By Melissa d’Arabian, Associated Press
I remember the first party I ever hosted. I was 5 and my mom invited all of my kindergarten girlfriends and their moms for a holiday singing gathering. We knoshed on homemade cookies dunked in hot cocoa made from packets of powder dissolved in boiling water. Standing there around our piano, surrounded by tiny off-key singers with crumby, smiling mouths and steamy chocolate breath, I fell in love with hospitality. I felt in my heart the joy of feeding people, especially around the holidays. Joy to the world, indeed.
As the days grow colder and shorter, and cookie-baking season is ushered in, the calorie-counter in me steps aside just enough to strike that balance of reasonable, but small, indulgence. A perfect example of smart cookie indulgence is the biscotti.
Biscotti are firm, dry Italian cookies that are typically served alongside an espresso or coffee for dunking. Biscotti are dryer and harder than your average cookie, due to a double-baking process (which is easy, so don’t be intimidated) and relatively lower amounts of fat and sugar.
But the harder texture has a huge tactical advantage: biscotti take longer to nibble your way through, so the chances of me accidentally downing seven or eight are pretty small. One or two of these little guys, especially with a little espresso, and I feel like I’ve participated in the joy of holiday dessert.
Plus, biscotti feel a little fancy. Fancy enough, in fact, to double as a holiday gift — wrap some up in cellophane and take as a hostess or neighbor gift, or even send home with your guests as a little party favor.
Today’s recipe is flavored with dark chocolate and rosemary because they are classic winter flavors that I love together, but feel free to play with zests, spices, herbs and chocolate types to make a combo you love. Bonus points if you eat them with friends singing around the piano.
Dark Chocolate Rosemary Biscotti
Start to finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Servings: 16 biscotti
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely-grated orange zest
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely minced
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, finely chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Combine the flours, salt and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a hand or stand-mixer until light in color, fluffy and creamy, about 3 minutes.
Add the eggs in, one at a time, mixing well after each one. Add the vanilla, zest and rosemary and mix until incorporated. Add the flour, half at a time, mixing until incorporated after each half. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the dark chocolate and the almonds.
Place the dough on a lightly-floured surface and divide into two. Shape into two logs, about 14 inches each, and place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly press each log flatter, to make a rounded strip, about 15 inches long by 2 1/2 inches wide. Remove excess flour with a clean pastry brush.
Bake the logs until golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes. Meanwhile, reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Carefully transfer each flattened log to a cutting board and cut each log on the bias into 8 slices (16 slices total). Place the slices cut side down on the parchment-lined baking sheet and continue baking until the cookies are golden and crisp, about 30 more minutes.
Once baked, let cool completely. Can be stored in airtight container for several days.
Nutrition information per serving: 133 calories; 59 calories from fat; 7 g fat (4 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 35 mg cholesterol; 41 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 3 g protein.
Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook “Supermarket Healthy.”