Modern biscotti originated in 13th century Tuscany and were characteristically flavored with almonds from the groves of Prato, the second largest city in the region and a leader in the slow food movement. They are made with just a few simple ingredients and baked twice to ensure extra crispness. The dough is baked in the form of a solid log and then cooled a bit to firm up. The logs are then sliced into long narrow cookie portions and toasted for about 10 minutes on each side. The result is a nice crisp biscuit full of texture and toasted almond flavor.
Biscotti made in this country are usually much sweeter, sometimes made with butter and full of all sorts of stuff like dried fruit and chocolate chips. These adaptations offer their own unique interest and fun but I most often favor the more traditional style. This recipe for Classic Italian Biscotti is one that was routinely baked at Chez Panisse. It’s full of toasted almonds and slightly flavored with orange zest and a hint of anise.
Biscotti are a wonderful ritual with your afternoon sip of coffee or evening sip of wine or as an accompaniment to gelato or ice cream. They can be stored for days, the better to sneak a sumptuous bite whenever the mood strikes.
- If you have strong objections to anise seeds, they can be left out but the flavor here is fairly subtle.
- Beating the eggs and sugar to ribbon stage lightens the texture of the cookie so try not to over mix once the remaining ingredients are added.
- Lemon zest can be substituted for orange zest.
- The dough is quite wet and sticky. Lightly moisten your hands with water to make shaping the logs a bit easier.
- I use a sawing motion with a sharp serrated knife to slice the baked loaves. Slice at an angle for longer and more stylish cookies.
- Biscotti are best kept in an airtight container. They will last quite a long time.
adapted from Chez Panisse
Makes about 3 dozen biscotti
1 1/2 C whole almonds
2 C flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 egg yolk
2 – 3 drops almond extract
1 C sugar
3/4 t anise seeds
2 t orange zest
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment or silpat.
Coarsely chop almonds and set aside.
Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In bowl of electric mixer, whisk eggs and egg yolk, almond extract and sugar until mixture thickens and holds its shape in a ribbon for a few seconds when the whisk attachment is lifted. Switch to a paddle and add dry ingredients, mixing on low just until the dough comes together. Add chopped almonds, anise and orange zest and blend thoroughly for about 10 to 15 seconds.
Lightly moisten your hands with cold water and form the dough into two logs about 3” wide and 12” long and about 3" apart. Try not to handle the dough too much.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until a light golden brown. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees.
Let biscotti logs cool for 10 minutes before handling. Slice into 1/2” pieces using a sharp serrated knife. Bake for an additional 10 minutes at the lower temperature. Turn and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.