I don’t think of biscotti as particularly festive, but they’re awfully nice with a couple of shots of espresso, so one year I made a few batches to tuck into my Christmas cookie and candy boxes. They were declared the favorite cookie of the year by my beloved butcher, Austin, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to take them off the list since.
Homemade biscotti are, like just about everything, so much dreamier than store-bought. When Dorie Greenspan’s hefty tome, Baking, was published a few years ago, this was one of the first recipes I tried, and I was so surprised by it. The biscotti are crunchy both from ground cornmeal and from a double trip into the oven, but they are also tender. They are flavored with slivered almonds and with a generous dribble of almond extract, and they have a delicate quality in both taste and texture. My batches are already sleeping between layers of waxed paper in the freezer, but the ends I trimmed off are on a plate in my kitchen calling to me while they nudge the espresso machine. Hard to resist.
Music for baking biscotti:
Dean Martin’s A Winter Romance, the 1959 classic, is still great.
This biscotti dough is quite sticky, and it has never pulled together around the paddle of my mixer as the recipe says it will. One year I added flour, almost twice the amount called for in the end, until it did come together, and the results were disappointing.
When shaping the dough, use a patting motion, be gentle, and rinse your hands frequently. This takes patience and a little coaxing. I make smooth logs and the finished cookies turn out nicely.
Use a ruler to measure the length and width of your dough as you shape it.
After the first baking, cut the cookies carefully, using your non-dominant hand to support the log close to where you will be cutting. This dough is fragile, and it will crumble if you work too quickly or don’t support it. Just saw slowly and gently with a serrated knife and enjoy eating your mistakes!
This recipe is part of the Cookie Baking and Candy Making Plan for Christmas 2010 (here).
from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking
Yield: about 30 cookies (I make a double batch.)
1 ½ c. all purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur.)
1 ½ t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
½ c. yellow cornmeal
1 stick (8 T.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 ½ t. pure almond extract
¾ c. sliced almonds, blanched or unblanched
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add the cornmeal and whisk again to blend.
- Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed for three minutes, until very smooth. Add the eggs and continue to beat, scraping down the bowl as needed, for another two minutes, or until the mixture is light, smooth, and creamy. Beat in the almond extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. You’ll have a soft stick-to-your-fingers dough that will ball up around the paddle or beaters. Scrape down the paddle and bowl, toss in the almonds and mix just to blend.
- Scrape half the dough onto one side of the baking sheet. Using your fingers and a rubber spatula or scraper, work the dough into a log about 12 inches long and 1½ inches wide. The log will be more rectangular than domed, and bumpy, rough, and uneven. Form a second log with the remaining dough on the other side of the baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden but still soft and springy to the touch. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and cool the logs on the baking sheet for 30 minutes.
- If you turned off the oven, bring it back up to 350 degrees.
- Using a wide metal spatula, transfer the logs to a cutting board and, with a long serrated knife, trim the ends and cut the logs into ¾“ slices. Return the slices to the baking sheet—this time standing them up like a marching band—and slide the sheet back into the oven.
- Bake the biscotti for another 15 minutes, or until they are golden and firm. Transfer them to racks and cool to room temperature.
- Storage tips here.