The first thing I ever baked when I got my copy of Dorie’s book (not counting the recipe I found online before I actually bought her book), if I’m not mistaken, was her Lenox Almond Biscotti. It caught my attention because, for one thing, I hadn’t made biscotti in a while, and for another, they looked luscious from the photo. And really, I haven’t found anything made with cornmeal that I hadn’t liked to some degree.
I’m fairly determined to bake through Dorie’s book, mostly because I’ve been pleased with all the recipes I’ve made so far (most of which I haven’t gotten around to writing about yet, but I promise I will). I’ve been so delighted in fact, that despite my hesitation towards recipes that have more than 2 sticks of butter- the same hesitation that has stopped me from making croissants thus far- I decided to make her Golden Brioche Loaves because I just had a feeling that it would work out for the best in the end. I just really trust Dorie and her recipes.
Following my tradition of writing my Dearly Dreaming Dorie posts talking about two of her recipes at a time, I decided the theme for today would be gold, which I guess us the only thing these recipes have in common, aside from the fact they both come off Dorie’s book of course. And as I mentioned, one is a a delectable, dip-in-your coffee biscotti, and the other one is a loaf that is a cross between a full-bodied bread and a flaky croissant.
I’m not new to biscotti-making. Truthfully, it’s one of the cookies I most enjoy baking. I love cutting them diagonally into long thin pieces to make them look like long dainty fingers. I remember this one time I took a break from making biscotti after I came upon a recipe that produced awful, teeth-shattering cookies which I imagine would get me in a lot of trouble with my dentist.
Since then I became a little more careful about the sort of biscotti I make. They couldn’t be too dry or too hard to bite, nor should they be too sweet. But more importantly, they should turn slightly soft and chewy once dipped in coffee. Eating biscotti should be an enjoyable experience rather than a test to see how good you actually take care of your pearly whites. Agreed?
Sometimes I feel like I should make biscotti more often. I always get a kick out of shaping the dough into rectangular logs with my hands. And somehow I always end up looking a bit like a wide-eyed child as I cut the half-baked logs up to reveal that marvelous crumb within. But what I like most about these biscotti was the fantastic flavour and the smell the almond extract gives off. I would recommend sticking to the 3/4 cup of sliced almonds indicated in the recipe, at the risk that more could overpower the rest of the cookie in taste.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
- 3/4 cup sliced almonds, blanched or unblanched
- 1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
- 2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the cornmeal and whisk again to blend.
- 3. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed for 3 minutes, until very smooth.
- 4. Add the eggs and continue to beat, scraping down the bowl as needed, for another 2 minutes, or until the mixture is light, smooth and creamy. Beat in the almond extract.
- 5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. You'll have a soft, stick-to-your-fingers dough that will ball up around the paddle or beaters. Scrape down the paddle and bowl, toss in the almonds and mix just to blend.
- 6. Scrape half the dough onto one side of the baking sheet. Using your fingers and a rubber spatula or scraper, work the dough into a log about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. The log will be more rectangular than domed, and bumpy, rough and uneven. Form a second log with the remaining dough on the other side of the baking sheet.
- 7. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden but still soft and springy to the touch. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and cool the logs on the baking sheet for 30 minutes. If you turned off the oven, bring it back up to 350°F (180°C).
- 8. Using a wide metal spatula, transfer the logs to a cutting board and, with a long serrated knife, trim the ends and cut the logs into 3/4-inch-thick slices.* Return the slices to the baking sheet — this time standing them up like a marching band — and slide the sheet back into the oven.
- 9. Bake the biscotti for another 15 minutes, or until they are golden and firm. Transfer them to racks and cool to room temperature.
- * I cut mine diagonally because I prefer my biscotti in that shape, and a little longer, but you could slice them straight down to form even pieces.
The dough needs to be refrigerated overnight to attain a certain texture, and since it contains yeast, the dough will blow up in the fridge if you don’t punch it down every so often. What’s interesting about this recipe is that it serves as the brioche base for a couple of Dorie’s other recipes, such as her Pecan Honey Sticky Buns (pages 51 to 53) or her Brioche Raisin Snails (pages 56 to 57). Each will require one of the two loaves this recipe will produce. In fact, you can probably make this brioche and turn each half of dough into the pastries mentioned above at the same time. It’s quite a convenient recipe to make, really. The only thing you’ll need is a heavy-duty mixer, as you will have to mix the dough for quite some time to get the texture required.
The brioche itself is quite rich and buttery, and since it tastes a bit like a croissant, I imagine some ham and cheese, jam, or even melted chocolate would be good choices to eat this with. I tried mine with cream cheese spread and it tasted wonderful as well. You can even turn your leftovers into French Toast!
If you have never made brioche before and would like to try, I think this would be a good starting point. The instructions were easy to follow and my dough transformed in the ways that Dorie described in her book. I had read in some blogs that their dough did not pull away from the side of the mixing bowl at the point Dorie said it was supposed to, but I didn’t have this problem. The dough is so silky and a bit sticky that it doesn’t pull away as obviously as most yeast bread doughs probably would, but if you look closely, you will see your dough sticking to your dough hook in a direction away from the bowl (see #5 below). I reckon that is what she meant by “mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl”.
Until I bought Dorie’s book, I’ve never even thought of making brioche (nor was I even aware what it was), mostly because I’ve never been exposed to French cuisine and pastry as much as I was its neighbour Italy’s (thus the affinity for biscotti). Recently though I’ve been hopping around blogs for other brioche recipes, specifically that of the classic muffin-like ones with the tiny balls on the top. Their inside texture looks quite different from this one based on the photos, but I guess I’ll have to make them myself to be able to study them more thoroughly. And I think I know just the recipe to try first.