Just let me tell you something real quick.
Whole wheat cranberry dark chocolate biscotti with flecks of orange zest, raw honey in place of sugar, and a generous drizzle of dark chocolate are sitting nice and pretty on my plate (ahem, hand) this morning, and with that, it feels very very verrrry good to be home.
Even though our house is crazy and we don’t have a kitchen right now other than a few small appliances – holla to the rice cooker – sitting on a workbench in the basement, I wanted to get things all nice and homey + cozy right off the bat with something biscotti-delicious that could be soaked in a steaming hot mug of very strong coffee. Because home is where the heart is, and the heart is where the coffee flows freely, and no one passes judgement when you a) wear your hair in a high messy bun for the 800th day in a row, and b) dunk and devour your third biscotti of the morning just because you happened to be walking by the plate and the chocolate zigzags were officially more than you could handle. It’s magnetic or something. Science.
I will admit, though: the coffee also flowed very freely on our trip last week, and I did eat more than my fair share of eggs benedict –> every time, you guys. every time. So maybe our travels on the road were actually a slice of cozy home, too? I don’t know. I think I’m still messed up a little bit in the mind dept. from the dizzying curves of California highway one.
Either way, there is just nothing quite like the feeling of slipping on your old college sweatpants, cuddling up with a blanket right into the tired and barely saggy spot on the couch, and knowing that you are in your place. Fuhreal.
Yesterday I had some cooking to do for a few projects I’m working on, and as much as I love my panini press and blender, those guys were not the team I needed for these recipes. I needed a stand mixer, a gas stovetop, and an oven.
Okay fine, I just needed breakfast.
And I mean the kind of breakfast that comes fresh out the oven and travels straight from hand to coffee mug to mouth, drippy and sopping and crumbly all at the same time with a rich chocolate intensity and zingy, juicy bursts that could make my toes tingle. Did I mention that these cranberry dark chocolate biscotti are all over that whole scene right there? Awyeah.
Since I didn’t have the equipment I needed to make my biscotti dreams come true at my HOME home, I decided to pack up my baking shtuff and head home. I mean my other home. The one I grew up in, and the one with a functional and large and very pretty kitchen that’s currently not being reno-ed, which is just a handy dandy one-hour drive away.
Ear buds in, podcast on, flour and honey in the backseat, and go. I’m a girl on a mission when I’ve got biscotti on the mind.
I got home just in time for a little Bible-study-and-caramel-roll time that my mom was hosting with some of her sweet friends, all of whom I’ve known for a long long time, so it was sort of perfect – I crashed the party to said hello to everyone, settled in the kitchen and not make my usual huge mess, and wondered what they really thought of my current life situation as they gazed upon me as a real-life grown up adult sporting a flour-crusted shirt with, once again, the messy bun, on a late Tuesday morning in October.
It just screams professional, right?
Biscotti. These cranberry dark chocolate biscotti are refined sugar free! That’s right: whole wheat pastry flour for the good-tasting/textural/healthful win, and a small scoop of honey instead of sugar because my heart adores it.
I may have had one too many granules of sugar on our road trip – like, did you SEE the donut picture yesterday? or wait – there’s actually two. my teeth hurt. and even though we did make a pit stop at VooDoo Doughnuts in Portland, we are actually trying to be somewhat serious about this sugar selective thing, which is why I’m really trying hard to make things that still truly TASTE GOOD and are not complete sugarbombs.
So now let me show you a picture of this–>
Sugar? Yes? No? What? It’s all so confusing. Ugh.
I’m going to explain a few things superfast.
- This recipe uses honey as the primary sweetener instead of white or brown sugar. We like honey. We eat honey. We buy it at the local co-op from a source we trust because we’re trying to be those kinda people. Easy enough.
- That chocolate hunk which is making your palms sweaty with delicious anticipation? Unsweetened. No sugar in thare. I’m not going to lie to your face: it doesn’t taste good to eat that sucker plain. You’re going to cut it up, take a bite, and be mad and confused that it doesn’t taste like a sugar high. Hang with me! Plain – resist the urge. But in the mildly sweet biscotti which is then dunked in coffee (see #3), you will love the rich intensity of it with none of the overly sweet aftertaste. Really, you will. And if you know you won’t, just go for regularly sweetened dark chocolate chips instead.
- These biscotti are meant to be dry and crunchy, which is exactly how I do not like my cookies. Buuuut in order to serve their life purpose of soaking up hot drinks and getting that perfect crunchy crumble, YOU MUST MAKE THEM CRUNCHY and YOU MUST DUNK THEM IN COFFEE. Don’t mess around with eating these on their own – no way, no how. These were made to be coffee’s perfect pair (or chai! or steamed milk! or something hot and yummy) so don’t cheat yourself. Just start boiling the water right now.
Thanks to my mom for her hand modeling debut – that picture just totally represents how it felt to be back at home, with a working oven, baking something dunkable and very delicious with my mom and her friends laughing and clinking silverware in the next room.
My last comment will have to do with the fact that there is a nice big handful of bright, vibrant, ruby red fresh cranberries in these biscotti-os, and if I am looking at my calendar correctly, we are roughly ten weeks away from Christmas. OH YES I DID.
- ½ cup salted butter, softened slightly
- ⅓ cup honey
- 2 eggs
- zest of one orange
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (plus more for dusting)
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 2 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- ½ cup walnuts or pecans or whatever nuts you like (or omit)
- 2 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter, honey, orange zest, and salt with an electric mixer. Add the eggs and mix until well combined (for me, the mixture looked a little funky at this point primarily because the honey does not incorporate with the butter the same way sugar would, but things started to look more normal as the flour was added).
- Add the flour and baking powder. Chop the chocolate into bite-sized pieces. Pulse the cranberries through a food processor and toss with a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of flour. Chop the nuts. Add all the "extras" into the dough, stirring until just combined.
- Flour your hands and the outside of the dough. Transfer to the prepared pan and shape into a long, skinny, flat loaf - about 13 inches by 3 inches. Bake for 35 minutes. After it's cooled, cut the loaf into thin slices with a serrated knife, staring on the short end, until the entire loaf has been sliced. Place the slices face down on the baking sheet and bake for another 15 minutes. Check for doneness - they should be getting browned and crispy. If they're not crispy, bake another 15 minutes or until desired crispiness. Set aside and let cool.
- In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and honey. Drizzle over the biscotti (a little baggie with the corner snipped will help it look nice). Serve with strong coffee, spicy tea, or steamed milk for dunking.
For a more "standard" sweetness, I would use dark chocolate chips instead of the unsweetened dark chocolate. But the unsweetened variety gives a nice rich, intense bite of flavor especially when dunked in coffee. Mmmm.