When my husband was in high school, his father owned a grocery store with a bakery that made many traditional Cuban desserts. Among those was bizcocho, a cookie very similar to Italian biscotti, but lighter in texture. Cuban bizcocho is essentially a sponge cake baked twice until it dries out and becomes crunchy. Typically, a sponge cake doesn’t use any leavening, but in this recipe I added baking powder to give some lift without the trouble of whipping the eggs or egg whites for volume.
For my own version of bizcocho, I incorporated layers of chocolate flavor with a smoked alderwood sea salt. One of our favorite ways to eat dark chocolate is to take a small square of a chocolate candy bar and sprinkle it with a little smoked alderwood sea salt, and so I topped the bizcocho with a chocolate ganache and a generous sprinkle of the smoked sea salt. For this recipe’s inspiration I consulted The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum and used the “Anise Biscotti” recipe by fellow Food52 cook Bread and Betta as a template. I also liked the shape and height I got with the bizcocho using smaller 8-1/2″ X 4-1/2″ bread loaf pans instead of one larger 9″ X 13″ sheet pan. Taking a cue from the anise biscotti recipe, I made the batter with a thinner consistency than is typical for biscotti in order to give the final bizcocho a lighter texture. This also requires a longer baking time the second time around to dry the bizcocho out appropriately. The final bizcocho is as chocolate as I could make it while still keeping it light and also maintaining a comfortable crunch. As a result, the bizcocho is great on its own or dipped in coffee.
I hope you enjoy this first treat of the Christmas season. And I hope you remember that the best gift is always love and kindness.
(recipe template inspired by “Anise Biscotti” from Food52)
4 ounces/113 grams 100% cacao unsweetened chocolate
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 cup/125 milliliters boiling water
1-1/2 cups/144 grams organic sugar
8 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1-1/2 cups/180 grams whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup/40 grams dutch-processed cocoa powder1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Butter for greasing the bread loaf pans
4 ounces/113 grams 70% cacao bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons/90 grams heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons/35 grams Kahlua, or other coffee-flavored liqueur
1 teaspoon smoked alderwood sea salt, for sprinkling over the topping
Three 8-1/2 X 4-1/2 bread loaf pans
Two 17″ X 12″ baking sheets
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter the bottom of three 8-1/2″ X 4-1/2″ bread loaf pans and line each with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper, and dust flour over the entire inside of the pans, shaking off any excess. Set aside.
Heat 1/2 cup of water, in the microwave or stovetop, until boiling, then remove from the heat. Stir in the 1/2 teaspoon of instant espresso until dissolved. Add the 4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, and let sit for a minute to melt. Stir until silky and smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, add the eggs and sugar, and whisk vigorously until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy and turns from a bright yellow to a pale yellow color. Add the vanilla and whisk until blended. Add the melted chocolate mixture and whisk until well blended.
In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together to remove any lumps, and then add to the egg/chocolate mixture. Whisk well until smooth and incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the three buttered loaf pans, place pans on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 300ºF. Let the cakes sit until cool enough to handle, and then remove each from its pan. To remove, cover the top of the pan with a cooling rack, and using oven mitts to protect your hands, invert the pan onto the cooling rack, so the cake is now resting upside down on the cooling rack. Remove the pan from the cake, and peel off the parchment paper. Place a second cooling rack on top of the inverted cake, and carefully flip the cake so it is right side up again. Remove the top cooling rack and let the cakes cool for several minutes.
Carefully transfer one of the cakes to a large cutting board or protected flat surface. Facing the long side of the cake, using a long bread knife, trim about 1/4″ off each end of the cake, left and right. Again facing the long side of the cake, carefully slice the cake into 1/2″ wide sections, width-wise, from left to right. Repeat this process for each cake. Carefully separate the cut pieces and transfer them to two large parchment-lined baking sheets, cut side down, so the pieces lie flat on the baking sheets. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes, until each piece is firm to the touch. Remove and transfer to cooling racks.
Let the pieces cool and dry out a little more on the racks for about an hour or so. Towards the end of this time, make the chocolate topping. In the microwave or on the stove, heat the heavy whipping cream and coffee liqueur together until very warm, then remove from the heat. Add the bittersweet chocolate, and let sit for a minute to melt. Whisk the chocolate into the cream mixture until mixture is silky and smooth. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a wide-bottomed shallow bowl. When the bizcocho has sat long enough, dip each piece, on one side only, into the chocolate mixture to coat, covering with enough melted chocolate so the top is smooth, then place back on the cooling rack. Once you’ve finished, sprinkle the chocolate topping on each piece with a large pinch of the smoked sea salt. Let set until the chocolate cools and hardens slightly. Serve or store as desired.
Makes about 36 bizcocho