I bought a bag of hazelnuts last month, and I’ve been looking for things to do with them ever since. I’d bookmarked this recipe for chocolate hazelnut biscotti a while back, but only recently did I realise that this recipe used ingredients (other than the hazelnuts) that would already be in the home of anyone who bakes.
This recipe is also Smitten Kitchen’s, with a few adaptations and variations based on things that are more easily available here in India.
I was looking for things (preferably chocolate things) to bake up this weekend, but I found that most recipes for cakes and brownies and things either called for butter or cooking chocolate, either of which I didn’t have at home. Then I re-read this recipe and found that I already had everything I needed for it at home. With my butter-buying expedition cancelled, I started prepping for the bake last night.
A few things I did differently
The original recipe specified a few ingredients that aren’t easily available here (also, I didn’t want to go out and buy a lot of just for one recipe), but could be easily substituted. I’m not usually a fan of substitutions, if things aren’t available I don’t make it until they are, but in this case I thought the overall effect would be retained without a major difference in flavour.
Espresso Powder Substitution
Since I am a tea-drinker, I don’t keep any instant coffee or espresso powder at home. I did however have a packet of Blue Tokai’s Attikan Estate Arabica at home. The coffee has an almost chocolate-like bitter-sweetness to it, which I thought would go well with the chocolate flavour of this biscotti. I brewed it in a South Indian filter coffee filter and used a tablespoon of the decoction instead of the tablespoon of espresso powder specified in the original recipe.
I brewed the coffee with three tablespoons (for about one cup’s worth of decoction) of coffee, but you could use more for a deeper, more concentrated coffee flavour.
Dutch Process Cocoa
Dutch process cocoa is hard to come by here in Bombay. I used regular cocoa instead. Regular cocoa is more acidic in comparison to Dutch process cocoa, which means it does a better job of setting off leavening agents (like the baking soda used in this recipe). The negative is that it might cause it to react sooner and get spent before it goes into the oven, so it’s best to work fast once the dry and wet ingredients are combined.
Piping bags instead of rolling out the dough
I found the dough to be way too sticky and wet to easily handle myself without making an utter mess, so I decided to use piping bags instead. I figured this out the last time I made biscotti, the results (especially if you know how to handle a piping bag with extra viscous content) are about the same, as the dough settles and eventually expands in the oven, resulting in a smooth overall texture.
I found this recipe a little easier to execute than the previous one. Perhaps it was because I used a smaller quantity (I halved the original recipe) and also because it calls for fewer processes (no melting butter, chopping almonds) and utensils. I made the whole thing using two bowls, one whisk, one spatula and one sieve.
I also like the recipe because it’s subtle with its sweetness (barely sweet in fact) and is more about the chocolate and hazelnuts. Without the presence of any butter in it, this is also a relatively healthier snack overall.
½ cup whole hazelnuts, preferably blanched (85g)
156g maida (all purpose flour)
28g cocoa powder
1 tablespoon decoction
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
130g sugar powdered fine
A pinch of salt
- Prepare the coffee decoction the night before.
- Pre-heat the oven to 175ºC. Lay out the hazelnuts in a tray over parchment and roast for 5 minutes. Then take the tray out, roll the hazelnuts around and roast for 5 more minutes till they’re evenly browned. They’ll get all shiny as they release their natural oils.
- Sift together the maida, cocoa, baking soda and powder and salt.
- Whisk the eggs lightly. Set aside two tablespoons of it to brush over the biscotti later.
- Add the sugar to the eggs slowly and whisk until it turns pale. This is where a major part of the aeration is going to occur.
- Add the teaspoon of decoction to the eggs and whisk to incorporate.
- Add the dry ingredients and mix them in using a spatula or ladle. Make sure you add it in small quantities so that it doesn’t get lumpy.
- Add the hazelnuts in two batches and mix till completely incorporated.
- Divide the dough and transfer into two piping bags. Lay out a buttered square of parchment in a 9″ square tray (I used two 9″ loaf tins).
- Cut a large hole (about 20mm) at the end of the piping bags and pipe out two logs of dough, one from each piping bag, along the length of the tray.
- Brush the surface of the logs with the whisked eggs reserved from before.
- Bake for around 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and rest for about ten minutes.
- Slice into 12mm slices along an angle (like in the picture above) and lay them out on the parchment in the tray and bake for 7 minutes on each side (14 minutes in all) (laying them all out with the curved bit pointed in the same direction makes it easier to keep track of the ones you’ve flipped, once you take it out of the oven after the 7 minute bake on the first side).
- Let it cool before serving. This recipe yields around 25-30 biscotti.