Black & White Biscotti . $2.25

Biscotti is crazy inexpensive to make, and crazy good. Frugal by nature, made with the simplest of ingredients, these crispy little chocolate and vanilla cookies are a perfect of example of the sum equaling more than the parts. The ancient Romans carried Biscotti on trips – we usually just carry them from the coffee shop. Make them at home and you can make three dozen or so for less than the price of a single coffee shop Biscotti.

Black & White Biscotti
Black & White Biscotti

My family loves these, and they are a little addictive; I used to include these in my Christmas cookie packages every year, and we’re not even Italian. It’s ok to like these, though…a little bit of chocolate and sugar, but no butter or oil, makes these a better treat than some.

So next time you want just a little something, think about Biscotti. Bring them on a road trip, bring them camping or skiing. Throw several in cellophane bag and put in a nice mug for your children’s teachers or office coworkers. 36 cookies go a long way. (They do store very easily, keeping fresh for weeks.) The majority of the cookies will be seven to eight inches long, the ones cut from the edges slightly smaller.

Recipe:  Black and White Biscotti, makes 36
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts, optional (walnuts, pecans, almonds or hazelnuts all work well here.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (a hazelnut liquor is good here)
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons butter or shortening

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and soda, and salt. In a mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter until mixed, one to two minutes. Add eggs and vanilla or liquor and beat till light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture. Stir in nuts, if using.  Remove half of dough and add chocolate to the remaining. Mix lightly.

Divide each portion, the chocolate and vanilla in half. On a lightly floured surface roll each portion out into a six by 3 inch log. Place one chocolate portion onto each vanilla portion. Roll again into about a 10 by 2 1/2 inch log. You can vary this, but it alters the baking time.

Place each log three inches apart on a baking sheet and bake 20 to 28 minutes until the vanilla portion just begins to show a bit of color. Let cool for 15 minutes and slice carefully into half inch slices on the diagonal. (Save any crumbs to sprinkle over ice-cream.) Place each cookie cut with the cut sides down on the cookie sheet and bake an additional 14 – 18 minutes, turning half way through. The outside should be just golden brown.

Melt each type of chip with one teaspoon butter or shortening. (Do this in the microwave in short intervals of about 25 seconds, stirring after each interval, until melted.)  Drizzle over the cookies with a spoon, or if you’d like a more professional look, use a Ziploc with the corner trimmed off or a pastry bag.

Note:  I use a very thin sharp knife to cut, with a very specific motion:  I drag the tip through till I’m near the end, then bring the knife down – it seems to make better cuts with fewer crumbs.  I also use an offset spatula to move the cut, but not yet baked cookies, a couple at a time to where they need to be on the cookie sheet.

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

Strategies Applied:

  • You can roll out the dough and freeze logs of it. Thaw in the fridge overnight and proceed with the recipe.
  • Flour:  Last bought on sale for $1.29 for 5 lb in February ’12 – a surprise because flour is generally the cheapest right before a big Holiday, especially Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.  Prior to the February stock up, $1.49 was the best price I’d seen around the previous Holidays.  A five pound bag has 20 cups sifted and about 17 cups not sifted.  (This is why many bakers sift or weigh their flour. I generally just stir well and lightly spoon into cup.  (Some recipes will actually say to scoop the flour, in which case you should use that method.)  One pound = 4 cups = $.26 a pound, two cups are 13 cents.
  • Baking Items:  These amounts are all so small, we’re talking pennies here.  The baking soda is 1 cent for 1/2 teaspoon, while the powder is almost 2 cents, the salt less than a penny.  Watch for coupons and sales on these items around the Holidays.  Cost 2 cents.
  • Butter:  On sale at any major Holiday, the lowest sales seem to be around Easter – I stocked up just this week for butter at $1.49 a pound.  The normal sale price in our area is $1.99 a pound, regular price $2.29 up to $3.29.  4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons is 21 cents.
  • Sugar:  Often on sale before any Holiday, especially at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.  I’m not a heavy year round baker, so I try to stock up at these times.  You’ll especially see the smaller bags on sale.  Last bought 10/11, 4 lb for $1.69, 42 cents a pound.  I look for prices of $1.49 to $1.69 per pound, on sale, and often with a manufacturer’s coupon or a store coupon.  1 pound = 2 cups average = $.42, so one cup is 21 cents.
  • Eggs:  Often on sale during almost any Holiday that normally includes baking, especially Easter.  I sometimes find coupons or specials giving discounts or free eggs when you buy other items.  (Sausage is a good example.)  Stock up when they’re inexpensive because they last for weeks in the fridge.  The date on the container is a ‘buy’ date, and you can expect them to last a good six weeks to two months at home past that date.  Never store your eggs in the door; they keep best in a colder part of the refrigerator, in their own box.  Last bought for $1.49 a package on a store coupon sale (and yes, I went more than once to the store) these eggs cost 25 cents.
  • Vanilla:  Believe it or not, liquor is often cheaper than vanilla, but there is a strategy to buying vanilla less expense:  for the past few years McCormick has had great coupons combined with Catalina offers (buy so many, get a coupon back to get so much money off your next grocery purchase, always in the Spring.)  Check your coupon matching sites weekly so you don’t miss this – it’s often unadvertised.  Your store will likely have the best sales, then, too.  I never thought of Vanilla as being seasonal before…but now I get free Vanilla if I buy several smaller packages – I just keep putting it my larger bottle.  I never have enough to get me through, though, all year long…I’ll count it as about 20 cents.
  • Chocolate:  Last bought Nestle’s chocolate chips for $1.99 for the 12 oz bag in 10/11, then right before Easter, 2012 for $1.25 a bag with a coupon.  I like to keep a small box in my cupboard with my baking supplies, chocolates, extracts, baking powder and soda so it’s always within reach and I’m not shuffling bottles, bags and boxes every time I want something.  I generally put an extra set of measuring spoons and a spatula in there, too.  I call it my “kit.”  Watch for big sales on chocolate and chocolate chips starting a bit before Thanksgiving and continuing through Christmas, and again right before Easter.  You can generally count on a 12 to 18 month shelf life on supermarket chocolate, perhaps even longer if stored properly.  Now and then you’ll see a “bloom” on chocolate.  This affects the texture and mouthfeel of the chocolate – it’s still safe to use, but not at its premium.  I’ll estimate the total on the chocolate, because I’m not exactly sure how much my last baking chocolate was.  I’m guessing 36 cents a square and 32 cents for a total of 68 cents.
  • Nuts:  For me, these are really a freezer item – I bag them in a Ziploc to keep them as fresh as possible.  The big brands have coupons, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the best sales seem to coincide with these times.  Watch your prices here carefully when shopping for nuts, it really can be worthwhile to bring along your calculator.  They’ll likely be nuts in three different places in your store, perhaps four:   The health aisle, the bulk bins/produce aisle, the baking aisle and the snack aisle. You’ll find them priced by pounds and ounces and in different package sizes, so in order to find the best deal, you’ll have to be great at figuring in your head if you don’t have the calculator on hand. There price alone may seem like a bit of a splurge, but I’m making a real effort to include more nuts in my diet – they are highly recommended for a healthy diet.  I actually didn’t use any nuts this time, but had I done so, I would have grabbed the hazelnuts from Aldi’s out of my freezer – cost would have been about $.75

Nutrition for Black and White Biscotti, per cookie:

Cal 86, Cal fr fat 26, 33%, tot fat 3g, sat fat 2 g, chol 14mg; sod 61mg, tot carb 12g; fib .5g; sug 6g; fib 1.5 g

Put Your own Spin on It:

  • I already mentioned several ways to change Black and White Biscotti:  Vary the nuts, vary the extract or liquor.
  • You could, of course make this much more inexpensive by making them all one flavor and omitting the chocolate altogether.

Black & White Biscotti made April 2012

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