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Chocolate-Cherry-Almond Biscotti

Chocolate and cherries are a great combination. So are chocolate and almonds. Fortunately, almonds are among the lowest in fat of all the nuts, so you can use a fair amount of them in these long, slender cookies. As with many chocolate desserts, the biscotti taste better a day or two after they are made, when the flavors have had a chance to meld. The cookies ship well, too, so keep them in mind for holiday gift-giving. If possible, use insulated baking sheets, which are constructed with an air pocket between two layers of metal, to protect against overbrowning. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted 
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder 
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda  
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 
  • 3/4 cup dried tart cherries, coarsely chopped  
  • 3/4 cup blanched almonds, coarsely chopped 
  • 3 whole eggs, plus 1 egg white 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract  
  • 1/8 tsp. almond extract 

Directions:

Position racks in the upper third and lower third of an oven and preheat to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets, preferably insulated sheets, with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well mixed. Add the cherries and almonds and toss with your hands to distribute them evenly.

In another bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg white, and vanilla and almond extracts. Pour into the dry ingredients. Using a fork, mix together the dry and wet ingredients, taking care to work all the bits of dry ingredients into the dough. This will take about 5 minutes. The dough will be dense and sticky. Divide the dough in half.

Place a piece of plastic wrap 18 inches long on the countertop. Transfer half of the dough to the plastic wrap. Lightly moisten your hands with cold water to prevent the dough from sticking to them, then shape the dough into a flattened log 12 inches long by 2 1/2 inches wide by 1 inch high. Lifting the plastic wrap and cradling the dough, flip the dough onto the center of one of the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough, flipping it onto the second prepared baking sheet.

Bake the logs until they are dry to the touch and firm in the center when pressed with your fingers, about 30 minutes. They will spread considerably and may crack slightly on top. Transfer to wire racks and let the logs cool on the pans for 30 minutes. The logs will still be slightly warm to the touch. Leave the oven on.

Carefully transfer the logs to a cutting board and set the parchment-lined pans aside. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs crosswise on the diagonal into slices 1/2 inch wide. Arrange the slices, cut side down, on the lined baking sheets, placing them close together but not touching. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and, using tongs or a spatula, turn the biscotti. Continue to bake until dry and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the biscotti to wire racks to cool completely. Store the biscotti in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks. Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Healthful Cooking, by Mary Abbott Hess, Dana Jacobi & Marie Simmons (Oxmoor House, 2003).