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Biscotti: better once or twice baked?

Biscotti is a type of Italian cookie that, literally translated, means “twice baked.”  The cookie dough is first shaped into a long, oval log and baked as a whole unit the first time.  Then it is sliced into individual pieces which are laid out on cookie sheets and baked a second time to fully dry them out.  Due to its dry texture, biscotti is a favorite for dunking with coffee or tea.

My fellow Pastry Chef and friend Andrew Swartz of Andrew’s Pastries is known for his biscotti; it is one of his signature items.  He told me his secret is to bake the biscotti only one time, not two.  He came upon this discovery purely by accident one day when he simply forgot to bake the biscotti a second time before serving it.  Now he won’t make it any other way, and he has developed loyal wholesale customers far and wide who prefer to serve his biscotti in their coffee shops.

So I decided to try it for myself one day to see which I preferred: once or twice-baked biscotti?  I started with a recipe for Chocolate Cherry & Hazelnut Biscotti that I found in Cooking Light magazine and modified it slightly for the ingredients I had on hand.

I made 2 logs of dough and baked one log just one time, allowed it to cool, and cut it into individual slices.  The second log I baked the traditional way: sliced and baked a second time.

This is what I found: the cookie dough was so chocolatey and rich that the cookies baked only once tasted more like brownies than biscotti.  They were dense, soft, and chewy–rather pleasing in taste and texture.  They were not at all what you would expect for biscotti, but also not quite sweet or dense enough to pass for a brownie, so it was something of a “mystery” dessert.  Perhaps I am more of a traditionalist, but I found that I preferred the texture of the twice-baked biscotti if only because it was crunchier and was, therefore, more like what I expect when I taste biscotti.