Ever since my early days at school, December has been my favorite month of the entire year. There is just something about the festive air of December that belies work and signals the beginning of a holiday. There is a nip in the air, the lights beckon, Christmas carols play everywhere, extravagant holiday eating and drinking is expected. My best friend from school, Jenny, who I’ve known since the third grade, and I had declared December 1 to be a personal holiday, a date to be celebrated and rejoiced over. And even now, thousands of miles apart, we never fail to wish each other Happy December!
We were inseparable at school and our friendship is so old that neither of us can remember how it started. At first sight, we have nothing in common. But we share a bond so deep that even today, when our lives could not be more different, when we do get to meet, it’s as if the years in between fall away. She is one of those genuinely good people, the kind that sees and believes the best in everyone. In school, this made me fiercely protective of her but what I know now is that she didn’t need protecting. While I had the power to yell at people who made her cry, she had the power to forgive and forget. She was always the yin to my yang. Sometimes, I literally shook her “to stop being such a saint”. I still delight in getting a shocked and amused peal of laughter from her as she is tickled by something crazy that I’ve done. Recently, she was in an accident that had my heart leaping to my throat when I heard about it. She is on the road to recovery now and while I’m saddened by the fact that I can’t be by her side to at least make her laugh, I know she’ll be okay. Because she’s stronger than I am. While I have the power to rant and rail against the unfair hand life sometimes deals out to the nicest people, she has the power of absolute and unshakable faith.
And today, on December 1, our special day, I’m hoping that this post, with its triple dose of chocolate, dedicated to her, makes her smile. (She used to persuade me to spend all my pocket money on buying her Dairy Milk chocolates, which she wasn’t very generous with; she’s not very saintly when it comes to sharing food.) That triple dose of chocolate is contained in an innocent looking biscotti. The dough has a serious hit of cocoa that I’ve accented by the addition of espresso, which alleviates the chocolate flavor. Chunks and shards of chocolate are buried in the dough to crack and melt delightfully in your mouth. Twice-baked, they are crisp (but not jaw-breaking) and ready to be dunked in your cup of coffee, but not before they get a final flourish of melted chocolate swirls. I had them wrapped in a pretty box along with my holiday biscotti to gift to the original domestic goddess. But let me warn you right now, these little treasures are going to rob you of the holiday spirit of giving. As I know from experience, they are extremely difficult to part with.
Happy December everyone!
Triple Chocolate Walnut Biscotti
Recipe adapted from Epicurious
(As usual, I’ve changed around some ingredients, quantities and methods.)
(Makes about 24-30 cookies)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate (preferably 60% cocoa), chopped
3.5 oz (100 gm) bittersweet chocolate (preferably 60% cocoa) (I used half white chocolate for contrast)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with the rack in the mddle. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment.
2. Sift first four ingredients in a bowl.
3. With a stand mixer or a hand mixer at medium speed, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until light and pale.
4. Beat in the eggs, one by one, incorporating one completely before adding another.
5. Beat in the espresso.
6. Switch the mixer speed to low and mix in the dry ingredients, beating only until incorporated.
7. Stir in the walnuts and chopped chocolate with a sturdy spatula.
8. Using moistened hands, halve dough and form 2 (15-by 2-inch) loaves on an the baking sheet, spacing the logs 3 inches apart. (I just rolled the dough gently with my hands to get an elongated rope and then shaped it, gently stretching and flattening into logs.)
9. Bake in the preheated oven until firm but still pale, about 25 mins.
10. Take the sheet out of the oven and cut the logs crosswise with a sharp serrated knife into 1/2-inch slices. Place the slices on the second baking sheet, cut side down.
11. Bake until firm and golden, about 6 mins ON EACH SIDE.
12. Transfer the cookies to a rack and cool. Don’t discard the baking sheet with its parchment paper.
13. Once the cookies and baking sheet are completely cool, transfer the cookies back to the sheet. Melt the chocolate over simmering water in a double boiler or using 20-second short bursts in a microwave (about 1 minute in total). Transfer the chocolate to a piping or zip-lock bag. Snip off a small portion at the tip and drizzle the chocolate over the cookies. Cool completely until the chocolate is firm. Store airtight between sheets of waxed paper. They will keep for up to a week, if they last that long.