Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bring A Napkin (TWD BWJ Chocolate Tartlets)

There are two kinds of dessert lovers out there. In one camp, there are the people who enjoy sinfully rich desserts, like fudgy pot-au-crème or a 10-pound pecan pie. These folks like to live on the edge. They want big, bold, gut-wrenchingly deep flavor from their desserts. It’s a take-no-prisoners approach to the final course. And then there are people like me, who gravitate toward lighter, dry or fruity finishers, such as biscotti, scones or a nice little apple galette. I like to think of these people as being a touch more subtle, nuanced, even mysterious. But I’m probably reading too much into this.

In my experience, most people fall neatly into one or the other of these factions, but rarely into both. The Chocolate Truffle Tartlets that I made for the latest Tuesdays with Dorie project had the potential to appease both sides of the dessert battlefield, since the tarts incorporate four different kinds of chocolate plus chunks of biscotti and a cookie crust (recipe here). But in the end, the tartlets really are a chocolate-lovers confection. It is no wonder, then, that my version of chocolate truffle tartlets did not win rave reviews from the critics (i.e., the kids and husband).

If you discount the issues with the moisture in the crust, the recipe was manageable enough, but the end result was unremarkable. This is primarily because, true to my dry-crumbly passions, I took some risks in the biscotti department.

In typical glass-is-half-full fashion, I’m choosing to view this latest baking adventure as a success. Yes, I learned that cornmeal biscotti, even when stuffed full of toasted coconut, does not play well with white, dark, milk or bittersweet chocolate. But I also learned that coconut cornmeal biscotti, sans chocolate, and paired with a nice cup of tea or coffee, is possibly the greatest invention since unsliced bread. 

The weirdest part is that I didn’t even mean to do it. I stumbled my way -- backward and blind -- into a truly great cookie. This ad-hoc recipe for biscotti reminds me of a Stella D’oro Margherite cookie, but it is a lot more coconut-y and crumbly. The coconut flavor is somehow enhanced by the minimally-invasive cornmeal, creating a subtle, “what’s going on here?” reaction on the tongue. The result is a gritty, tropical, complex and potentially tooth-breaking cookie. Somehow, each bite makes me crave another huge swig of tea, followed by seconds or thirds on the biscotti. Even with the dental risks. (Note that you can actually make these cookies reasonably soft by adjusting the cooking time on the second round of baking. But then you’d have no excuse for dunking it into hot beverages. Your choice.)

If you live in the dry-crumbly camp, cornmeal coconut biscotti is a perfect teatime treat. And even if chocolate is your primary raison d’être, I urge you to take a walk on the wild side – you may find that you like it. Just remember to bring napkin with you to catch all those crumbs.

Cornmeal Coconut Biscotti
(adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Lennox Almond Biscotti)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
scant 1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup raw, unsweetened coconut, coarsely chopped

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  • Place coconut on a baking sheet and toast until lightly browned on the edges, 5-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  • Turn oven heat up to 350 degrees F.
  • Line a clean baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
  • Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the cornmeal and whisk again to blend.
  • Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed for 3 minutes, until very smooth. Add the eggs and continue to beat, scraping down the bowl as need, for another 2 minutes, or until the mixture is light, smooth and creamy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. Scrape down the paddle and bowl and toss in the coconut just to blend.
  • Scrape half the dough onto one side of the baking sheet. Using your fingers (if you wet them slightly they won't stick to the dough) or a rubber spatula, work the dough into a log about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. The log will be more rectangular than domed, and bumpy, rough and uneven. Form a second log with the remaining dough on the other side of the baking sheet.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden but still soft and springy to the touch. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and cool the logs on the baking sheet for 30 minutes.
  • If you turned off the oven, bring it back up to 350 degrees F.
  • Using a wide metal spatula, transfer the logs to a cutting board, and, with a long serrated knife, trim the ends and cut the logs on a slight diagonal, into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the baking sheet--this time standing them up like a marching band--and slide them back into the oven.
  • Bake the biscotti for another 15 minutes, or until they are golden and firm. Transfer them to racks and cool to room temperature.
  • Enjoy alongside your favorite tea or coffee.


  1. Yeah, this tart really didn't do it for me, either. I'm thinking I'll give it one more shot before totally dismissing it, but that still has yet to be seen. It's funny, but after I made (2 kinds of) biscotti to use in this recipe, I went on a biscotti tear and have since made 6 more (totally different) batches. I have been playing with an idea for a savory biscotti using corn meal that I just haven't gotten around to, yet, but cornmeal biscotti is definitely on my to-do list!

    1. oooh -- what flavors did you make? please share!

  2. ooooo, cornmeal coconut biscotti?! I think that just made my (ever-growing) to-bake list :)

    1. happy to hear it. We finished the first batch a week ago, and we're still craving them around here. But first, there's rugelach to conquer... I don't know if I can wait that long!

  3. Loved your post! And anything with coconut or that can be accompanied by tea is a win in my book.

    Glad to see that there's another Connecticut resident on here as well! I used to work at Yale, but now reside in West Hartford.

    1. West Hartford is a great town, but our hearts are still with Yale. We even named our son Eli. Go ahead, laugh.

  4. You had me at coconut. I must make these! You've thrown a wrench into my baking schedule, girl. I think I fall into both dessert camps, by the way.

    1. I may be headed over to the dessert dark side myself. Not sure what compelled me to do it, but yesterday I made Ina Garten's "outrageous brownies." The recipe starts with a pound of butter, 1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, and 6 eggs. And that's before you add the bittersweet stuff. Ew. But in such a good way.

  5. love coconut...may consider baking these.

    ~ Carmen

    1. glad to hear it. Love the photos on your blog, BTW!

  6. I love coconut and cornmeal - those biscotti sound excellent. Thanks for the recipe!


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