The coffee shop by my office puts a little piece of biscotti on the saucer of every large coffee. Since I don’t drink coffee I never have the pleasure of dunking this delicacy into a warm beverage, which, frankly, feels a little like discrimination. As petty vengeance, I plan to bring a full sized biscotti with me the next time I go to the shop with my coworkers and watch their jealous faces as my biscotti lasts five times longer than theirs. Childish – yes. Not worth the effort – probably. Doing it anyway – yup!
There are surprisingly few ingredients in a classic biscotti – basic dry goods, eggs, almonds, and orange zest. That said, no need to stay classic. In my hunt for a recipe I came across a multitude of exotic flavor combinations from Chai Spice to Funfetti. Biscotti seems to be an idea vehicle to take your favorite flavors and go wild.
Unsurprisingly for a recipe with few ingredients, the initial bake is also very simple. Prep your flavors – in this case toasting some almonds and zesting an orange – mix with your dry goods and eggs and form into a log. Easy as pie (although I take issue with that idiom).
The hard part of this dessert is timing the two bakes. When I removed the loaf from the oven after the first bake my heart sunk a little. The loaf didn’t rise (was it supposed to?), still looked lumpy (should it have smoothed out?), and was very pale (my desserts shouldn’t be as pale as me). I couldn’t fathom how this dense, cookie/bread hybrid was going to turn into delicious dunkable biscotti. To make things worse, when I sliced the log the inside looked underdone – had I already failed? Should I give up now?
Thankfully, I persevered (mostly out of stubbornness), and what a difference the second bake makes! As you can see from the picture above, the second bake takes a pale, weird, hybrid and transforms it into the crunchy cookie perfect for dipping into the warm beverage of your choice. Did I overbake my biscotti so that the slices you see here are slightly-burned? Maybe…
The Moment of Truth
While I still prefer a good chocolate chip cookie, I see the benefit of having these around the house for emergency situations, like gallons of water in case of an earthquake except for evenings when you feel too guilty to make a whole chocolate cake just for yourself but still need something sweet.
There are a multitude of basic biscotti recipes and you probably can’t go wrong with any of them. I modified a recipe from this NPR blog and relied heavily on a recipe from Lisa Marietta Gianotti at Italian Desserts and one from She Loves Biscotti for the alternative second baking method.
3 cups unsalted whole almonds
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing tops of loaves
1 teaspoon vanilla (or almond extract)
Zest of 1 large orange
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. Once cool, roughly chop.
In a large bowl, mix toasted almonds, sugars, cinnamon, baking powder and flour. In a small bowl, whisk eggs. Add the vanilla and orange zest to the eggs and whisk until well blended. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix to combine. The dough reminded me of a flour-heavy cookie dough. It should be slightly sticky but easy to manipulate. Remove from the bowl and shape into a log.
NPR recommends dividing the dough into fourths and rolling into a log that is 8 inches long by 2 inches wide. I was lazy and made one big log so I could get all of the baking done in one batch. Ultimately, the only difference will be the shape of your biscotti.
Place loaf, or loaves, on a parchment or silicon mat lined baking sheet and brush with the lightly beaten egg. Bake for roughly 40 minutes until the top of the loaf is a lovely light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for 15-20 minutes.
Move your loaf to a cutting board and, using a bread knife, slice the loaf into whatever size biscotti you desire. Use a sawing motion and go slowly to avoid the loaf crumbling. Pro tip – cutting your loaf on the diagonal results in some pretty fancy looking biscotti.
Place the slices back on the baking sheet and bake until the insides look fully cooked and the edges are a nice golden brown – roughly 10 minutes. NPR recommends putting the slices back into the oven with the temperature off and the door closed for 30-60 minutes, but I am not that patient.
Let the slices cool (or not) and coat with melted chocolate, vanilla drizzle, or leave unadorned. The biscotti can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month – impressive self life for a dessert!
In 2012 it was reported that the Italian Mafia accounted for 7% of Italy’s GDP. Maybe crime does pay (**insert classic pun noise here**).
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