Last week, I mentioned that I was baking for the Austin Bakes for Japan bake sale which was held on Saturday. As I wrote about that, I hoped there would be a good turnout, I hoped we’d have a lot to offer at each sale location, and I really hoped the fundraising would be a success. All of those things happened and exceeded our highest hopes. There were beautiful baked goods overflowing the tables at all five locations of the sale, and people kept coming to visit the sales, choose treats to take home with them, and leave behind donations. The positive response and generosity of the community were stunning. Kathryn was our leader of the efforts to organize this event, and all of her hard work resulted in the bake sale going perfectly. The other team leaders who helped with planning as well as overseeing bake sale locations were Carly, Rachelle, Shelley, and Stephanie. As of the end of Saturday, the fund raising total was over $11,400, and because the online giving page is still active, the total is now over $11,700. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this event and for all the wonderful generosity.
So, this being a bake sale, I had a perfect excuse to pull out some recipes and bake several things in a couple of days. Timing was an issue since I couldn’t bake everything at the very last minute, and that’s how I decided on biscotti for one item. They’re cookies that last well, so I baked them two days before the sale. I remembered there were several good biscotti versions in Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies, and that’s where I found this recipe. As with all the recipes in this book, this one included an upgrade option for tweaking the main ingredients. It’s a kind of healthy type of biscotti with whole wheat pastry flour, oats, walnuts, and dried fruit, and the upgrade was the addition of sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, and flaxseed meal. There were also additionl tips and an overview of biscotti making. For instance, in the US we have adopted biscotti and made it our own. So while the traditional Italian biscotti or cantucci are very dry and crunchy and usually flavored with anise, our American biscotti are slightly cakey in comparison with lots of additional flavors.
This breakfast biscotti recipe is of the American style, and this was an easy cookie dough to prepare since everything was just whisked and then stirred together. All purpose flour was combined with whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, brown sugar and oats were mixed. Then, milk and butter were heated until the butter melted, and that was added to the oat mixture and left to stand for a few minutes. Eggs and vanilla were added followed by the flour mixture, and then I added toasted chopped walnuts, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, and flaxseed meal. The dough was transferred to a silpat-lined baking sheet, and using wet hands, I formed it into a long, rectangular shape, not too wide. By using wet hands to shape the dough, it will become shiny as it bakes. I needed the biscotti to fit into the cellophane bags I had already bought, so I made the shape about four inches wide. The first baking was at 325 degrees F for about 35 minutes. The pan was removed from the oven and left to cool, and the oven was turned down to 300 degrees F. Once cool enough to handle, the baked dough was transferred to a cutting board and cut into half inch or so slices. The slices were set on a baking sheet, on their edges, and the second baking was for 25 minutes. I always worry biscotti might not be completely crunchy, so I moved the cookies around on the sheet and gave them five more minutes in the oven just to be sure.
My biscotti anxiety exists because I’ve tried a few recipes in the past that just didn’t work quite right, but there was no need to worry here since this came from Alice Medrich. Her tips such as using wet hands to shape the dough and standing the cookies on their edges for the second baking as well as the timing and ingredients all worked very well. The biscotti were deliciously crunchy and the nuts and seeds added to that effect. Since I packed them all up for the bake sale, I’m going to have to make another batch just to enjoy at home.