Tiered Biscotti Tree
Constructed from baked biscotti dough frosted with marmalade icing, this cookie tree is an edible centerpiece. Put it out for a party and let guests munch their way down, lifting it apart branch by branch. The cookies make good dunkers for coffee.
1 1/2 cups slivered or sliced almonds (Slivered ones give the biscotti more crunch, but I always have the big bags of sliced ones from Costco, so that's what I typically use.)
3/4 cup (3/8 lb.) butter or margarine, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange peel or 1/8 tsp. orange oil (scroll down in the linked post to see info on this ingredient)
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
About 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon each ground cloves andground nutmeg
Marmalade icing (recipe follows below)
Place almonds in an 8- to 9-inch-wide pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven, shaking often, until golden, about 15 minutes; let cool. (If you're using the sliced instead of the slivered almonds, they only need 8-10 minutes, and you need to check frequently. They go from golden to burnt instantaneously.)
In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, and orange peel or oil until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Combine 4 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, and nuts; add to butter mixture and stir to blend thoroughly.
Divide dough into 3 equal pieces and put each piece on a greased cookie sheet. (A kitchen scale is handy for the division of dough.) Pat each piece into a triangle 9 inches across at the bottom, 12 inches on each side, and 2 inches across the top. Bake for 15 minutes; I have a nice large oven with three racks and can also use the "convection" setting, which works well for baking several pans at once. If you need to, though, you can bake the biscotti one or two pans at a time; it won't hurt for the dough to sit out of the oven for the next bake cycle.
Remove from oven; immediately cut crosswise into slices exactly 5/8-inch wide, using a long serrated knife. Tip slices onto a cut side. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes; turn cookies over once while baking. Cool on racks. If making ahead, package airtight up to a day, or freeze.
To build the tree, pipe (use a 1/4-inch tip) or spread a little frosting on 1 side of each of the longest cookies. Lay icing-side down on a flat platter, tips touching, to form a triangle. Pipe or spread icing down center of each cookie on plate. Stack the 3 next-longest cookies on the first, inverting position of the triangle. Build tree, using the next-smallest cookie trio for each level and cementing with icing. If you like pipe icing to drip over the edge of the cookies. Decorate top with holly.
Let guests lift off cookies to eat. If making ahead, or to protect from dust, seal in plastic wrap; cookies stay fresh up to 4 days, depending on moisture in air. Kept longer, they hold their shape but get stale.
Marmalade icing. Smoothly mix together 3/4 cup strained orange marmalade, 1 box (1 lb.) or 4 cups sifted powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon orange-flavor liqueur or orange juice. If icing thickens as you work, stir in some more orange juice. This makes a lot of icing; there will be plenty to frost two batches of biscotti. If you're making just one, I'd cut these amounts in half.
Below are some other pictures from the magazine, just to give you an idea of baking and assembly.