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December 4, 2021

Crunchy Biscotti Recipe

The Semifreddis Bakery Cafe on Claremont Ave, Berkeley closed, leaving me without a close, reliable source for their excellent biscotti. And also leaving me with no choice but to attempt replicating their tasty treats at home. I tried half a dozen recipes that I found online, and they all came up short in one way or another.

The most promising recipe I could find came from Madeleine Kamman’s The New Making of a Cook and, over the course of three years, I have tried literally a dozen variations on it. What I like most about the Semifreddis biscuit is how airy it is. By version 12, I had upped the baking powder to double Ms Kamman’s recommendation (and learned to love Clabber Girl) in order to get the loaves to rise significantly during baking.

Early on, with version 2, I decided that my biscotti would have glazed ginger bits. Definitely not part of the original vision, but they add a wonderful dimension, and I’m keeping them. This year, starting with version 10, I tried adding dried cranberries to the mix, and they’re staying too.

A note of caution: these things are dangerously addicting! Make sure you have a plan in place to give away most of the cookies in a batch before you lay them all out on the counter, and have them sitting there looking at you.


Ingredients

  • 2 cups sifted Tipo Fino flour
  • 2.5 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups cane sugar Don’t recommend Demerra or Turbinado; crystals are too hard, and take too long to dissolve
  • large pinch salt
  • 3 large eggs lightly beaten with white from 1 additional egg
  • 0.25 cup dry Marsala
  • 1.5 cups of dried fruit and nuts. Suggest honey-roasted almonds, dried cranberries, and glazed ginger nuggets, all available in Berkeley Bowl bulk section.
  • 0.5 pounds dark chocolate for dipping (optional) I like to use Guittard bittersweet baking wafers
  • Vin Santo, for dunking

Special Equipment


Prep

  • preheat oven to 325F, normal bake setting
  • sift together flours and baking powder in large mixing bowl
  • make a well in the flour, add salt, sugar, Marsala, and egg mixture
  • gradually gather flour into the liquid ingredients
  • add nuts and dried fruit, working into the dough. You may want to work the dough with your hands until liquid is evenly permated throughout, and you can form four large balls.
  • work each of the four dough balls into loaves, about 7 x 2.5 x .75 inches

1st Bake

  • place loaves on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or (better) silicone baking mats
  • bake at 325F until loaves are medium beige; verify that a toothpick inserted at thickest part comes out dry.
  • remove loaves from oven, and place them on wire cooling racks until completely cool

2nd Bake

  • set oven to 250F, convection setting
  • slice each loaf into quarter- or half-inch cookies with a large, very sharp knife. If you like, try slicing on a slight diagonal for a slightly irregular mix of longer and shorter cookies.
  • lay out the cookies in the baking sheet(s), on wire racks if possible (highly recommended)
  • return cookies to oven for up to 40 minutes, checking every 10 minutes flip the cookies every 10 minutes if you’re not using a wire rack
  • remove cookies when they’re evenly beige throughout

Chocolate Dip (Optional)

  • melt half a pound of chocolate in a double-boiler
  • pour a shallow layer of ice into one of the pans. Don’t overfill!
  • place second pan on top of ice, and line with wax paper
  • dip cookies one by one into the molten chocolate, standing them upright on long, flat bottom edge
  • place dipped cookies onto wax-papered sheet. They should stand up on their own, each in a small chocolate puddle
  • gently pry them loose when chocolate has set, about 5 minutes later