Unfortunately, These Aren't Number One: Biscotti #2

When I heard that Lisa Yockelson was coming out with a new cookbook, Baking Style, I pre-ordered it on Amazon right away. I already owned ten (!) other Lisa Yockelson cookbooks, and Baking By Flavor and ChocolateChocolate in particular are two cookbooks that I go back to over and over again. On the day that Baking Style was released, two copies arrived on my doorstep -- apparently I thought that pre-ordering it from Amazon was such a great idea that I accidentally did it twice.

Baking Style is organized in what Yockelson refers to as a "diary" format, and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. (Yockelson describes the book's unusual format here and here.) Baking style is full of essays, which I definitely appreciate. However, instead of the typical cookbook organization by product type (e.g., a chapter on cookies and bars, a chapter on pies and tarts, a chapter on cakes, etc.), the cookbook is organized into chapters with two-word titles that are simultaneously descriptive and cryptic ("Pure Flavor," "Past Perfect," "Plain Old-Fashioned," "Very Naughty," "Dreamy Regal," Texture Exquisite," "Contour Fanciful," Intense Bold," "Polished Sophisticated," "Comfy Cozy," "Lush Exuberant,"  and "Down Home"). Each chapter is divided into subparts -- some of which include only a single recipe -- with equally vague titles.  For example, the "Very Naughty" chapter includes subparts titled: "chocolate, and a lot of it, in the right place," "cookies, untamed," "fudge griddled," "lacking restraint," "little muffins, sauced," rough and tumble, moist and sensual," "seductive times two," and "fry happy." I find it all a little overwhelming.

Yockelson's cookbook Baking by Flavor is also organized in an non-traditional fashion. As the title suggests, each chapter is dedicated to a specific flavor (almond, lemon, chocolate, banana, coconut, and so forth).  However, I find organization by flavor to be rather intuitive and often helpful -- after all, there are times that I am in the mood for something lemony or something with ginger.  But never in my life have I ever thought to myself, "Gee, I would really like to eat something contour fanciful."

Last week, Tom flew out to Wisconsin to visit his mother, and I wanted to bake something he could take along with him.  Since I was looking for something sturdy that could be baked in advance, I decided to make biscotti.  Baking Style includes several recipes for biscotti and mandel breit, all of which are in the "Past Perfect" chapter, in the "a baking memento" subsection (thank god for the cookbook index, or I never would have found them). The two almond biscotti recipes are simply titled "Biscotti #1" and "Biscotti #2," and they are described respectively as, "languorous afternoon almond cookies for dipping and its going-boldly-into-almond cousin." I decided to try Biscotti #2, since it was promised to be "ultra-crunchy." Also, as it happens, the recipe is written to include baking powder, but a note indicates that you can substitute half the amount of baking ammonia. I'm still exploring uses for baking ammonia, which produces an extra crisp-crunchy texture in baked goods (for instance, in the Vanilla Dreams recipe from King Arthur Flour).

The Biscotti #2 recipe includes eggs, an egg yolk, sugar, vegetable oil, almond extract, vanilla extract, flour, baker's ammonia (or baking powder), salt, and toasted slivered almonds. A tablespoon of almond liqueur is listed as an optional ingredient. I didn't have any on hand, so I put in an extra splash of almond extract. The recipe instructs you to form the dough into a loaf and sprinkle on coarse sugar before the first bake (in the cookbook photo, the biscotti are sprinkled with Barbie-pink sugar).  The biscotti were very easy to slice after the first bake, because the inside was drier than what I'm used to when making biscotti.

The texture of these biscotti were different from any I have made before -- they were dry while still remaining tender. I would not say that they were "ultra-crunchy" (I have definitely made crunchier); they had a texture almost exactly like the commercial biscotti that you can buy at Starbucks. Also, other biscotti I've made improve in quality if you wait a few days after baking, but these biscotti maintained a consistent texture and flavor over time. I liked the texture a lot, but was underwhelmed by the flavor.  Despite the inclusion of a healthy amount of almond extract and slivered almonds, I thought the biscotti were not almond-y enough.

Even though I didn't think this recipe was a home run, I'm looking forward to making my way through the rest of Baking Style. I think that using this cookbook might be a little like taking the long way around -- but knowing Yockelson's talent, I'm sure the journey will be worth the effort.

Recipe: "Biscotti #2" from Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes, by Lisa Yockelson.