(Gluten Free) Biscotti as Exercise.

Why does nothing warm me up faster (and better) than turning on the oven?  If this winter is good for anything, I’d bet it’s good for the collective weight gain of all of those who agree with me.  I shiver at the steady stream of carbohydrate intake for my picky kid, and yet I’m doing my fair share to keep him in steady supply.  Maybe I can’t help it; the very definition of comfort food is entwined with carbs.

On these cold mornings, the ones that you almost have to laugh at, I need something with the coffee.  Oh, I’ve had my reasonably healthful breakfast, but later in the morning when the deep black joe hits the cup, it’s begging to have the company of something sweet as well.  Maybe I comply under the guise of warming the kitchen, but really, it’s just nice to have a little something to nibble.  A little second breakfast of homey, comforting carbs to chase the caffeine. 

It can also be argued that the kitchen work itself is althetic too.  Ample amounts of hand dishwashing, that elegant dance of opening and closing cupboard doors and drawers: in my mind this qualifies as exercise.  And have you ever rolled out laminated croissant dough by hand?  I swear this itself is key to a well toned midsection.  When I'm cooped up in an endless winter, unable to take my usual walks, I take this revitalization instead.  And I add a few new sweet tidbits to my unending mental pastry library.

buckwheat biscotti

Of the many sweets that I find impossible to stay away from, I actually show impressive restraint with biscotti.  Unlike more traditional cookies, I can eat only one and be satisfied.  I can look forward to a single, crunchy brick every morning and feel secure in their preservationist ways since a batch of biscotti can last well on a month in an airtight glass container.

I got it in my head to try a gluten-free one the other day, maybe because my Mom is coming to visit next week and she tries not to overdo in gluten, but probably also because I really like trying out new gluten-free recipes. I really like alternative grains - or in the case of this buckwheat heavy recipe, alternative seeds.  I've always loved the flavor of buckwheat flour, and I ground my own from bulk buckwheat I had kicking around in the pantry.


Buckwheat is among the prettiest seed too, the tiny triangular things pop between the teeth when eaten raw or toasted.  I prefer this sensation even more when I've sprouted and dehydrated it first.  Then, it's a foolproof addition to granola as Marisa McClellan brilliantly noted in her first book.  I grind most of my nut flours and whole grain flours in my Vitamix, which works so long as you are careful not to turn the oilier of them into nut or seed butters. (I measure by weight into the dry container and then blend.)  This recipe called for almond flour, which I mixed up after the buckwheat was already turned to flour.  It helped the almonds become more flourlike, while preventing them from becoming butter.  Of course, you can use already ground buckwheat and almond flours.

I mixed this up by weights, check out the original recipe for approximate volumes.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Almond Orange Biscotti (adapted from Martha Rose Shulman)
(yields about 3 dozen)
  • 88 g. buckwheat flour
  • 37 g. cornstarch
  • 120 g. almond flour
  • 60 g. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt 
  • zest of one orange, grated 
  • 55 g. unsalted butter
  • 125 g. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t. vanilla extract 
  • 70 g. blanched, slivered almonds
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Mix buckwheat flour, cornstarch, almond flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. 

Cream the butter, sugar, and orange zest for 2 minutes on medium speed. (Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beater with a spatula.)  Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat together for 1 to 2 minutes, until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beater. Add the flour mixture and beat at low speed until well blended. (The batter will be very sticky.) Add the slivered almonds and mix at low speed until evenly distributed through the dough. 

Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces, and shape them into wide, flat logs, about 10 inches long by 3 inches wide by 3/4 inch high. Use wet hands to do this, and make sure they are at least 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Place in the oven on the middle rack and bake 40 to 45 minutes, until dry, beginning to crack in the middle, and firm. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes or longer.
Place the logs on a cutting board and use a serrated knife to cut them on a diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices. (They are more brittle than traditional biscotti, so cut carefully.)  Place on a parchment-covered baking sheet and bake again in the middle of the oven until the slices are dry, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

buckwheat biscotti

You'd never know these were absent of gluten.  They have a pleasant crunch and aren't as brittle-tough as some biscotti, so they don't require a dunk to soften them enough to be palatable.  The orange is subtle, as (surprisingly) are the almonds.  It's a very nice dark chocolate biscotti, that I've considered storing down on the basement pantry shelf to further improve my exercising and restraint.

Sprouted Wheat, Sprouted Almond, and Orange Biscotti

I had a moment of shear panic this morning, which happened at the doctor's office.  No, nothing is physically wrong with me or my rapidly growing baby... but since I am phobic of all things medically (and pregnancy) related, I found out today that I'm only 6 weeks away from our new family member.  For some reason, I thought I had two months left, which is 8 weeks by my count.  That's 2 extra weeks of procrastination and preparation, 2 weeks that could add to my sanity of status quo around my house.

What's more, I could be early to deliver (which for some reason, I've convinced myself I will be) - shaving those precious moments of a 3 member household ever more closely.  Thinking of things about to change is both exhilarating and petrifying.  What if the baby prevents me from breadmaking?  What happens if I don't get to sprouting the grains I'd like?  After brief moments of self-centered kitchen problems, I realize that I will always make time for the bread, the grains.  It's likely the laundry, lawn mowing, and sometime gardening will be the first to suffer.  And anyway, as soon as I see that new babe, nothing else will matter - perhaps not even the sourdough.

I also realize that I haven't been as prolific at writing things down as I usually am, and it's not for lack of making and eating.  Maybe it's lack of inspiration, and a tinge of laziness that prevents me from getting the camera out of my hand an onto a tripod to steady it.  But today in anticipation of a weekend trek to my Parents farm, I had the idea to make sprouted grain biscotti - and the lit-lightbulb-above-head to put it down into words for you.

sprouted wheat biscotti

sprouted wheat biscotti

The biscotti I made my Dad for his birthday in March was a hit, and while the first batch today (traditionally made with slightly less sugar than the Cook's Illustrated Best Recipe version) was in the oven, I figured that I had just enough sprouted wheat berries left in the freezer to try a batch with sprouted flour.  While I was at it, I transformed it into a true whole food recipe and replaced the sugar with rapadura: a whole sugar that retains some of its mineral content from the whole sugar cane.

My result was a crispy biscotti that is decidedly unsweet - I might try adding a couple tablespoons of honey to the next batch - but fully enjoyable.  It's earthy, and just what you'd expect from a coffee-time treat with decidedly wholesome roots.  Increase the rapadura up to 1 cup total if you'd prefer a sweeter confection.

sprouted wheat biscotti

Sprouted Wheat, Sprouted Almond, and Orange Biscotti (adapted from Cook's Illustrated The Best Recipe Cookbook - the one published in 1999)
  • 2 c. sprouted wheat flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 4 T. room temperature, unsalted butter 
  • 1/2 c. rapadura
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t. almond extract
  • 3/4 c. sprouted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • zest from one orange
With oven rack in the center of the oven, preheat the oven to 350.  Whisk the flour, baking  powder, and salt together.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and rapadura together with a hand mixer for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, and beat for 1 minute after each addition.  Add the extracts, the orange zest, and the sprouted almonds and mix to combine.  Sprinkle the sprouted flour mixture over the top and stir well by hand until just combined.  (Dough will be a little sticky.)

On a silicone mat (or parchment) lined baking sheet, divide the dough into 2 equal portions.  Using dampened hands, stretch and pat each portion into a log about 2 inches wide and 13 inches long.  The tops should be flattened.

Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown, and the tops have small cracks in them.  Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for 10 minutes.  Reduce the oven heat to 325.

After 10 minutes, slice each log on a diagonal into 3/8 inch slices.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes longer (flipping them over halfway through the baking time) until the biscotti is crisp and lightly brown.  Cool completely, and store in an airtight glass container.

sprouted wheat biscotti

The texture of sprouted wheat biscotti is a bit more tender; it has less of the biscotti trademark of tooth-breaking snap, the one only tamed by dunking it into a hot cup of coffee.  It has a more gentle and polite bite.  I've laid off the coffee, especially in the afternoon, but I'd suspect it would crumble to the bottom of a cup to be happily rescued by a spoon.  Citrus and coffee are such happy complements in my opinion.

So, I spent most of the day in the company of biscotti.  And very shortly, I recognize that I might not have hours to spend this way, in my own way.  I enjoy my own company and that of the baked goods.  I enjoy the calisthenics happening so frequently now in my belly, and more than anything, I enjoy thinking about just who this new person will be - a bread obsessed toddler who will happily share my tartine lunches of beets and avocado and tomato?  A mere 6 weeks until I can begin to know, and begin that new chapter that I thought was so far away.