I have posted many biscotti recipes over the life of this blog. There are traditional family favorites as well as those I’ve been inspired to create. Although a few contain chocolate in them, such as, bittersweet chocolate blood orange and fig walnut and chocolate, I have never made a “chocolate” biscotti … until now. So, I decided to fully commit, hence, the “triple” chocolate. I used cocoa powder in the dough and added semi-sweet chocolate chips. A smear of bittersweet chocolate to the baked cookie with a sprinkling of chopped pistachios was the final touch.
My inspiration comes from a recent visit with my family to a cacao farm (or a “chocolate forest” as my granddaughter calls it) in Kona Hawaii.
Yes! chocolate does grow on trees … sort of.
Cacao (pronounced ka COW) trees bear large fruits, called pods, which contain the precious cacao seeds (or beans). The term cacao, essentially, a botanical name, refers to the tree, the pods and the seeds, as well as to the fermented beans in bulk. Cacao pods have no stems, sprouting straight from the trunk.
Unlike the temperate fruit trees, most Americans are used to, the pods appear throughout the year. On a cacao tree you will see, growing straight out of the trunk, cacao flowers and and tiny baby pods AND huge one-pounders all growing side-by-side. For this reason, among others, cacao pods must be harvested by hand, carefully, so that the ripe pods can be taken without disturbing the still-growing ones.
Harvested cacao pods (a rainbow in a wheelbarrow) are taken to another area where they will be opened. It takes skill to open a pod without damaging the seeds inside. This is something for which no machine can substitute for the experienced human hand.
We watched as Adam, the owner of the farm, cracked open a cacao pod to reveal the seeds/beans, covered in a white sticky substance. After sampling the pulpy beans, we all agreed that it tasted both sweet and tart and didn’t taste anything like chocolate.
Next comes one of the most important steps in the process – fermentation. The beans, still sticky with the protective coating of white mucilage, are placed in wooden bins and covered with banana tree leaves. The leaves contain bacteria that enhance the fermentation process, liquefying the mucilage so it can drain away, leaving the beans.
Meanwhile, the heat of fermentation changes the bitter and astringent compounds in the beans into something more edible, more chocolaty. The length of the fermentation process depends on the type of bean; the higher quality beans may need only a few days, where others may need a week or more.
To stop the fermentation process, the beans are placed in drying racks in the sun. They are turned periodically and at night the racks are covered to prevent moisture from settling on the beans. The way cacao beans are dried can greatly affect the flavor of the chocolate. The aim is to dry the beans slowly.
The beans are then roasted and shelled. The temperature, time and degree of moisture involved in roasting depend on the type of beans used and the sort of chocolate or product required from the process. As with coffee, the roasting deepens the flavor and darkens the beans. A truly aromatic coffee benefits from a lighter roast that won’t cover up its intrinsic flavors with a burnt one. The same is true for good aromatic cacao beans.
The conche machine, invented by the founder of the Lindt chocolate empire, acts like a giant dough mixer. Conching is an important step in the process used to turn cacao beans into chocolate. Without this step, the resulting chocolate will be gritty, lacking the smooth, even texture that people associate with it.
After conching, the chocolate can be tempered and then poured into molds to make bars, truffles, and a variety of other products.
After all this talk of chocolate, let’s bake some cookies!
You may also enjoy:
Ricotta di cioccolato, chocolate espresso wafers, chocolate ganache, Sicilian S’mores, bittersweet chocolate truffle tart, nutella ghiacciolo, espresso brownie pops, nutella fudge with sea salt, Tiramisu Gelati Cake, chocolate hazelnut semifreddo, salame dolce, chocolate espresso ice cubes, blood orange chocolate truffles, chocolate espresso olive oil cake, better than nutella chocolate spread, flourless chocolate-orange olive oil cake, baci di dama.
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 Tablespoon Marsala
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup roasted, salted pistachios, divided
- 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, melted for icing
- This is a stiff dough, so I recommend using a standing mixer (Kitchen Aid type) with the paddle attachment.
- Cream the butter with the sugar until creamy and then add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Add the Marsala.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Stir with a whisk to blend thoroughly.
- Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture a little at a time and mix until thoroughly combined.
- Chop the pistachios and add 1/2 cup (reserve other 1/2 cup for topping) to the dough along with the chocolate chips.
- Cover and refrigerate for an hour. I take the batter out of the bowl, wrap in plastic wrap and flatten it into a rectangle. It takes less space in the refrigerator and is easier to form into logs. When I remove the plastic wrap, I cut the dough in half lengthwise and then in half again (lengthwise) creating four strips of dough.
- On a parchment-lined cookie sheet, take half the dough and shape into a two logs (12-in x 2-in) Flatten slightly. (For a visual look at the technique involved for making these or any other kind of biscotti, refer to the Anise Biscotti recipe). Repeat with the other half of dough.
- Bake in 350* oven on the middle rack 15 minutes.
- Remove and let cool slightly on cookie sheet. Carefully place logs on cutting board and using a serrated knife, cut diagonally into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange close together back on cookie sheet, bake for an additional 15 minutes. Place on rack to cool completely.
- When cookies are completely cool, smear with melted chocolate and top with chopped nuts. Makes about 42 biscotti. Store in airtight containers.