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Right here, right now, I’m fessing up. One of my main – and favorite – food groups over the past few weeks has been cookies. While I avoid overindulgence in sweet treats most of the time, the holiday spirit and my cookie craving gets the best of me come December. But here’s the thing – I believe it’s important to let loose now and again, forgoing a training session here and there and allowing oneself some pure gastronomic pleasure. I also love baking cookies – specifically, biscotti cookies from a recipe given to me years ago from a dear and authentic Italian friend. I make my biscotti – now slightly adapted to suit my own taste – each year at Christmas time. And while I have a hard time restricting my daily intake when the chocolate-dipped delights tease me from my kitchen counter, I also know they are not the least nutritious indulgence I could be satiating. After all, they contain canola oil, not butter, and they’re ripe with heart-healthy almonds. Plus, isn’t chocolate touted for its antioxidant benefits? So, in the spirit of the season, I thought I would throw all thoughts of training aside for the day and instead share with you my recipe for the yummiest ever biscotti cookies:
1 lb almonds, toasted & roughly chopped
1 cup canola oil
1 cup milk
2 cups white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
4 tsp almond extract
Approx 2-3 lbs all-purpose flour
2 11-oz bags semi-sweet chocolate morsels (to melt for dipping)
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the flour and chocolate. Then, using your hands, add the flour bit by bit, kneading the mixture into a thick dough. This will be a bit of a workout as the dough thickens – you’ll know you’ve added enough flour when the dough is no longer sticky.
Divide the dough into eight equal parts. Roll and flatten each of these into a rectangular log (approx 10½ x 3½ x ¾). Four logs should fit, lying cross-wise, onto one un-greased cookie sheet.
Bake @ 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees.
When the cookie logs are cool enough to touch, cut into ½ inch thick slices at a diagonal angle with a sharp serrated knife. Arrange the cookies, cut side up on the cookie sheet. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until the edges just begin to brown. Keep a close eye on the cookies so they do not burn.
Let the cookies cool while melting the chocolate in a double boiler. Dip each cookie halfway length-wise, using a butter knife to wipe away excess melted chocolate. Let cool, chocolate side down, on wax paper coated trays. The trays can be placed in the refrigerator to expedite the cooling process. When chocolate has thoroughly cooled and hardened, cookies will easily release from the wax paper.
All variety of biscotti are delicious – feel free to experiment! Try using hazelnuts or pecans, white chocolate, chocolate chunks instead of dipping, vanilla extract instead of almond, etc.
This recipe may be reduced by ½ or ¼ to save time or yield less treats.
– Holly Bennett