Makes one large biscotti tree with about four dozen cookies of varying length
Prep time: 1-1/2 hours
Bake time: 40 minutes
Assembly time: 45 minutes
Here's a spectacular dessert and centerpiece all in one! This recipe was inspired by a Christmastime article that appeared in Sunset magazine in 1992. Think of giving this biscotti tree to a friend or family member who is hosting a holiday brunch, open house, or family dinner. It would certainly wow your co-workers to present this at a holiday office party. Decorate the tree on a platter you plan to give, or specify that the platter is "on loan." Alternatively, you could build the biscotti tree on a decorative disposable platter or even on a large Lucite square. Explain that the tree is meant to be eaten, and encourage guests to gently remove individual cookies starting from the top of the tree—after all, this isn't a game of Jenga!
Three Sturdy (15 by 12-inch) Baking Sheets, Parchment Paper, Measuring Cups and Spoons, Sifter, Large Bowl, Zester, Stand Mixer with Paddle Attachment or Hand Mixer, Rubber Spatula, Kitchen Scale (optional), Long Plastic Ruler, Cutting Board, Long Serrated Knife, Spatula, Cooling Rack, Chef's Knife, Small Microwave-Safe Bowl, Pastry Bag and 1/4-inch Plain Tip, Large Flat Platter
1. Have ready 3 sturdy 15 by 12-inch baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, coriander, salt, and cloves. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the orange zest and vanilla.
4. With the mixer on low speed, add the sifted ingredients in 3 batches, beating after each addition until the flour disappears. Do not overmix. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the nuts and cranberries.
5. Turn the mixture out onto lightly floured work surface. The dough will be a bit sticky. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. (It would be ideal if you had a scale to weigh the portions. Each portion weighs 18 ounces.) With lightly floured hands, and working with one portion at a time, place the dough in the center of the parchment-lined pan. Pat each piece into an evenly thick flat-topped triangle that measures 9 inches across the base, 2 inches across the top, and 12 inches on the sides. Use a long plastic ruler to measure the sides and form clean, straight edges by pressing the ruler alongside the dough. Repeat with the remaining portions of dough. As you finish forming the triangles, place them in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
6. While the dough is resting, position one rack in the center of the oven and another rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (If you happen to have two ovens or a large oven with 3 oven racks, you can bake all the biscotti at once. Otherwise, you'll need to bake the biscotti in batches.)
7. Bake the biscotti until just beginning to turn light brown at the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Switch the pans between the racks at the midpoint of baking so that they bake evenly. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.
8. Working with one partially baked biscotti triangle at a time, carefully transfer the parchment sheet to a large cutting board. Using a long serrated knife and a ruler, begin at the base of the triangle and position the ruler parallel to the base. Using a sawing motion, precisely measure and cut the triangle into 5/8-inch-wide slices, working your way up to the top. Repeat to cut the remaining baked triangles.
9. Place the slices on their sides on the unlined baking sheets. Bake until dried out and lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Turn each slice over and bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes longer. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. (The biscotti can be made 1 to 2 days in advance. Store in a covered container at room temperature.)
10. To assemble the biscotti tree, first make the marmalade icing. Sift the confectioners' sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or into a large bowl and use a hand mixer. Pick out and finely mince the pieces of orange peel from the marmalade. Add the minced peel back into the marmalade and then warm it in a microwave to liquefy it, about 30 seconds. Add the marmalade and orange juice to the sifted sugar and beat for 5 minutes. The icing will be silky and glistening, and all the sugar will be absorbed. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip. Set aside.
11. Have ready a large flat platter. Select the 3 longest cookies. Pipe the icing on one of the cut sides of each cookie. Lay, icing side down, on the platter with the tips touching to form a large triangle. Pipe a long thick line of icing along the length of each cookie. Select the next 3 longest cookies, and create a Star of David by arranging them in a triangle shape, with tips touching, on top of the base triangle. Pipe a long thick line of icing along the length of each cookie. Continue to build the tree by repeating this process of layering the cookies and icing each layer, selecting the next longest cookies for each layer, finishing with the small 2-inch cookies for the top. Use extra icing to drip "icicles" at the edges or along the sides. Dust the tree with confectioners' sugar "snow." Decorate the platter with holly sprigs and faux red berry clusters, if desired.
Storing: The Biscotti Christmas Tree can be assembled and stored, uncovered, in a cool, dry spot for up to 3 days.
Gift Card: This Biscotti Christmas Tree is delightful to look at but is also meant to be eaten! Encourage your guests to sample a cookie by gently lifting a cookie from the top of the tree, carefully removing them layer by layer.
Gift-Giving Tips: To transport the tree, set the platter in a large, shallow, sturdy box and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Tuck in a gift card. (Carry it carefully and drive slowly!)
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This page created November 2010
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