Guilty as charged. I hadn’t meant to abandon this space, but February blitzed by in a whirlwind. A few busy weeks at school, a big swim meet, and, of course, Mardi Gras! and here we are nearing the end of this short month. At least I had this holiday week off of school to relax. I brought some cookies to make up for it. Well, I brought the recipe at least. You’ll have to make them yourself.
These biscotti taste just like richly spiced, deeply flavored oatmeal raisin cookies, crammed with golden raisins and with the nutty, rich flavor of toasted pecans. They are crunchy, crisp, and break off into dry little crumbs when you bite into one (see photos for evidence), thanks to the trademark double bake at a low temperature that dries out the cookies. Dry cookies? Sounds…not good. But these are great. A crispy bite is the hallmark of good biscotti. I find that sometimes biscotti aren’t completely dried out and made crisp and crunchy by the second bake, but low and slow proves to have the perfect effect, a technique I hope to try with other biscotti recipes.
These have a way of begging you to eat them for breakfast, in part due to their resemblance to a nice bowl of oatmeal. They certainly play well in the morning, having only two modest tablespoons of oil, dried fruit, nuts (yay protein), oats, and even whole-wheat flour, if you like. Biscotti also have a long shelf life, making them perfect for sending away (lucky recipients have included college siblings). Even though I made these almost three weeks ago, they are as delicious as ever.
Oatmeal Raisin Biscotti
adapted from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco
Makes 3-4 dozen, depending on size
I tweaked this recipe here and there. I added instructions for a homemade version of maple sugar, a hard-to-find and expensive ingredient, although you can use brown sugar instead. I added orange zest for bright contrast, nutmeg because I like it, and increased the vanilla and cinnamon. Also, you can play around with the ratio of flours, keeping in mind the different effects whole-wheat flour will have on your dough. I also listed many ways you can go wild with this recipe; there are really endless variations you can try.
3/4 cup pecans
3/4 cup maple sugar or 3/4 cup sugar (granulated or brown) + 2 tablespoons maple syrup (for homemade maple sugar) or 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons orange zest (I used 1 teaspoon, and it was barely noticeable; I’d use 2 teaspoons next time.)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (or use 1/2 cup oats and 1/2 cup oat flour)
1 3/4 cups flour (DeMasco lists 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour. I used 1 cup white-whole wheat flour and 3/4 all-purpose and really couldn’t tell the difference. You could probably use 1 cup whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup all-purpose flour.)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used spicy Vietnamese cinnamon.)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup dark molasses
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used canola oil.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup golden raisins (or regular raisins)
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Toast pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet until they are browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Let cool, and chop roughly. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
If you are making a homemade maple sugar imitation, stir 2 tablespoons maple syrup into 3/4 cup sugar (granulated or brown). Regardless of what sugar (real maple sugar, homemade maple sugar, or plain brown sugar) you are using, rub the orange zest into the sugar so it is fragrant and moist.
In a food processor or blender, process 1/2 cup oats to make a fine flour. (Omit this step if using oat flour.)
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, mix together the orange sugar, oat flour, remaining 1/2 cup oats, flour(s), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, molasses, oil, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. The dough should be dark, dense, and sticky. Mix in the pecan and raisins just until combined.
Dump the dough onto a floured surface and divide in half. Shape each half into a skinny 2 x 16-inch log and carefully transfer onto the baking sheet, placing them about 2 inches apart. (If you like, you can nix the whole floured surface part and instead divide the dough in the bowl and shape it on the baking sheet.)
Bake until the logs are golden and firm, about 30 minutes, rotating the sheet once. Allow the logs, still on the parchment paper, to cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack.
Reduce the oven temperature to 250° F. Transfer the warm logs to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut them on the diagonal into 1/3 to 2/3 inch thick slices. Arrange the slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake again until the biscotti are dry, firm, and crisp, about 1 hour. Let the sheet of biscotti cool completely on a wire rack.
The biscotti can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month. (Nice shelf life, eh?)
Variations: DeMasco offers three variations, and I’ve added some further suggestions to them:
Oatmeal Apricot Biscotti: Use 3/4 cup roughly chopped toasted almonds in place of the pecans and 3/4 cup chopped dried apricots instead of raisins. I’d also use honey instead of molasses, use granulated or brown sugar in place of the maple sugar, add 3/4 teaspoon almond extract (or more or less to taste), and omit the spices if desired, although I think the contrast provided by the warm flavor of the spices would be interesting.
Oatmeal Blueberry Biscotti: Use 3/4 cup roughly chopped toasted unsalted pistachios in place of the pecans and 3/4 cup dried blueberries instead of raisins. I’d also recommend using honey instead of molasses, adding 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, adding 1 teaspoon lemon zest, using granulated or brown sugar instead of maple sugar, and omitting or swapping the spices if desired.
Oatmeal Cherry Biscotti: Use 3/4 cup roughly chopped toasted walnuts in place of the pecans and use 3/4 cup chopped dried cherries instead of raisins. I’d also add 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.
Play around with this recipe; it adapts easily with different combinations of nuts (pecans, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts), dried fruit (raisins, apricots, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, currants), flours (white, wheat, white-wheat, or a mix), liquid (honey, molasses, maple syrup, golden syrup) and dry sweeteners (granulated, brown, and/ore maple sugar), spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger), extracts (vanilla, almond), zests (lemon, orange), etc.