Making cookies during the holiday season is something that I have done since I was ten years old; so, it’s like a tradition. Yet, I have noticed that year after year I have tended to make the same standard fare: chocolate chip, peanut butter, shortbread, gingerbread, gingersnaps, sugar cookies, etc. This year, just before the Christmas holidays, I decided to test out some new cookie recipes to broaden my repertoire.
This small project quickly transformed into something much larger than planned. A colleague offered to purchase some of these cookies for the holidays. This rapidly snowballed into a modest, but concentrated, cookie-making venture. During the week leading up to Christmas, I made and sold approximately one hundred dozen cookies. It was a bit insane. Yet, I did in fact test out some new recipes, and I had a number of taste testers to help me critique them. I asked a group of ten testers to rank the cookies on a scale of 1- 5 for taste, appearance and texture. My wonderful testers ranged from seven to seventy years old and, as expected, had varied palates. I thank Hannah, Benjamin, Josh, Debra, Doug, Michael, Karen, Sid, David and Alisa for their valuable input.
I made nine new recipes:
1. Cranberry Orange Cornmeal – Martha Stewart
2. Fig Pinwheels – Martha Stewart
3. Lemon Scented Almond Crisps – Martha Stewart
4. Cinnamon Walnut – Nancy Silverton
5. Brown Sugar Sesame Shortbread – Barbara Tropp
6. Pinenut Biscotti – Karen DeMasco
7. Chocolate Biscotti with Pistachios and Sour Cherries – Claudia Fleming
8. Chocolate Brownie Cookies – Claudia Fleming
9. Butterscotch Cookie – Sherry Yard
The cookie that seemed to stand out was Claudia Fleming’s Chocolate Biscotti with Pistachios and Sour Cherries. I will go out on a limb and say it is the best biscotti that I have made. Since it is so good, I want to share it.
Chocolate Biscotti with Pistachios and Sour Cherries
1 cup dried sour cherries
2 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3 large eggs
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 Tbsp coffee extract
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
7 1/2 oz extra-bittersweet chocolate, cut into chunks
1. Place the cherries in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then turn off the heat and let cool. Drain the cherries (this can be done up to 1 week ahead; store the cherries in the refrigerator).
2. Preheat the oven to 325F. Spread the pistachio nuts out on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven, stirring occasionally, until they are golden around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool (keep the oven on).
3. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and set on low speed, mix together the flour, sugars, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the butter and extracts and mix to combine. Stir in the pistachios, chocolate and cherries. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
4. With wet hands, divide the dough and form it into 2 logs, each 2 inches in diameter. Place on a parchment-lined baking tray and bake until firm, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely on rack.
5. Lower the oven temperature to 200F. Using a serrated knife, slice each log on the diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti on 3 parchment-lined baking sheets and dry them in the oven until firm and crisp, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to a wire rack.
Makes approximately 4 1/2 to 5 dozen biscotti
From The Last Course, Claudia Fleming