In the spirit of holiday entertaining, I present to you cookie recipes fashioned after classic offerings from Italian-American bakeries. Get baking and enjoy the sweet season with family and friends.
Makes about 2 dozen 3-to-5-inch biscotti
Brushing with egg white before baking gives the biscotti some shine.
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted, skinned, and roughly chopped (about 3½ ounces)
¾ cup chopped candied orange peel (about 4½ ounces)
¾ cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 large egg white, beaten, optional
With the rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or a nonstick mat and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, cinnamon, baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt, and set aside.
With a hand-held or standing mixer (fitted with the whisk attachment) at medium-high speed, beat the eggs and sugar until pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Add the butter and vanilla and beat to combine. Add the dry ingredients, hazelnuts, orange peel, and chocolate chips, and, switching to the paddle attachment or using a flexible spatula, mix until the dough is uniform and the nuts, orange, and chocolate chips are distributed throughout (do not overmix). Divide the dough into 2 equal portions on the baking sheet; wet your hands and shape the pieces into smooth 10-by-3-inch loaves, about 3 inches apart. Brush the loaves with the egg white, if using, and bake until set and browned around the edges, about 24 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.
Cool the loaves on the baking sheet until just warm, about 15 minutes; adjust oven temperature to 325 degrees. Using a serrated knife, bias-cut the loaves into ½-inch-thick slices. Lay the slices on the baking sheet (they shouldn’t touch) and bake until dry on both sides, about 24 minutes, turning them over halfway through baking time. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, and serve or store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Makes about 3½ dozen 2-inch cookies
I use almond paste sold in tubes, but it’s also available in cans. Adapted from a recipe on Food52.com.
2¾ cups pine nuts, ¾ cup of them toasted lightly and cooled
7 ounces almond paste (1 tube)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting, optional
With the rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or a nonstick mat and set aside. Place the 2 cups of untoasted pine nuts in a shallow bowl and set aside.
In a food processor, pulse the ¾ cup of toasted pine nuts until coarsely ground (but not pasty), about 3 2-second pulses. Pinch the almond paste into small chunks, add them to the processor, and pulse to break them down further. Add the sugar and process until the mixture resembles wet sand, about 6 seconds. Add the egg whites and vanilla, and process until the dough is uniform and sticky, about 6 seconds longer. Add the flour and ¼ teaspoon salt, and process until the dough is uniform and thicker (it will still be very sticky), about 6 seconds longer.
Wet your hands and roll 3 or 4 generous 1-teaspoon portions of dough into balls. Roll the balls in the untoasted pine nuts, turning them to coat completely. Arrange the balls about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet; repeat with more dough to fill the sheet. Bake until the cookies are light golden and just set, about 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 8 to 10 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and serve, or store in an airtight container for up to 4 days. If using the confectioners’ sugar, just before serving, use a fine-mesh sieve to dust the cookies lightly with the sugar.
TIP: GETTING UNSTUCK
Makes about 8 dozen 1½-to-2-inch cookies
The recipe requires a pastry bag or a cookie press. Make sure the baking sheet is cool and ungreased; the dough won't stick to warm metal, parchment, or a nonstick mat.
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg, at room temperature
2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons almond extract
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
With the rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and ½ teaspoon salt to combine. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract until uniform.
With a hand-held or standing mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment), beat the butter, cream cheese, and sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg mixture and beat at low speed (to avoid splashing) until the liquid begins to combine with the butter mixture. Gradually increase the speed to medium-high and beat well to incorporate; scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce mixer speed to low, add the flour mixture a third at a time, beating until just incorporated, about 10 seconds after each addition (the dough will appear dry and crumbly). If necessary, remove the bowl from the standing mixer and knead the dough several times to bring it together into single mass.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to fill a cookie press or pastry bag with dough. Press or pipe the dough onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 1½ inches apart. Bake a sheet at a time until the cookies are set and very lightly browned around the edges, 7½ to 9 minutes (shapes with more edges brown faster), rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheet for about 6 minutes; very carefully loosen the cookies and transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough and serve, or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.’’ Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.