A little over two years ago, about to stand up for a friend’s wedding, I agreed to make homemade biscotti for the favors, to be placed in perfect little white drawstring pouches and given to guests at the reception. There were something like 200 guests—or 100, and each bag got two?—and I’d never made that many biscotti before. I’d never made food for anything so important before, either, so this was a serious undertaking.
I was then, luxuriously, only working part-time while attending grad school two nights a week. My schedule was my own mostly, and so I planned to make some cookies ahead of time, to ensure I’d get everything done. There were three kinds: chocolate-chip anise, double chocolate and lemon pistachio. In the end, the pistachio is what nearly put an end to me.
The memory is crystal-clear: my dad and I sitting on the couch, he with a bowl of shelled pistachios, I with a bag still to crack, a garbage can on the floor between us. We were slowly, methodically working our way through the massive bulk-purchased bag, trying to achieve however many cups of shelled nuts I needed for the batches at hand. I learned a few things that day: cracking and scraping skin off hundreds of pistachios will give you blisters; only inexperienced amateurs would purchase the nuts shelled for that very reason; and, mostly, my dad is the nicest man I have ever known.
Surprisingly then, I did not recoil when I found the following recipe, a new biscotti to try: chocolate pistachio. Can you believe I still had pistachios from two years ago, which had not gone bad? That very same massive bag, the one we’d labored through for hours, had not yet come to an end. I almost threw them out—it had been two years after all—but I tasted a few before baking, and they were delicious. This may garner me criticism, but I figured the heat of the oven would cook out anything else I didn’t notice.
Sitting at the counter, alone this time, I cracked shells and rolled nuts between my hands to remove the dark skins coating the bright green nuts. It was slow. It was laborious. It was symbolic in all the ways you don’t appreciate when your hands are red and tired. Two years ago, I was still a student, a child, and my dad was helping me; now, I’m a graduate, a manager, an independent. I was alone, working through an unpleasant task by myself.
After at least an hour of this, I was done. I didn’t achieve a cup of pistachios as the recipe requested, but I would make do. As in life, one learns to work with what’s available.
The result, after baking and double-baking the dough: a container filled with beautiful, delicious biscotti, with a refined, more subtle flavor than previous batches I’ve made. The pistachios, which filled only half of my total lot, give the cookies a slight salty flavor that works beautifully with the chocolate. These desserts are so easy to make, really, that I always feel a little embarrassed when people praise them. You make biscotti? they say, as if I’m some sort of gourmet. Look, I want to respond, Can you make cookies? If so, you can make these. I promise. They are forgiving and delightful and impressive. Try them.
Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup pistachios, with shells removed
1/2 cup milk chocolate pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy. Add eggs; beat on low speed until well combined. Add flour mixture—you may need to use your hands if the dough gets too grainy/dry—to form a stiff dough. Add chocolate chips.
Transfer dough to baking sheet; form into a slightly flattened log, about 12-by-4 inches in size. Add pistachios to half of the log. Bake until slightly firm, about 25 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, and reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
On a cutting board, using a serrated knife, cut biscotti log into 1-inch thick slices. Arrange, cut side down, on baking sheet. Bake about 8 minutes, until cookies are slightly soft in the center but overall crisp.
Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.