You all might be wondering where this barrage of sugar cookies is coming from. It is because I am sick. When I have a cold, I crave sweet vanilla baked goods with a vengeance. I don’t want cinnamon (gasp!), I don’t want chocolate (double gasp), I don’t even want ice cream (triple grasp!). For me normally simple means bland, but when I am sick, bland suddenly becomes elegantly simple and satisfying.
But you know me and you know I’d be bored baking the same sugar cookies day in and day out.
So last weekend, I made the bars, and when we ran out of those, I decided to try biscotti. Now biscotti and I have a contentious relationship. I love my Espresso Mandelbrot, but you will notice a key ingredient lacking in them (key for mandelbrot or biscotti). Nuts. I am just not crazy about nuts in cookies, even finely ground nuts. They don’t do much for me, and when paired with chocolate they tend to actually interfere with the chocolate flavor. You will also notice the espresso mandelbrot have a hefty dose of fat. I don’t dunk cookies–ever, in anything–so the rock hard varieties do nothing but break my teeth. I guess the point is that I do not bake much biscotti and I have trouble finding recipes that attract me.
On a whim I opened up my King Arthur Arthur Flour Cookie Companion–and realized they have a base recipe for American style (i.e., more tender crunchy crumbly than rock hard) biscotti. Now that was something I could work with. So I tweaked a little and came up with this cookie–and I think you will agree it is gorgeous and tasty.
6 T (3/4 stick, 3 oz) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup + 1 T sugar
1/4 t salt
2 t vanilla
1 1/2 t baking powder
2 large eggs
2 T full fat sour cream
8 3/4 oz flour (KA called for 2 cups or 8 1/2 oz, but I added 1/4 oz as part of my changes–probably around 1 T)
1 large egg white
2 T water
Very coarse, sparkly sugar (I normally prefer clear, but all I had was colored)
Preheat the oven 350 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat–if you have an extra large (18 inches long) baking sheet, use it, but I did ok with a standard rimless cookie sheet. Set aside.
Cream the butter, salt, sugar, baking powder and vanilla together until smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs; the batter may look slightly curdles, which is ok. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. On the lowest speed add half of the flour. Scrape the sides and then add the sour cream. Finish with the remaining flour, scraping down the sides of the bowl. This dough will be rather wet and sticky.
Dump the dough into as oblong of a shape as possible on your baking sheet–if you are using a standard size cookie sheet, angle the oblong diagonally. Using wet hands, shape the dough into a log 14 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide. Use a dough scraper to scrape any dough left on the sheet into the log. Smooth the top with your wet hands as best as possible–don’t be picky.
Bake for 25 minutes (if you are baking log diagonally, you might want to reverse the sheet from front to back halfway through). Remove the baked log from the oven and let it cool from 5-25 minutes (just fit it into what you are doing). 5 minutes before you are ready to slice the dough, use the largest turners you have to gently move the log onto a cutting board. Change the parchment paper or silicone mat if it is too dirty. Spray the log lightly all over with water and let it sit 5 minutes.
Lightly beat the egg white and water together. Get a pastry brush and set it beside your cutting board with the egg mixture. Pile your sugar in an oblong pile near the log on the cutting board. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 F.
Slice the log–because there are no nuts or dried fruit to work around you will get fairly thin, smooth slices. I sliced several cookies in a row, and then take each cookie, one by one, and, working quickly, I brush it on one side with the egg wash and then dip that side of the biscotti into the coarse sugar. Then carefully place the biscotti upright on the cookie sheet. Repeat until finished.
Return the biscotti to the oven and bake at the lower temperature for an additional 25 minutes. If they get too dark, reduce the oven temperature by 15 degrees or so. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet on a cooling rack.