may i present to you, my favorite cookie in the world. the biscotto.
(thunderous applause from the blogosphere)
ok, so maybe they’re not typically pretty. no icing or sparkles, sprinkles, jam or chocolate. just a rustic beige looking baked good that i’d take over just about any cookie ever. except perhaps a black and white, but only because somewhere in my dna i’m genetically programmed to love those.
and now, dear readers – for today’s lesson, courtesy of the wiki: biscotti, derived from some latin word that means twice baked, were most likely prepared this way so that they could be stored for longer periods of time, particularly useful during journeys or wars.
in america, the italian term "biscotti" has been taken to refer to a specific type of biscuit, derived from tuscan cantucci, a type of hard almond-flavoured biscuits traditionally served with vin santo, probably originating from the town of prato and therefore still known as "biscotti of prato".
ok. class over.
see how we learn together? how beautiful is that?
but before we move on i must make one thing perfectly clear. MY BISCOTTI WILL NEVER EVER CONTAIN ANY BUTTER. because it would quite simply be wrong. i am a firm believer that the moment you add butter to biscotti they turn into a whole different cookie – an imposter. they are then cake-like. they’re crumbly. not crunchy. and they will then have that butter thing going on and listen, i love butter as much as you, if not more – but keep it the hell out of my damn biscotti. are we clear? i hope so because this totally matters to me. so, go ahead and put cream in your carbonara if you must, i can handle that if only barely. but no butter in the biscotti or i will be forced to talk bad about your baking decisions.
on a lighter note, every year angela and i have a tradition of getting together and baking biscotti. it’s this thing we’ve done for quite some time now although lately it translates into her doing all the work and me pouring the wine while giving my opinion as to how it should all be done and why. anyway, we have a recipe that we’ve used over time that we’ve honed – and it’s quite good. we’ve also tended towards over toasting them which makes them quite hard. but if you’re inclined to dunk, they’re perfect that way.
angela and claudia’s famous biscotti
(eat at your own dental risk)
3 3/4 cups ap flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 cups almonds, whole – toasted
1 cup chopped candied ginger pieces – optional
melted chocolate for dipping – optional
toast almonds about 12 minutes or until fragrant at 350f on baking sheets – single layer… keep an eye on them.
in the bowl of an electric mixer (or not) fitted with the paddle attachment blend the flour, the sugar, the baking powder, and the salt until the mixture is combined well. In a small bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, the vanilla and the almond extract, add the mixture to the flour mixture, beating until a dough is formed, and stir in the almonds.
turn the dough out onto a floured surface, knead it several times, and divide it into fourths. Working on 2 large floured baking sheets, with floured hands form each piece of dough into a flattish log 11 inches long and 2 inches wide, arrange the logs at least 3 inches apart on the sheets.
bake the logs in a preheated 350f oven for about 30 minutes and let them cool on the baking sheets for at least 15 minutes. on a cutting board, cut the logs crosswise on the diagonal into 1/2" inch slices, arrange the biscotti cut sides down on the baking sheets, and bake them in a 300f oven for 10 minutes on each side, or until they are pale golden. transfer the biscotti to racks to cool.
but – our recipe is not the biscotti pictured. because this year, we used the biscotti recipe that i had found on the babbo website. it’s quite similar to ours, but this was gina depalma’s version… and well, i respect the hell out of gina depalma. so we gave her version below a go and it was excellent.
adapted from babbo ristorante – by gina depalma
gina’s recipe calls for 6 cups of nuts which is how they’re pictured above. but when i made them a second time i brought it down to 4 cups. it really just depends on how you want them. both quantities work. i also omitted the anise seed, using other add-ins. one log had candied ginger, one had candied citron peel and another had candied orange peel. we left the 4th plain.
3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
4 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbl. amaretto
4 cups coarsely chopped whole almonds
in a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
in a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until light, about 2 minutes; the mixture will look somewhat curdled. beat in the vanilla and amaretto. beat in the dry ingredients, then the chopped nuts.
preheat the oven to 325 degrees. lightly grease two heavy cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper. divide the dough into four portions. on a lightly floured board, shape each portion into a flat log, just about the length the cookie sheet. place two rolls on each cookie sheet. bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden brown, firm to the touch and just beginning to crack slightly.
allow the logs to cool on the cookie sheet until cool to the touch, about 40 minutes. reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees. with a serrated knife, slice the biscotti, slightly on the bias, into ½-inch slices. lay the slices on the cookie sheets in single layer; return the biscotti to the oven and cook for 20 more minutes, or until the biscotti are toasted and crisp.
the ginger version is our automatic annual biscotti. sometimes we half dip them in chocolate, sometimes we don’t. the citron really needed some lemon zest and in place of the amaretto, limoncello would work nicely here to brighten them up a bit. the citron kind of got lost amidst the vanilla extract and the amaretto. angela swore that the candied orange peel biscotti tasted like fruit loops and well, i’m not sure what to say about that except that she was thinking that was a bonus and i was hoping it wasn’t so.
as for me, i loved them all.
but again, these are my kind of cookie…