It’s scientific fact that the most decadent hot chocolate needs the perfect dunking cookie. Last week, the hunt for this led me to assault family and friends with bold, high-stakes queries such as “would you rather dunk graham cracker flavored, snickerdoodle or gingerbread biscotti in your hot chocolate?” Don’t let it ever be said that the Smitten Kitchen shies away from the hard questions! Gingerbread was the clear winner, and while I aim to please, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that a little snickerdoodle-style roll in cinnamon-sugar is never unwelcome in winter, and so it was.
This is gentle gingerbread; it’s not going to muddle your steamy cup of dark chocolate cocoa with molasses and cloves, but instead gently suggests a little winter spice. It’s as much a cookie as it is the ideal golden and crisp packet of December warmth, essential on 26 degree days like today (too soon, New York, too soon!) even if you, perhaps, after reading one too many articles about how Norwegian and Danish children go outside all winter, regardless of how cold it is, didn’t conclude that this meant that you and your small child should arrive at the schoolyard 30 minutes before the school bell to get your fix of “fresh air” and “nature exploration” and have still, 3-plus hours later, not warmed up.
This cookie, dunked in a cup of hot chocolate with a thin layer of melted mini-marshmallows on top, is also doing its best to console me for the fact that but 24 hours ago, I was neck-deep in the Atlantic Ocean, because, you see, it was just too hot to be on the sand. My husband turned 40 over the summer, and I decided that instead of buying him a thing I wanted to provide an experience and, for Alex, there are few things that make him happier than spending the day on a hot beach, alternating between napping and reading a book. I also wanted to surprise him, because presents that come when you least expect them are way more fun than those at predictable intervals. And so Friday morning, he found this card at the breakfast table. And our Saturday and Sunday looked something like this. And, lo, it was a great weekend.
Thus, I hardly expect you to feel bad for us, shivering in that cab line last night at JFK because we’d decided to pack “lighter” by omitting winter coats, hats and common sense. We don’t need any violins. But discovering what was left of last week’s decadent hot chocolate mix and these biscotti on the counter this morning were exactly what a cold Monday morning needs, and then, once you’ve finished the first batch, you can make a few more as gifts for some very lucky people.
Signed Smitten Kitchen Cookbooks: Have you ever wanted to buy someone a Smitten Kitchen Cookbook but you wanted it to say something really specific, like Merry Christmas! or Congratulations on your engagement! (Now bake me some cookies.) or No matter what anyone else tells you, you’re my favorite reader. No seriously. It’s you. all of which have happened last year because you guys really are that funny and awesome. Well, you can! I work with McNally-Jackson, an independent bookstore in Soho to sign books; I sign them, they mail them out. This year, we have a hard deadline for Christmas shipping (i.e. you’d pay standard and not rushed shipping and the book will reach you by Christmas) of Monday, December 15th. [Order Custom Inscribed Smitten Kitchen Cookbooks from McNally Jackson]
One year ago: Eggnog Florentines
Two years ago: Cashew Butter Balls
Three years ago: Caesar Salad Deviled Eggs
Four years ago: Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms
Five years ago: Coffee Toffee and Vanilla Roasted Pears
Six years ago: Brown Butter Brown Sugar Shorties, Spelt Everything Crackers, Feta Salsa and Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Seven years ago: Latkes and Pear Crisps with Vanilla Brown Butter
Eight years ago: Zucchini Ham and Ricotta Fritters, German Pancakes/Dutch Babies, Winter Panzanella, Homemade Orchiette with Tomatoes and Arugula,
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Pasta and Fried Zucchini Salad
1.5 Years Ago: Rhubarb Cream Cheese Hand Pies
2.5 Years Ago: Broccoli Parmesan Fritters
3.5 Years Ago: Roasted Peppers with Capers and Mozzarella
Yield: 30 to 34
Time: About 1 1/2 hours
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (265 grams) all-purpose flour, plus extra for flouring hands
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
2 teaspoons (4 grams) ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons (4 grams) ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
A few grinds of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 cup (95 grams) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
7 tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups toasted, chopped nuts or white or dark chocolate chunks (optional, I kept mine plain)
1 large egg white
1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon (6 grams) ground cinnamon
Heat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line one large or two small baking sheets (if yours are small you’ll probably prefer using two, as the logs will spread a lot) with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients — 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, baking powder, spices, pepper and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugars, butter, 2 large eggs and vanilla. Add wet ingredients along with any optional additions (nuts or chocolate) to dry mixture and stir to combine. It’s going to seem a bit soft and sticky; it’s a-okay.
Divide dough in half. Using floured hands, transfer first half to the prepared baking sheet(s) and form it into a slightly flatted log about 11 inches (28 cm) by 2 1/2 (6 1/2 cm) inches, going down one side of a baking sheet intended for two logs, or the center of a baking sheet intended for one log. Repeat with second half of dough. Whisk egg white in a small bowl until a little foamy and loose. Brush over top and sides of each log.
Bake logs until golden brown all over, about 25 minutes. Transfer tray to cooling rack; let cool about 25 minutes, until lukewarm. Gently transfer each log to a cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife and gently sawing motion, cut logs on the diagonal into 1/2-inch wide slices. If using cinnamon-sugar, stir the two together and dip both cut sides in the mixture.
Arrange slices, a cut side down, on baking sheet(s). Bake for another 10 to 12 minutes, until golden underneath. Turn each biscotti over and bake for a final 6 to 8 minutes, until lightly bronzed all over. Let cool on rack.
Do ahead: Baked biscotti should keep in airtight containers at room temperature for weeks.