At a friend’s annual New Year’s Day party this year, a fellow guest asked me about why it’s so difficult to replicate restaurant dishes at home. There’s several reasons why this might be true, I replied. Having your own prep team to make stocks and sauces and pulling together mise en place is one aspect. Another is the access to top-notch ingredients. Still another is that restaurant recipes are scaled for service, and when they are modified for home cooking, sometimes they just don’t work. Case in point, are these Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti that I brought to that same party.
I was given this recipe when I was a culinary student at the International Culinary Center, working at L’Ecole. The then-Pastry Chef rattled it off to me one night just before the start of our (the students’) part of service. What I’d liked about these biscotti when I’d snacked on them one night was that they weren’t too sweet. They also had a nice crunch to the outside and a firm texture on the inside, without that teeth-shattering consistency of some Italian-style confections. In looking at the proportions on this card, it shows that making the recipe using these ratios would yield a lot of cookies.
There’s also the issue of measurements. The original recipe has a mixture of pounds, grams, cups, teaspoons, a real mish-mash of amounts. Truthfully, this isn’t all that uncommon in restaurant chef recipes either, which is another reason that trying to scale them to work in a home kitchen doesn’t always produce the same results. Still, I was hoping that my math skills and baking knowledge would enable me to wing it through this recipe, as it was my contribution to the party, along with a bottle of Ronnybrook Farm‘s fabulous, seasonal eggnog.
So, I divided the amounts by eight, basing that on the quantity of eggs and flour, as that seemed easy enough to do. It got a little tricky when I tried to scale down the 1.5 pounds of butter, but I think I got it right. As the only actual directions on the card said to use the creaming method, I mixed the softened butter and sugar together and then added the eggs.
Then, I mixed together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. I gradually added the flour mixture to the egg mixture. The combination ended up being much drier than I’d expected it to be. I’ve only ever made biscotti once, and that was a while ago, so I was still a bit skeptical that this was going to turn out all right. I tossed in the chocolate chips (actually a chopped up chocolate bar) and the pistachios and formed the batter into two logs that were sort of biscotti-shaped.
The only other instructions on the card were the baking temperatures and times. I baked one of these loaves intact the entire time. The other one, I cut into pieces after the first baking. In the past, I’d remembered in making biscotti and mandelbrot that before the second time in the oven, the loaves had been sliced into cookies.
Turns out that, in this case, I didn’t really need to do that step at all. The dough was very soft when I’d cut into it. Waiting until after all the baking cycles were done proved to make it easier to handle the loaves and to make more evenly-sized cookies. I let the biscotti cool on the baking sheet on the stove top, letting the carry-over cooking dry them out just enough to give them that crunchy factor. I made these the evening before the party, and they held up very well.
They were very well-received at the party, both in taste and texture. The host agreed with me that they could have been just a hair sweeter and that maybe the cocoa powder that I used wasn’t exactly right. I’d thought about going the Dutch-processed route, but stuck with a more general variety. The fun thing about playing around with recipes is that there’s always the next time to try to make it better.
Prep Time: about 1 hour
Portion Size: about 2 dozen biscotti
3 ounces Unsalted Butter, softened
1 c. White Sugar
2 Large Eggs
2 c. AP Flour
1/2 c. Cocoa Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 c. Pistachios, shelled
1/2 c. Chocolate Chips (or chopped chocolate bar)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Whip butter and sugar together until smooth and light in color. Add the eggs and beat into the sugar mixture until thoroughly incorporated. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to mix together.
Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and incorporate completely. The dough will be quite dense. Add in the chocolate and pistachios and fold them into the batter as best you can.
On a parchment-lined baking tray, form the batter into two biscotti-shaped logs. Bake them for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the biscotti for 12 minutes. Rotate the baking tray and bake them for another 12 minutes.
Remove the baking tray from the oven. Cut the biscotti logs into 1-inch (2.5 cm) slices and let them cool on the baking tray for 10-15 minutes. Eat them within a couple of days, if they last that long.