Valerie Bertinelli’s Orange, Black Pepper, & Walnut Biscotti are an absolute delight; with a bright orange notes, a light peppery finish, and some walnut crunch!
Back when cable was still a thing and Netflix was non-existent, the Food Network was one of the most watched channels in this household. It didn’t matter if it was Rachel Ray or Rachel Allen, Ina Garten or Anna Olson, when the TV turns on, you can bet the Food Network will get some minutes. I myself enjoy watching these chefs share their recipes on TV, but as I got older and got more busy, I watched TV less and less. I do find myself listening in though. Whenever one of my brothers was watching TV close by, I’d often be subconsciously listening in.
When my brother was watching Food Network one time, I overheard a voice that I didn’t quite associate with it. But coming off a weekend binge-watch of Hot in Cleveland episodes with the same brother, I knew that voice belonged to Valerie Bertinelli. Out of curiosity, I dropped what I was doing and went over to watch the show with him, and I found myself delightfully surprised.
In that very first episode I saw her on, she was making these Orange, Black Pepper, & Walnut Biscotti. I’m not really familiar with Valerie Bertinelli’s background, but her biscotti definitely got my interest piqued. As I watched more of Valerie’s Home Cooking and saw more of her recipe repertoire, I still couldn’t get her biscotti out of my head. I ended up writing the recipe down in a yellow pad, thinking I’d make it “soon”.
Soon turned into later turned into I almost forgot. I had tucked the yellow paper away in my planner, along with a bunch of other papers. It wasn’t until I was clearing out my old planner to start a new one that I found it in there. It was in there for a long time you guys. The edges of the paper where I wrote the recipe down were already pretty worn out. Yet when I saw the title of the recipe, all the feelings of wanting to make the biscotti came flooding right back. So the moment I got some free time, I went to the supermarket and got myself all the ingredients to make these Orange, Black Pepper, & Walnut Biscotti. (I miss the supermarket, by the way.)
Orange, Black Pepper, & Walnut Biscotti. With a name like that, how can one not feel intrigued? This isn’t your ordinary biscotti. It’s got an unexpected mix of flavors that work together surprisingly well to create a lovely little eating experience. I love the subtle warm kick of the black pepper inside the bright bubble of orange. Using a full 2 teaspoons of orange zest is crucial to get a lovely orange scent and flavor to the biscotti. I feel like the black pepper effect would’ve been more obvious had I used freshly ground pepper, but pre-ground also works. The pepper makes itself known all the more once the biscotti has had time to set and develop its flavors overnight, but I will have to use freshly ground next time to compare the level of kick I get.
I feel like I’m going to get questions about substituting the walnuts from walnut-dislikers, but since this recipe is named Orange, Black Pepper, & Walnut Biscotti, it’s clearly meant to be made with walnuts. If you really must, pecans are the closest substitute I can think of. I suppose you can use almonds, but there will be a definite flavor change because almonds and walnuts don’t taste the same. Let me know how that turns out for you.
I feel like biscotti are such an underrated cookie category, at least here in Manila. I can’t think of that many places you can buy a decent biscotti, let alone a very good one. In my opinion, if there’s ever a cookie that’s more perfect with coffee, biscotti is up there on top. These firm cookies often moisten up after being dipped in coffee, although I have been known to crunch my way through them without a cup of joe. These Orange, Black Pepper, & Walnut Biscotti are especially addictive. The good news is, it’s not hard to make them.
Making biscotti is not really a difficult task. The only “troublesome” thing, if you can even call it that, is how you need to bake them twice to get that nice dry crunch. Apart from that, it’s really like any other cookie in terms of procedure. To start this recipe, you want to whisk together all your dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and a whole lot of black pepper. Please use the entire 1 Tablespoon, and use freshly ground pepper if you can.
Set the dry mix aside for a bit while you start with the wet mixture. Beat the butter until pale and creamy before adding in the sugar. You want to really beat this until super light and fluffy. On a stand mixer, Valerie instructs to beat for 7 minutes, but with my arm power and whisk, I think I got it into the light and fluffy stage before that. Just a word of warning that I will not sugarcoat: It was a very tiring experience lol. Use machinery if you can.
Below is how the butter and sugar should look like when you finish beating it. After that you add your eggs, one at a time, beating each egg into the mixture very well before adding in the next one.
If the mixture looks a little curdly, don’t worry. Go ahead and add in the orange zest and the vanilla plus almond extracts. Again, in this part, I will implore you to add a full 2 teaspoons of zest. It will be worth it, I promise. Beat the flavorings into the butter mixture.
And now we add the dry mixture we prepared earlier, plus the walnuts. During this step, whether you used a machine or a whisk, you want to switch to a spatula. Fold all the dry ingredients into the wet until well distributed into the dough. Resist the urge to keep mixing and mixing. You can stop once the walnuts and flour look evenly distributed in the dough. This dough will require 30 minutes of refrigeration before you can bake it.
Meanwhile, line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Put two racks in the upper and lower thirds of your oven before you preheat. Once chilled, you want to divide the dough into two because nobody wants to eat an excessively large biscotti slice lol. I just eyeballed the portions when I divided the dough. Shape each portion into a 12-inch log that’s about 2 inches wide and 1 inch thick. Bake both sheets at the same time, but make sure to switch the baking sheets up and down, front and back, halfway through so the biscotti bake evenly.
After 35 minutes, your dough would’ve puffed up and spread out into a lightly browned hump. DO NOT turn off the oven yet, but let the half baked biscotti cool for 15 minutes on the countertop before proceeding. If it’s very hot, the biscotti will be too soft and too crumbly to slice through. We want clean cuts here. Use a long serrated knife to slice the hunks into 3/4-inch thick, slightly diagonal slices. Lay the slices cut side up in the same baking sheets, then return to the oven.
These sliced Orange, Black Pepper, & Walnut Biscotti will need another 15 to 20 minutes in the oven to toast and dry out. Rotate the pans halfway through. If you want them to be a bit drier and crunchier still, TURN OFF THE OVEN after 20 minutes and just leave the biscotti inside for 10 minutes more, letting them dry via the oven’s residual heat. We don’t want to burn these babies or over-brown them. We want them perfect.
Now all they need to do is to cool completely. I might’ve eaten one the moment they were warm enough to handle. That was as long as I was willing to wait because I was SUPER curious about how these would taste. And I must say, these Orange, Black Pepper, & Walnut Biscotti did not disappoint! They became a part of my morning routine for a while. I should make more of these unique biscotti flavors and share them on the blog!
Valerie Bertinelli's Black Pepper Walnut Biscotti
Makes 24 to 30 biscotti, depending on how you slice
- 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
- 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Whisk in the pepper and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high until pale and creamy. Add the sugar and beat again until light and fluffy, about 7 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the orange zest and the two extracts. (This process can be done by hand with a whisk, but it will be a bit tiring.)
- Switching to a spatula, fold in the flour mixture, followed by the walnuts. Make sure that the walnuts are well-distributed in the dough. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick silicone liners. Position two baking racks at the center slots of the oven.
- Once the dough has been sufficiently chilled, divide in half. Place each half on separate baking sheets, then shape each piece into a 12-inch log, about 2 inches across and 1 inch tall. Bake both sheets at the same time, until the logs are baked through and lightly browned, about 35 minutes. Make sure to switch the top and bottom baking sheets halfway through baking.
- Without turning off the oven, take out the baking sheets and let the logs cool for about 15 minutes. Using a serrated knife, slice each log on the diagonal into 3/4-inch-thick slices. (Don't go too diagonal or some of the pieces will come out way too long.)
- Arrange the slices cut-side down on the baking sheets and return to the oven until well toasted and dried up, 15 to 20 minutes more. (You can switch the sheets around halfway through baking.) If the biscotti don't seem as dry as you'd like, turn off the oven and leave the baking sheets inside for about 10 minutes more. The residual heat will dry up the biscotti without burning or browning them further.
- Transfer the biscotti to cooling racks to cool completely. They will keep, tightly covered, up to 1 week.