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Palm Beach Biscotti with Pecans and Ginger
(recipe, Maida Heatter)
My friend Lisette Ackerberg sent me this wonderful recipe from Palm Beach. First, the easy dough is baked in two loaf pans, then the loaves are cooled and frozen (for as long as you wish), then sliced thin and baked again. Palm Beach hostesses compete to see who can serve the thinnest biscotti.
The slices are like sweet Melba toast loaded with pecans (whole halves if possible). They are plain but chic and classy — a pale golden color, gorgeous.
You will need two loaf pans. The ones I use have a 6-cup capacity and measure 8½ by 4½ by 2¾ inches. You could easily use pans that are a little larger, but preferably not much smaller.
- 1¾ cups sifted unbleached flour
- Scant ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- 4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 4 eggs graded “large”
- 10 oz. (3 cups) pecan halves (or large pieces if necessary)
- 5 oz. (1 cup) crystallized ginger, cut into very small pieces (cut into thin strips and then cut crosswise)
- Adjust an oven rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two loaf pans with about a 6-cup capacity. Dust the pans thoroughly with fine, dry bread crumbs and invert over paper to remove excess, but you should leave a rather generous coating. Set the pans aside.
- Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder; set aside.
- In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Beat in the vanilla, then the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time. Add the sifted dry ingredients and beat on low speed, scraping the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula and beating only until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the nuts and chopped ginger.
- You will have about 5 cups of batter. Place half in each pan; the pans will be less than half full. Smooth the tops. Then, with the bottom of a large spoon, form a deep trench down the length of each pan; this will help prevent a high mound in the middle of each loaf.
- Bake both pans on the same rack for about 55 minutes, reversing the pans front to back after about 30 minutes to ensure even baking, until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. The pans will be only about two-thirds full.
- Remove the pans from the oven. The baked loaves have a crust on the top, which would crumble when you slice them. To prevent that, wet and wring out a paper towel (it should remain wet but not dripping). Open the towel, fold it in half, and place it directly on top of (touching) one of the loaves. Then cover the top of the pan with aluminum foil and fold the foil down over the sides of the pan to keep the steam in. Repeat with the second loaf.
- Let the cakes cool in the pans.
- Cover the pan with a small cake rack and invert the pan and rack. Remove the pan. With your hands, carefully turn the loaf right side up without the foil and damp paper towel. It will be a shallow loaf. Repeat with the second loaf.
- Wrap the loaves in plastic wrap.Freeze for several hours or longer if you wish.
- For the second baking, adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds, and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Place a frozen loaf right side up on a cutting board. Use a long, thin knife with a sharp, straight edge. (The knife I use is called a ham slicer — or use a serrated knife.) Cut slowly and carefully. If the loaf is too hard to slice neatly (depending on the temperature in your freezer), just wait a few minutes and try again. The slices should be ¼ inch thick (thin).
- Place the slices, cut side down, right next to each other on an unlined cookie sheet. Repeat with the second loaf, or save that for some other time if you wish.
- Bake two sheets at a time. Reverse the sheets top to bottom and front to back frequently during baking to ensure even browning. Bake until dry and a pale golden color. It will take 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness. Do not overbake. Watch them carefully; as soon as they start to color, they can very suddenly become too dark. Remove the slices one at a time when they are ready. Transfer them to a rack or place them on paper towels or a large brown paper bag.
- Let cool and store in an airtight container.
Variation: Pecan, Pistachio, and Lemon Slices. Finely grate the rind of 3 large, cold, firm lemons. Stir the zest into the prepared dough, then stir in about ⅔ cup unsalted green pistachio nuts. Omit the crystallized ginger.