Biscotti for Joy

This time last year I was planning a birthday luncheon for my mother, Joy. The menu was simple, but some of the items required a lot of time and effort (like Thomas Keller's illustrious spinach quiche). There is no party this year, no shrimp to pickle or lemon buttercream to master — my mother is cavorting at the beach with a friend. Lucky woman.

I'll take Joy to dinner at Watt's Grocery, one of her favorite Triangle restaurants, when she comes to visit the weekend after her actual birthday. In the meantime, I thought I'd send a hold-over gift, a little something that recognizes her special day, a package that will be waiting for her when she returns from the coast. She's a chocolate fiend, but mailing a box of truffles in 90 degree heat is asking for trouble. After rummaging through several cookbooks, I decided to try Alice Medrich's Whole Wheat Biscotti.

I know, I know — whole wheat biscotti don't sound terribly festive. They sound almost punitive. But Medrich's recipe uses whole wheat pastry flour, which is really quite refined, and biscotti hold well, which is important in this situation. I skipped the suggested flax or sesame seeds (it is a birthday after all), and used chopped pecans in the dough simply because I had some tucked in the freezer. The result is a very crisp, light cookie that would pair well with coffee or tea, as intended.

Now I just have to stop nibbling biscotti, pack them safely away, and get to the UPS store.

Whole Wheat Biscotti
Adapted from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies
Makes about 25 biscotti

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, placing a rack in the center. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease lightly.

Whisk the flour and baking powder together in a medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat the brown sugar, oil, eggs, salt and vanilla together in a large bowl until thick and pale in color. This will take about 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture and pecans and stir until just combined. The dough will be thick and sticky. Scrape the dough onto a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet and spread it into a 5-by-15-inch rectangle (I used my fingers rather than an unwieldy spatula).

Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway though to ensure even browning. Remove from the oven when puffed and firm, and cool on a rack for 20 minutes or more.

Turn the oven heat down to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the slightly cooled loaf on a work surface and slice into 1/2-inch thick cookies with a serrated knife. Remove the parchment paper or liner from the baking sheet and arrange the cookies about 1/2-inch apart (I actually needed 2 baking sheets to hold them all).  Bake for another 20-25 minutes, until golden brown, rotating the pan(s) again halfway through the process.

Allow to cool on wire racks. The biscotti will keep for 2 weeks in an airtight container.

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