Biscotti are quite possibly my favorite cookie to bake. If I’m cooking for myself, a simple chocolate chip or plain oatmeal cookie will suffice, but biscotti is the number one choice for socializing.
I nearly always bake some biscotti to tuck away into the Airstream before a trip. They can be packed up in tins, Tupperware, or even a Zip-Loc bag and still remain, for the most part, whole and intact.
The absolute best thing about biscotti, though, is their versatility. Depending on your guests or your mood, biscotti will go with almost anything. They are the perfect dipping cookie. And, because of their subtle, elemental flavors, and subtle sweetness, they can go into just about anything. It is perfectly acceptable to dunk biscotti in coffee, tea, milk, and even wine. Yea, cookies that go with wine!! Even Oreos can’t make that claim.
For the unfamiliar, biscotti are a twice-baked, oblong-shaped cookie from Italy. Biscottio, means twice cooked, and comes from the custom of baking cookie dough in long slabs, cutting it into thick, long cookies, and baking them again. After the second bake, they lose any excess moisture, making them nice and crunchy, and sturdy enough to travel or be shipped. Biscotti are in the same cookie family as Mandelbrot, the traditional Jewish cookie made with oilgt. Mandelbrot is typically filled with walnuts or almonds and flavored with a bit of cinnamon. Biscotti will call for hazelnuts or almonds, and is crispier than mandelbrot due to its second baking.
There are hundred of recipes for biscotti throughout Italy, but other than flavoring (biscotti can also be subtly-sweet or savory) they fall into two distinct categories: those made with butter and those made without butter or any shortening. The cookies made with butter have a more tender shortbread-like texture, while those without are drier, harder, and crunchier.
Double Chocolate Biscotti
adapted from Biscotti by Lou Seibert Pappas, Chronicle Books, 1992
2/3 c sliced or slivered almonds
½ c butter
¾ c sugar
2 tbsp Amaretto, Kahlua, or double-strength coffee
2 c plus 2 tbsp flour
1/3 c unsweetened cocoa
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2/3 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
Place nuts in a shallow pan and toast over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until you start to smell them. Keep stirring to prevent any hotspots. Let cool.
In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and liqueur or coffee. In a bowl combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Using a sturdy spoon, add the creamed sugar, and mix until thoroughly blended. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips.
Divide dough in half. On a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper, pat out dough into two logs about ½ inch high, 1 ½ inches wide, and 14 inches long, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake in the middle of a preheated 325° oven for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven. Gently lifting the parchment paper, transfer the logs onto a cooling rack. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Place on a cutting board. With a serrated knife, or even better, an electric knife, slice diagonally on a 45 degree angle about ½ inch thick. Place the slices upright back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on a rack. Store in a tightly covered container.
P.S. While cutting the biscotti, you are likely to create a lot of crumbs. If you can resist the urge to lick them off the cutting board, save them in a Zip-Loc and store in the freezer. Use them to crumble on ice cream, top off some tiramisu, or sprinkle over oatmeal.