High Country Baking: Ginger-pecan biscotti
High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column, published on Thursdays, presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Three inches of snow at our house — the cool weather we’ve been waiting for has finally arrived. We love to spend the days outside and then come in, cozy up by an early season fire and sip something warm. This biscotti, flecked with crystallized ginger, chopped pecans, and orange peel, and flavored with cinnamon and vanilla, is the perfect accompaniment. While some biscotti are cake-like, this one is more on the dry, crunchy side so it’s perfect for dunking in your favorite beverage; try dipping it into tea, coffee, brandy, or whatever you like to drink.
The smaller amount of ground and crystallized ginger indicated in the recipe results in a mild but noticeable flavor; ramp it up to your liking.
Adjusted for altitudes of 7,000 feet and above
Make on a shiny metal cookie sheet
Yields 2 dozen 2 ½ inch cookies
1 ¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached flour, spoon and level
¾ cup granulated sugar, preferably superfine
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼-½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs, room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel, optional
½ cup toasted and chopped pecans
1 ½ -3 tablespoons diced crystallized ginger
1. Preheat the oven to 325 with a rack in the center position. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, ground ginger and cinnamon to a mixing bowl and beat at lowest speed with an electric mixer to blend. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture by pushing the dry ingredients up the sides of the bowl. Separate the yolk and white of one egg and save both. Add one whole egg and the separated yolk to the well and beat at medium speed to combine. Add the melted butter and, if using, the orange peel and beat again until a dough forms. By hand, stir in the chopped pecans and diced crystalized ginger so they are evenly distributed in the dough.
3. Turn the dough out of the bowl, knead it gently a few times, and divide it in half. Shape each half into a 7-inch log about 1½ inches in width (if the dough is sticky, wet your hand with cold water). Place the logs at least 3 inches apart on the lined cookie sheet. Gently flatten each log so the tops are less rounded. Whisk the saved egg white until it’s frothy and brush it on the sides and top of both logs; you probably won’t use it all.
4. Bake the logs until they are firm and lightly colored but not fully done, about 20-25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven to a cooling rack and leave the oven on. Let the logs cool for about 15 minutes and carefully transfer them to a cutting board. Use a gentle sawing motion with a serrated knife to cut ½ -inch thick slices on the diagonal from each log. If they start to crumble as you cut them, cool them longer. Return the slices to the cookie sheet, standing them up with space between them. If they won’t stand up, lie them on their sides.
5. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the sides of the cookies are baked through but still a little soft; they’ll firm up more as they cool. Start checking at 10 minutes. If you lay your cookies on their sides, turn them over and bake again, so both sides are done. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely. The cookies are at their best two days after baking and can be covered and stored for up to a week or more.
Dr. Vera Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks (available at The Bookworm in Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco). She’s lived in Frisco since 1991 and has been developing and adjusting recipes so that they work at our altitude ever since. Contact her at email@example.com.
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