Traditional twice-baked cookies, biscotti have grown to become an Italian classic. The root name of the cookie originates from "bis", meaning "more than one" and "cotto" meaning "cooking' in Italian. As its name implies, the cookies are indeed baked twice, first in the form of a log. They are then baked again after the log is sliced into diagonal strips. The crisp, crunchy cookie is perfect for dipping in coffee or dessert wine or even simply for snacking. Because they don't need to be moist, biscotti are naturally low in fat.
It is said that biscotti were originally created as a provision for Venetian sailors and businessmen who went to sea for long periods of time and required foods that wouldn't spoil. Sicilians eat the cookies as part of their breakfast with café latte. The varieties of biscotti differ throughout the many regions of Italy, but they are famous for their classic anise, almond or hazelnut flavor. The French have a version they call biscotte, Germans have zwieback and Swedish twice-baked cookies are called skorpor.
Biscotti can be stored in a sealed container for up to two weeks and make great holiday gifts. They hold up really well when shipped, so they're perfect for sending to out of town friends and family.
Though it might sound complicated to make the tasty cookies that you see at your favorite bakery, it's really quite easy. Just follow the basic recipe and add any dry ingredient for flavor that suits your sweet tooth. Everything from spices, chopped nuts, citrus zest, dried fruit, chocolate and extracts will all work in biscotti.
Follow these handy tips for flavoring your own biscotti:
Spices1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom or ginger can all be added to the dry ingredients.
Citrus zests and juice1 tablespoon of lemon or orange zest and up to four tablespoons of juice can be added to the eggs.
Extracts1/2 to 1 teaspoon of almond, peppermint or vanilla extract can be added to the eggs.
Dried fruitscherries, cranberries, apricots, raisins or currants can be rehydrated in water, fruit juice or alcohol, drained and added to the egg and flour mixture.
Nuts1/2 to 1 cup shelled, peeled, chopped nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, etc.) can be added to the egg and flour mixture.
Makes 72 biscotti
2 ˝ cups flour
1 cup sugar
˝ teaspoon baking powder
˝ teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
3 large eggs
powdered sugar for rolling
Roll your dough into logs on a surface that you've lightly covered in powdered sugar. If you roll the dough in flour, the biscotti will lose some sweetness. Bake the logs at 350°F for 15 minutes, just until firm to the touch. Allow the logs to cool and then using a serrated knife, slice them into ˝-inch slices on the diagonal. Turn your oven down to 300°F and bake them again for 10 to 15 minutes, until they're dry and lightly toasted, but don't let them burn. The biscotti should cool completely before you decorate them.
If you don't have the time to do both baking processes in the same day, the half-baked logs can be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. Then just slice and bake them.
Dress It Up:
For biscotti with a bit of glitz, try dipping one end into a pot of melted milk chocolate or white chocolate or drizzle chocolate stripes over the cookies. To make them even more decadent, you can dip the biscotti in chocolate and then in crushed nuts. For an easy, inexpensive holiday gift, wrap a batch of biscotti in a festive tin or a decorative cookie jar and tie with a pretty ribbon.
Have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate ready for our tasty biscotti:
Sour Cherry-Pecan Biscotti
Double Chocolate Chip Biscotti