Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Okay, do you even know what’s happening right now? Well, probably not, so I’ll tell you. I’m writing from an airplane on a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles to throw a baby shower for my best friend in the entire universe. The flight is a short one, thankfully, just a little over an hour. And I say thankfully, because right before take off, I got a text message saying, “I’m here! Just let me know when you’re out front!”. Meaning that I gave her my departure time instead of my arrival time. Not very best friend-like of me AT ALL. Especially considering she is six weeks away from giving birth, and should be sprawled on a sofa somewhere, not suffering from for her mentally-challenged friend’s inability to get her details straight.

I can’t even tell you how bad I feel right now, on this slow-moving airplane, having made this completely stupid mistake. I am hoping the stash of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Biscotti I have tucked in my bag will make a suitable peace offering. I am also grateful that she is considerably more patient and understanding than I, because if I was eight months pregnant waiting in an In-N-Out parking lot for my scatterbrained friend, I’d be quite willing to tell her where she could put her Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Biscotti.

I had other intentions for this biscotti than it being a “Oh, I’m so sorry! But hey, I brought cookies, see?” kind of thing. I hoped to bring a taste of fall to Southern California with me, a little sweet something to go with a nice cup of tea in the late weeks of her baby-carrying duties. And now--NOW! It is the Biscotti of Sorrow. Bah.

But it doesn’t have to be this way for you, my friends. This biscotti can be nothing but its charming, softly spiced, chocolate-smattered self for you. It’s a super fun fall baking project, too. And that’s not to say that it’s a project in the arduous sense, rather it’s the sort of recipe that takes a little more time, a little more care, to create something extraordinary out of a few simple ingredients.

All that’s got to happen to make these pleasantly-crunchy-but-not-tooth-breakingly-so little gems is mixing up a quick dough with basically all the same ingredients of a pumpkin quickbread, with slightly different proportions. You’ll pat the dough into two neat little planks, and throw ‘em in the oven to bake until firm.

After the first bake, you’ll slice the planks into cookies (and brush them with egg wash and a sprinkling of sparkling, crunchy turbinado sugar too before cutting, if you like). Then lay these slices back onto the baking sheet to make them into “biscotti” (twice-baked) magic.

This kind of recipe totally fascinates me. I love how changing just a few things about a simple recipe can transform it into something completely different and utterly gift-worthy. Maybe even good enough for an “I’m so sorry I’m such an idiot”. I’m not sure yet. I won’t actually know until the captain LANDS THIS FREAKING PLANE ALREADY.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Biscotti

The addictively crunchy texture of biscotti comes from two trips in the oven. The first bake will actually bake the dough, while the second bake at a much lower temperature dries out the cookies and gives them their distinctive crunch. Be careful not to pull the biscotti from the oven too early for the second bake--you really want each one to be completely firm and crisp all over, with no give in the centers when pressed with a fingertip. The time of the second bake really depends on your oven, so let them go as long as they need to in order to really dry out--the risk of burning the cookies is minimal at such a low baking temperature. 

Makes about 2 dozen

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 dark brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (60 to 70% cacao)

For finishing the biscotti:

1 large egg white

Pinch of salt

Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Position an oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the spices and vanilla on medium speed until creamy. Add the sugars and beat until well-blended, about 1 minute. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Beat in the pumpkin puree. Reduce the speed to low and stir in the dry ingredients. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Lightly flour a work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Divide the dough in half. Pat each portion of dough into a plank about 7 1/2 inches long, 2 1/4 inches wide, and 1 1/4 inches thick. Carefully transfer the planks onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake until firm, about 35 minutes. Remove the planks to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees.

Beat the egg white with a pinch of salt until well-blended, about 1 minute (the salt will liquify the egg whites, making it easy to brush on smoothly). Working one plank at a time, flip one upside down onto a work surface. Using a pastry brush, generously brush the bottom with egg white, followed by a generous sprinkling of turbinado sugar. Flip the plank over and brush all over with egg white and sprinkle with more turbinado sugar.

Using a serrated bread knife, slice the planks on a slight diagonal into 1/3 inch-thick slices. Place the slices back onto the baking sheet. Repeat the brushing, sugar sprinkling and slicing with the second plank. Place the second batch of slices on the same baking sheet, being sure none of the cookies are touching (you want air and heat to circulate around each one to dry them out evenly). Bake for a second time until each biscotti is very firm and dry, anywhere from 70 to 90 minutes depending on your oven. Every 20 minutes or so, rotate the baking sheet and flip each cookie over to make sure the biscotti get crisp and dry all over. Remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.

CookiesShauna Sever