Thursday, February 10, 2011


You all probably know by now that white chocolate isn't really chocolate. There certainly used to be a time when people didn’t care about such loose labels: Velveeta “Cheese”; Miracle Whip “Mayo”; George W. Bush “Ivy League-Educated.” But alas standards have risen. Now to be called chocolate the product must contain a minimum of twenty five percent cocoa solids.

So then what is white chocolate? White chocolate is a mixture of cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids, and vanilla. It’s important to note that cocoa butter is extracted from the cacao bean, meaning there is a real connection between white chocolate and regular chocolate. The problem is that before 2004 companies snuck all sorts of unappealing items (such as hydrogenated vegetable oil) into white chocolate and it began to lose its cred. Luckily the Food and Drug Administration finally created some standards for white chocolate, which is now required to contain at least 20% cocoa butter, 14% total milk solids, and 3.5% milk fat, with no more than 55% sugar or other sweeteners.

How would my giant white chocolate Easter bunnies of yore have held up to these standards? Probably not well. Still, I loved them and their over-the-top sweetness and admittedly slightly bizarre tongue coating effect.

Lately people have become quite obsessed with dark chocolate. I’m on board. I love dark chocolate just as much as the next woman who’s overjoyed that she's suddenly “allowed” to eat chocolate. But chocolate is meant to be delicious, not healthy. I’ve tried chocolate bars that are over 90% cacao and let me tell you, they taste like dirt. More to the point, I'm afraid that with all this hoopla over dark chocolate, white chocolate doesn’t get enough respect. Good white chocolate is a gourmet creation. When Nestlé first began producing white chocolate in the 1930s, it was a luxury item which cost more to produce than regular chocolate. Its creamy, subtle vanilla taste was enjoyed for what it was, not for what it wasn’t (i.e milk or dark chocolate).

And what would the world be without white chocolate macadamia cookies? Or white chocolate dipped strawberries or white chocolate covered pretzels? Life without Hershey’s Hugs or Cookies‘n’Creme bars? Ridiculous. Let’s start a new campaign: White Chocolate, Good for the Soul.

White Chocolate Dipped Lemon-Almond Biscotti
Adapted from Giada at Home

Valentine’s Day is coming up. I’m not a big box-of-chocolates kind of gal. And while I always have a bar of yes, dark chocolate on hand (preferably Chocolove’s Ginger Crystallized in 65 % Dark Chocolate) I’m not too big on candy bars either because I always think, why would I have a candy bar when I could have a cookie?

It’s a family thing. My father, my sister, even my mother: we all love us some cookies. To this day, my father won't go to bed without having some cookies for dessert (maybe to balance out that oatmeal.) When I meet my sister for coffee it’s really for coffee-and-cookies (if we can we go to One Girl Cookies in Brooklyn. Delicious!) and sometimes I wonder if my mother and I took our Italian class just to have an excuse to go afterwards to Rocco’s and get an assortment of biscotti.

It’s no surprise, then, that my Grammy is equally a fan. I thought for Valentine’s Day I’d send her a box of lemon-almond biscotti dipped in white chocolate. These cookies are intensely lemony, which is nice at this time of year. The almonds do their part to try and give these a true Italian biscotti profile, which, truthfully, the white chocolate coating cancels out. These are Italian biscotti by way of America, meaning they’re bigger and sweeter and perfect for a special treat. While I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t bake them just because, if you’re looking for a homemade gift or something to serve with coffee at a dinner party, these will do the trick.

makes about 20 (large) biscotti
2 cups flour
¾ cup fine yellow cornmeal
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt (I always use kosher while baking)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 ½ tbsp grated lemon zest (Giada uses three tbsp. I thought this kind of overpowered the almonds, but if you're a lemon lover, go for it)
¾ cup almonds, roughly chopped
18 ounces best white chocolate (I used Ghiradelli baking bars)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silipat.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder until combined.

In large bowl, beat together the eggs and the sugar until light yellow in color, about 3 minutes.

Beat in the lemon zest. Beat in the flour mixture (I did this in three additions, mixing each time until just combined. You don’t want to overwork the dough.) Stir in the almonds. Let the dough sit for 5 minutes.

Because the dough is pretty sticky, just moisten your hands under the tap. Then divide the dough into two balls. Place the balls on your baking sheet. Shape each half into a log that is about nine inches long and three inches wide.

Bake the logs for 35 minutes, at which point they will be soft and lightly browned. Let them cool for 5 minutes.

Use a serrated or otherwise sharp knife (I use my big serrated bread knife) to cut the logs into approximately ¾ inch thick slices. Try to do this a little on the diagonal because then they’ll get that pretty biscotti look.

Lay the biscotti cut side up on the baking sheet and bake for another 25 minutes, at which point they should be a little golden and dry. Let the biscotti cool.

Set a wire rack over a layer of paper towels or a baking sheet. Melt the chocolate in a double a boiler. Dip one end of each biscotti in the melted white chocolate and then lay it on the wire rack. The paper towels/baking sheet will take care of any drippings.

the set up: wire rack/baking sheet, cookies, melted chocolate

Let the biscotti sit until the chocolate has hardened, then enjoy, dunked in espresso or not, according to your whims.


  1. I'm always looking for Biscotti without butter, so I'm going to try these, they look great!

  2. great! most Italian biscotti don't contain butter, so if you see a recipe without it, you'll know it's authentic ;)