14 February 2011

Coconut Biscotti

Another Coconut recipe? After years of vocalizing my dislike for coconut, I've apparently developed quite the taste for it (or perhaps I just needed to use up what I had left :)). More importantly is the fact that this is my first attempt at baking biscotti. I have always avoided biscotti though I have many recipes bookmarked. Maybe it's the time required. Bake, cut, bake seems like a relatively time consuming task. Now that I've done it I think I'm going to be making biscotti more often. It's really not as bad or scary as one might think.

I originally planned on making this last weekend but it was my Grandfather's birthday celebration so I opted to make peanut butter cookies instead (we're a pb family) and there was no time for both. This ended up being a good thing since my Grandfather made it quite clear later in the evening that he has a strong dislike for coconut :). I can't say I was surprised by his reaction, knowing him, he probably dislikes it for the same reasons I did :) (must be genetic).

This recipe comes from Cooking Light and I suppose it is a bit lighter than a lot of biscotti recipes I've seen. It does not have any added fats, but let's face it, the coconut's got it covered. It's definitely not a “light” fruit. I played around with the recipe, which is to be expected since I'm a biscotti expert, this being my first and all. Change one: I used vanilla sugar. Why? Because I didn't have any other sugars. It appears I have walked through the baking aisle for three weeks and forgotten to restock. Second, I reduced the sugar a bit and replaced it with an equal amount of coconut ground to a paste. I really wanted as much coconut flavour as possible and figured that this might be a good way to get it. I'm not sure if this is common practice, but I was quite happy with the results :). I also increased the salt, toasted the coconut, and tossed in some almond extract for good measure. This last addition wasn't really noticeable over the nuttiness of the toasted coconut. If you have it on hand, swap it out for coconut extract, or omit it all together, your call. Oh, and in a shocking twist, I removed the nutmeg. Many of this recipe's comments referred to how invasive and overpowering it was. I didn't want to take the chance.

On the subject of toasting coconut: Wow! You can't turn your eyes away for a second. It browns so bloody fast. I had never done it before and the instructions I read said 20 minutes at 300 stirring every 5 minutes. My coconut was done in about 7 minutes! That's an insane difference. Next time I think I'm going to toast it on the stove top. That way I'm forced to watch it. It might not brown as evenly and the house might not smell as nice, but it's better than the risk of burning.

I was actually surprised at how quickly everything came together. Not a lot of ingredients, not a lot of prep work, just mix and go. Toasting the coconut was really the only extra step (and it's optional). I ended up relying on my mixer to knead the dough which meant I didn't have to add any extra flour. Granted my dough wasn't very sticky either. As well, instead of baking on one side and then the other, I took the tip to do the second bake with the cookies upright. I'm not sure exactly what the difference is, but I do know it's less work :).

The biscotti turned out crispy, crunchy, crumbly, and it just melted in your mouth. They have a very mild sweetness and the coconut shines through. The best word to describe the flavour and texture is pleasant. Exactly as biscotti should be. If you've ever had a digestive biscuit, the texture and flavour is kin to that but with the added richness of coconut. Perfect for coffee, perfect for milk, perfect for air :).

I am now curious about trying this recipe again with regular sugar or perhaps even light brown sugar just to taste the difference. And I can promise that this will not be my last coconut or biscotti recipe. However, it being the second coconut recipe in a month, I'm starting to wonder about other ingredients I have sworn off in the past. But please do us all a favour and have me committed should I ever attempt an arthropod cookie, cake, or other :).

~ Adam

Coconut Biscotti

Adapted from Cooking Light

Yields 20 1/2" thick biscotti

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (195g)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup vanilla sugar (100g) -- or 1/2 cup sugar plus 1/4 tsp vanilla, or just use regular sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp almond extract – or coconut extract
1 cup plus 1/2 cup unsweetened medium shredded coconut, separated – or if you'd prefer a sweeter cookie, sweetened coconut. You can also use flaked coconut but I would then add another 1/4 cup.

Preheat oven to 300F and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

To toast coconut (not necessary but gives an extra nuttiness to the coconut and makes your house smell nice) : Spread 1 cup of the coconut onto a baking sheet and bake on centre rack. Pay close attention and stir every 5 minutes until coconut turns golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a large bowl add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and whisk to combine.

Add the remaining 1/2 cup of coconut to a spice grinder or food processor and process until a paste is formed.

In the medium bowl of a mixer add sugar, coconut paste, eggs, and almond extract. Set to medium speed and beat until mixture has thickened (approx 2 minutes)

Reduce mixer to low and gradually add dry ingredients to wet, mixing until combined and scraping down the bowl as necessary -- it will be a very thick dough

Continuing on low speed, add toasted coconut and mix until completely incorporated. -- next time I think I will add the coconut to the dry ingredients first.

Attach dough hooks to mixer and kneed dough for 30 seconds – just look at the dough, when it's a single portion it's ready. However, it will not form a ball like a yeast dough. Alternatively, knead by hand in bowl. Since my dough was not really sticky at all, I did not require any additional flour.

Place dough on prepared cookie sheet and shape into a long rectangle about 15” x 3” in size, and keeping the thickness as even as possible.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until edges become golden brown (this took me 47 minutes).

Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Place cookie log on rack to cool for 5 minutes.

With a sharp serrated knife, cut cookies on a bias approximately 1/2 inch apart. Place each cookie upright on cookie sheet, roughly 1 inch apart.

Bake for 20 minutes on middle rack.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute before moving cookies to rack to cool completely.

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