try baking them more next time around.

linda- i'll be sure to check your recipe out! thanks!

diva- thanks!

patricia- try it out!! i bet yours will turn out great!

Kim said...

They looks really gorgeous with the red and green - almost like little jewels! I think Marguerite is right about baking them longer the first time around. Sounds like it will be trial and error with the biscotti, but that's the fun part about cooking and baking.

jfklds said...

these look fucking incredible with a capital T

Liz C said...

I have to chime in with a 'me too' - the log does need to be baked all the way through. Maybe make it a little longer/thinner next time, then slice them on a diagonal to get the good-sized slices. That might help your texture problem too.

They look like they taste wonderful!

the said...

Looks awesome cookies. It takes short time to bake. Its easy to back. Contains Cranberry. A daily glass of cranberry juice will treat diseases like cystitis.

jean said...

I just found your blog because I baked these last night and had a few problems with the recipe too.

I followed the recipe exactly and the log does come out underbaked (looked very similar to your photographs above). Perplexed, I stuck it back in the oven and decided to do the fork test (stick a fork into the center and if it comes out clean then it must be baked through) every 10 minutes of further baking. I ended up baking the log for an additional 25-30 minutes!

I set it out and let the log cool and then took a very sharp knife to it to slice it up. I have to say that I didn't have too much difficulty because I sharpened my knife right before this. Also because I used such a good quality sharp knife, I didn't need one with a serrated blade to help me out.

Keep in mind though that the cookies were still pretty crumbly to cut. So even though I got nice clean cuts with my knife, and even though I baked them for a longer amount of time, transferring them from the cutting board to the baking sheet to lay them on their sides for another bake in the oven was delicate work. A few of them sort of came apart during the transfer.

I baked the cut up cookies for 8 minutes on each side and let them cool completely.

The following morning I tried one of them and they were really really hard. I was planning to give them as gifts and I'm worried that they might be too hard. They taste great though and once you get past the rock hard exterior, the insides have a pleasing chewiness. I'm wondering if they are so hard because I baked the logs for too long?

Your first photo makes them look good. Crisp, fruity, delicious. I have to say that mine came out a little darker around the edges and they are rock hard. So I'm wondering if the log is supposed to be slightly underbaked in the middle and that I overcooked my batch.

Anonymous said...

biscotti is twice cooked - make dough into long sausage shapes and bake - trick is to leave a big gap between sausages so they dont stick to each other.

let it cool off a bit and then slice into cookies, lay flat on tray and bake again.

my credentials? I am italian!