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~ The Holly & the Ivy: Tart-Cherry & Pistachio Biscotti ~

IMG_6819Bold and beautiful, bright-red holly berries, clustered amongst shiny, deep-green, pointy-edged ivy leaves, are colors and symbols we associate with Christmas.  Right from the first, meaning the first time my tart-cherry and toasted-pistachio biscotti revealed their sliced selves, I began calling them "holly and ivy biscotti", and, they're a great way to get into the spirit of holiday baking.

One biscotto, three biscotti & my version pales to none:

IMG_6803The word biscotti (three biscotti, one biscotto) originates form the Latin word "biscoctus", which means "twice cooked".  Biscotti, as we know them, are oblong shaped, dry, crunchy biscuit-esque cookies that get baked twice -- once in loaf form and a second time after the loaf is sliced.  That said, the word also references any oven-baked goods that get baked twice, until very dry, so they can be stored for a long time.  In ancient times, this type of non-perishable was useful on long-journeys -- they were a wartime staple of the Roman legions.  Traditionally almond flavored, modern versions have come a long way baby, and my version, which beside the tart cherries and salty pistachios contains pure, organic cherry and pistachio extracts, pales to none. 

IMG_67256 1/2  ounces salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 2/3 sticks)

1  cup sugar

3  extra-large eggs

2  teaspoons pure pistachio extract

1  teaspoon pure cherry extract

1/2  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

6  ounces chopped dehydrated tart cherries (about 1 1/2 cups)

6  ounces chopped roasted and salted shelled pistachios (about 1 1/2 cups)

3  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour + 1/2  cup additional bench flour

1  tablespoon baking powder

IMG_6735 IMG_6735 IMG_6735 IMG_6735~Step 1.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with parchment paper and ready a wire rack that will fit in the pan, a kitchen scale, a 12" ruler and a serrated bread knife.  Preheat oven to 350º.  Chop cherries and pistachios and set aside.  Stir together the flour and baking powder.  Set aside.

IMG_6736 IMG_6736 IMG_6736 IMG_6736 IMG_6736 IMG_6736~Step 2.  In a large mixing bowl, on medium- medium-high speed of electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, eggs and extracts, about 1 minute.  Add and beat in the cherries and pistachios, about 1 minute.  Lower the mixer speed.  In two or three increments, fold in the flour mixture.  Continue to mix until ingredients are thoroughly combined and a sticky, yet manageable dough has formed, about 1 minute.

IMG_6754 IMG_6754 IMG_6754 IMG_6761 IMG_6761 IMG_6761 IMG_6761 IMG_6761~Step 3.  Dust a wooden pastry board with 1-2 tablespoons bench flour.  Turn the dough out onto the floured surface and knead, adding bits of flour, in increments, as necessary, until dough is smooth and no longer sticks to hands.  Using a kitchen scale as a measure, divide the dough into 4 equal parts, about 11-ounces each.  On the same lightly-floured surface, use your hands to roll and from each segment into a 10"-long cylindrical log -- this is super-quick and easy to do.  

IMG_6779 IMG_6779Step 4. Transfer logs to prepared baking pan, placing them well apart and super-straight.  Bake logs on center rack of preheated 350º oven 16-18 minutes.  Logs will have doubled in size, will be soft to the touch and lightly-browned, yet, have a hollow sound when gently tapped with the knuckle of index finger -- they will not and should not have a crusty or crisp exterior.  Remove pan from oven and set aside until loaves have cooled enough to handle with your hands,  about 30 minutes.  Do not turn the oven off.

IMG_6786 IMG_6786 IMG_6786 IMG_6786 IMG_6786~Step 5.  Remove logs from pan.  Fit a cooling rack into the baking pan. Using a serrated bread knife, gently but firmly cut the logs into slightly-less than 3/4"-thick slices, 15-16 per log.  Arrange the slices, side-by-side on rack in pan.  Return to oven and bake on center rack of 350º oven, 8-10 minutes, until edges of biscotti are beginning to turn light brown.  Remove from oven and set pan of biscotti aside to cool completely, 1-2 hours or overnight (overnight is best because it gives biscotti a chance to air-dry a crisp up through to their centers).

Note:  Store in an airtight container, separating layers with wax paper, for as long as they last.

Serve 'em w/coffee, cappuccino & espresso, or, dunk 'em in your favorite sweet, red Italian dessert wine: 

IMG_6820The Holly & the Ivy:  Tart-Cherry and Pistachio Biscotti:  Recipe yields 4 1/2 dozen, 3"-long cookies.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; wooden pastry board; kitchen scale; 12" ruler; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; serrated bread knife; wire cooling rack

IMG_6708Cook's Note: Attend an Italian birthday or graduation party, bridal or baby shower, wedding or christening, etc. Name an occasion -- next to the biscotti, ricotta cookies will be on the table, especially during the holidays.  If they aren't served, you showed up at the wrong address.  Every family has a favorite recipe, but, aside from the flavoring, color of the glaze and sugar crystals or jimmies that get sprinkled on top, all recipes are remarkably similar. For another classic Italian Christmas cookie (which is super-easy and served year-round), check out my twist on ~ Let it Snow-Capped Ricotta and Coconut Cookies ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)


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