Spiced Plum and Walnut Biscotti

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As the Big Biscotti Bake continues in our house, so does the Big Biscotti Debate. My husband prefers biscotti right out of the oven after the first bake. He tries to find a reason to come into the kitchen and snag a few before we put them back in the oven. The biscotti are soft and warm, just the way he likes them. I am a firm believer that biscotti are made to be dunked. They shouldn’t fall apart the minute you dunk them in a steaming mug of cappuccino or a cold cup of milk. However, with that said, the kids tend to submerge the entire biscotti with each dunk and inevitably large soggy chunks find their way to the bottom of the cup. I think they do it because they believe there is something wildly naughty about sticking their entire hand in to dig it out. According to my father-in-law, the correct dunking etiquette requires that you never let your fingers touch your drink. Well I think we can add that to the long litany of social rules we break on a daily basis.

Below is a variation of the Big Biscotti Debate repeated in our house over and over again.

Husband: I think you should make some without baking them twice, so they aren’t as hard and crunchy. I wish everyone could taste them when you pull them right out of the oven, warm and chewy. This is the way they should be.

Me: Then they wouldn’t be biscotti, which means twice baked. If you want to make yourself some cookies, then let me know and I’ll get out of your way.

End of debate.

When at an impasse, we often poll family and friends to resolve our debates. Once we (I) sent out an e-mail inquiring as to whether cutting grass on a riding mower, with a beer in the cup holder and music playing on the headphones, could really be considered work. We went through a stage where we (my husband) was wasting milk at a very alarming rate. I threatened to start buying organic milk, which is expensive and in his mind a ridiculous waste of money, unless he started putting the milk the kids didn’t finish back in the fridge. He contended that you could leave milk on the table indefinitely, in the sun or in 100 degree weather, and that the kids could come back and drink it whenever they felt like it. I strongly believed there was an expiration for unrefrigerated milk. We turned to an informal poll of our family and friends to resolve that debate as well. As a result, we revamped our parenting strategy and now we just make sure they drink all of their milk before leaving the table. Seems simple enough, but you have no idea what we went through to get there.

So in line with our history of debating and polling, we’d like to ask, how do you like your biscotti? Dunkable? Crumbly? Soft? Hard? Chewy? Crunchy?

We are plum crazy around here, literally and figuratively. We are going though at least half a dozen plums a day. My husband has been begging for some plum biscotti. So, when we finally got around to making some and presenting him with our Spiced Plum and Walnut Biscotti, mentioning that we made them especially for him, he turned to us and remarked, “I said fig, not plum.” I think that’s debatable.

In creating these biscotti we kept in mind the fact that he likes a “chewier” biscotti. We added half a cup of barley flour, which keeps baked goods moist, and some ground walnuts. These biscotti are very flavorful and the spices are a wonderful backdrop to the sweetness of the plums, which tend to spread out and infuse the dough as you knead it. Tossing the plums in sugar before adding them truly brings out the sweetness of the dried fruit.

Spiced Plum and Walnut Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 cups flour

½ cup barley flour

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup ground walnuts

2 eggs and 2 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup dried plums, roughly chopped and tossed in ¼ cup sugar

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1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2. In a large flat-bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, and walnuts.

3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg whites and vanilla extract.

4. With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together. Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5. Add the plums along with any extra sugar at the bottom of the bowl and knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.

6. Separate the dough in thirds. Form three logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet. Leave several inches between the logs. The dough will spread as it bakes.

7. Firmly press the top of the logs with brown sugar.

8. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split. Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

9. Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board. Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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What to do with the ends #22: Crumble the ends and sprinkle over the icing on cupcakes to add a layer of extra flavor.