I’ll just reveal my partiality now: the classic combination of cherry and almond is perhaps my very favorite pairing, so fittingly, these are my favorite biscotti. (And before you roll your eyes at the fact that I just declared I had a favorite biscotti—I know, I know, it’s a ridiculous category. Favorite cookie, maybe, but who has a favorite biscotti? Ahem.) Anyway, here’s why I think they’re so great: they are a little bit chewy yet have some crunch from the slivered almonds (even more if you toast the almonds), the dark chocolate dunk provides a bittersweet contrast to the chewy, candy-sweet dried cherries, and they’re double baked (biscotti in Italian means twice baked) to a golden brown.
Unlike most cookies, where you want a juxtaposition of textures (crisp around the edges, gooey and chewy in the middle), the goal for biscotti is to bake them golden brown atop and perfectly crisp all the way through (but not dry or stale). Almond extract and vanilla underscore the floral notes of cherry and almond. To me, these biscotti are nearing the ideal in texture and taste (nearing, of course, because can the ideal ever be reached? It’s like an asymptote…aaannnddd too much math and philosophical musings.)
I’ve made these several times (see above: favorite biscotti) yet somehow they’re only making an appearance now. Always great keepers, biscotti are perfect for traveling; I have a tradition of baking these for our annual family vacation. I layer them in an airtight tin, and we munch on them throughout our trip.
Cherry Almond Biscotti
adapted from an AP article written by J.M. Hirsch, which was adapted from Tish Boyle’s “The Good Cookie,” and published in Times Picayune in February 2009 (hopefully that sounds less confusing than it just did typing it)
The original recipe was for cashew cherry biscotti, which would have undoubtably been delicious, but I couldn’t resist the sway of cherry + almond.
I’ve made a few changes to the instructions, namely in the shaping of the logs before the first bake. The original recipe directs you to shape the logs on a “lightly floured countertop,” but you’re gonna lose way too much of that sticky sticky sticky dough on the countertop/cutting board and your fingers. (I speak from experience.) I’ve found it’s easier just to plop the dough directly onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and shape it with heavily floured fingertips there.
Makes around 20 biscotti, depending on how you slice them
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sliced almonds, chopped (toasted, optional)
1 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped in halves or thirds
1 1/2 cups dark/bittersweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate*
Preheat oven to 325° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and extracts, then beat until smooth and creamy.
On low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix just until a heavy, sticky dough forms. Add the almonds and cherries and mix until just combined.
Divide the dough in half in the bowl. Using a spatula, transfer one half to the baking sheet. The dough is so sticky that it’s probably easiest to dollop it onto the baking sheet, and then, using heavily floured hands, shape it into a 12-inch log. Flatten the log until it’s about 2 inches wide. Repeat with second half of dough. Be sure to leave about 2-3 inches of space in between the logs, as the dough will spread.
Bake on a rack in the center of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the logs just begin to turn brown.
Set the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300° F.
Transfer the logs to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice the logs on the diagonal into 2/3-inch to 1-inch wide slices, depending on personal preference. Place the slices on their sides on the baking sheet, leaving about 1/2 inch between the slices. (Use another sheet if you run out of room.) Bake again for 18 to 22 minutes, or until the biscotti are golden brown on the top and edges. Transfer the biscotti to a wire rack to cool.
Once the biscotti are completely cool, melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water on the stove (double-boiler). Dip half of each biscotti into the chocolate, using a spoon to get full coverage (but avoid covering the bottom), and set on a wire rack to set. If you’re in a hurry or the chocolate is taking too long to set, pop them in the fridge.
Storing: Biscotti will keep, in an airtight container at room temperature, for a while, a week-ish. (If they last that long.)
*I mean, I guess you could omit the chocolate if you really wanted to, but no one would be very happy about it.