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Say Cheese: For savory biscotti

Twice-baked biscotti cooling on the racks; the asiago-pecorino kind is in the foreground, and the white cheddar and sun-dried tomato kind is in the background. (Domenica Marchetti)

One of the nicest things about cheese (and there are so many nice things about cheese) is the diversity of ways it can be enjoyed during the holidays. There is, of course, the holiday cheese board or platter, which itself can accommodate infinite variations, and which I wrote about for the Food section a couple of years ago.

Recipe Included

But cheese shows up in plenty of other guises as well, especially in hors d’oeuvres —dips, puffs, stuffed mushrooms, mini-quiches. For an easy holiday buffet appetizer, I like to make a batch or two of cheese biscotti: a savory riff on the popular Italian twice-baked cookies. As with their sweet cousins, the dough for savory biscotti is first shaped into logs and baked. Once cooled, the logs are cut on the diagonal into thin slices and baked for a second time.

Lots of cheeses work well in savory biscotti, but the best are hard or semi-hard grating cheeses such as asiago, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pecorino Romano, dry Jack cheese, aged Gouda and aged cheddar. They all have big flavors that shine through even after baking. You also could work a bit of mild, fresh goat cheese into the dough. But stay away from other moist cheeses such as mozzarella, which are sure to turn biscotti dough into a soggy mess.

Once-baked logs, cooling slightly before they are cut into biscotti and baked a second time. (Domenica Marchetti)

Savory biscotti welcome assertive herbs and spices, such as rosemary, coarsely ground black pepper, fennel and ground chili peppers. Let your own tastebuds be your guide. The following recipe variations, adapted from a recipe in my book, "Big Night In," are among my favorites.

A note on technique: Biscotti are easy to make but they require a bit of care. Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the baked logs into slices. Don’t use force; gently saw back and forth to cut through. This will prevent the proverbial "crumbling of the cookie."

-- Domenica Marchetti is the author of "The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy" and "Big Night In."

White Cheddar and Sun-Dried Tomato Biscotti (with separate Spiced Walnuts recipe)

Asiago and Pecorino Cheese Biscotti
Makes 7 to 8 dozen biscotti

MAKE AHEAD: The dough needs 2 hours' rest in the refrigerator, or up to overnight. The dough can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen in a resealable plastic food storage bag for up to 3 months. Baked biscotti will keep at room temperature for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.

4 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 cup coarsely grated or shredded aged Asiago cheese
1 cup coarsely grated or shredded pecorino Romano (may substitute fiore Sardo)
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup thinly sliced skin-on almonds
3 large eggs lightly beaten, plus 1 large egg, lightly beaten, for brushing the dough (4th egg is optional)
1 cup whole or 2 percent milk

Combine the flour, pepper, baking powder, salt and cheeses in the bowl of a food processor; pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter and pulse briefly. Add the almonds but do not process.

Combine the 3 beaten eggs and the milk in a measuring cup, then add to the food processor bowl, pulsing as you pour. Process just until the egg mixture and nuts are incorporated and the dough begins to form a ball.

Turn out the dough onto a large piece of wax paper, patting it into a disk. Wrap the disk in the paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Position oven racks in the middle and lower third of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator; if it is very firm let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a log about 11 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick. Place 2 logs on each baking sheet, spaced at least 1 inch apart. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the tops of the logs with the remaining beaten egg, if using. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom; then bake for 15 minutes so the logs are golden on top and springy to the touch. Use a wide spatula to transfer the logs to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes; keep the baking sheets at hand because they will be used to bake the sliced biscotti.(Wipe the paper or liners clean as needed.)

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Working with one log at a time, place it on a cutting board and use a serrated knife to cut crosswise on the diagonal with a slow, sawing motion into 1/3-inch-thick slices, arranging them closely together on the baking sheet as you go. Bake both sheets for 15 minutes (on the middle and lower racks), then rotate them from top to bottom and front to back; bake for 15 minutes, until the biscotti are golden and crisp. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Per serving (with whole milk, based on 8 dozen): 56 calories, 2 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 13 mg cholesterol, 92 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar

By The Food Section  |  December 15, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Recipes , Say Cheese  | Tags: Domenica Marchetti, Say Cheese, biscotti, recipes  
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These sound great. I hadn't given thought to the idea before, but the title immediately made me want some immediately. One of our favorite breakfast dishes is Paõ de Quejo--they're Brazilian cheese puffs made from Yuca flour with a generous dose of cheese.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 15, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

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