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What’s life without the occasional dunk?

This entry is dedicated to Anna (Grazie Cosmos), my host mom from Florence and Queen of Tuscan Cuisine: Grazie di tutto l’aiuto che mi hai dato in cucina e di tutte le meravigliose ricette che hai condiviso con me.

Biscotti, literally translated, means twice-cooked in Italian. This crunchy confection of sheer goodness formed a significant part of my diet while I was in Florence this past winter. Undoubtedly, it is a cookie worth blogging about.

Upon my arrival, my host mom had prepared what seemed like an endless batch of her signature almond biscotti, piled them high in a bowl and set them on the kitchen counter for me to snack on. Soon after, the bowl had become a rite of passage for me as I was incapable of making it in or out of the kitchen without munching on one and grabbing a couple for later. Each time reassuring myself with the blissful nutritional fact that these addicting cookies contain no butter and are packed full of health benefits. At any rate, the seemingly endless supply quickly dwindled to a mere dozen. That very morning (no joke), my host mom noticed the depleted supply and immediately insisted on whipping me up another batch. Of course, I couldn’t refuse, so I rolled up my sleeves and offered to help.

Making biscotti with Grazie Cosmos

Anna’s expertise was obvious and quite impressive as she confidently poured the ingredients out onto the counter without hesitation or measuring utensils. She reassured me that after hundreds of batches I’ll begin to get the hang of it; in the mean time I’ve resorted to my awesome kitchen scale for incredible precision each time.

the well method

The well method pops up everywhere in cooking and quite frankly, I’m a huge fan. Anything that gifts me with one less dish to wash is a blessing. Plus, it rewards you with the distinct sense of authenticity that you’ll appreciate in each bite of your homemade biscotti. Definitely well worth the messy hands!

logs of dough

Once your dough comes together into a smooth ball, you’re set. Shape the dough into two long logs and bake until they are firm enough to slice (approx. 12-14 minutes). Slicing them right out of the oven is easiest, and a serrated knife makes your task a synch. Bake them a second time for 7-9 minutes and prepare yourself for some obsessive biscotti consumption!

biscotti con café

One of the great qualities these biscotti share is their remarkable versatility. Pairing them with a hot cup of joe is considered perfection for many of us, but these cookies go well with almost anything. Tuscans traditionally enjoy these biscotti with a glass of vin santo, an Italian dessert wine, to accentuate their sweet flavor.

biscotti con latte

For me, a handful of biscotti and a tall icy glass of milk is my favorite way to start my day (continue my day, and end my day, too). The kid in me wouldn’t have it any other way besides dunking – so dunk I did. It was not a trivial skill to acquire as any seasoned dunker can easily attest to. Prolong your dunk and the structural integrity of the cookie is compromised, but withdraw prematurely and the mission fails. Let me part with some words of encouragement for the aspiring dunker: clear your calendar, double the recipe and let your inner-child dunk.

biscotti alle mandorle

Biscotti alle Mandorle (Biscotti with Almonds)

(yields approx. 24 cookies)

Components

  • 275 g flour, approx 2 cups
  • 225 g granulated sugar, approx 1 cup + 2 tbsp
  • zest of 2-3 lemons
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp anise, ground (optional)
  • 200 g raw almonds, approx 1 1/3 cups
  • 3 eggs

Putting them all together

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. On a clean work surface create a well by mixing together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest.
  3. Add the eggs to the center of the well, and slowly mix them into the dry ingredients. Once the mix begins to resemble a dough, add the almonds and shape into a smooth ball.
  4. Shape into two long logs and bake for 12-14 minutes or until firm enough to slice. While hot, slice the logs horizontally (best with a serrated knife) to form mini-biscotti.
  5. Bake again for 7-9 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.

Note: This is a very sticky dough. Make sure to have some extra flour on hand to form the dough into logs.

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Posted in cookies, desserts, Italian, recipe by Antonio Tahhan on March 6th, 2008. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


9 Responses to “What’s life without the occasional dunk?”

George Says:

The Biscotti were really yummy, i’ve always looked for an easy way to make these delectable cookies and now i’ve found it. I made them for a dinner party lets just say the temptation to munch on these cookies didn’t hold them back for having seconds and thirds. Thank you very much, keep up the amazing work.

TERESA Says:

Esos biscottes, tienen una pinta estupenda.
Antonio, tienes un blog precioso,y muy interesante, tu receta de ali-oli es muy original, te la voy a copiar en breve , ¿vale?

Un saludo,

Teresa.

Franco Says:

These biscotti are so good! I wish I had some now.

I hope all is well. Ciao!

HoneyB Says:

Hi Antonio – Love your blog about biscotti. I made my first biscotti at Christmas time this last year – and got hooked! The best thing about the biscotti – is my Grumpster doesn’t care for the hard crunch (he prefers chewy) so they are all mine! 🙂

Hilda Says:

Hola Antonio…
Me encantan los biscotti… viendo lo estupendos que te han salido… me animaré a hacerlos…(gracias por la receta y tu blog tan estupendo)
Besos

Hilda

Mackie Says:

Hi Tony! I just clicked to your blog from tastespotting, and am definitely making these biscotti. I’m so excited about ATOM too…Sacha and I might try to make cilantro pesto! Hope you have a wonderful graduation and if you need any restaurant recommendations for DC, let me know!

garbane Says:

The Biscottis taste lovely, but i’m not sure i will make them again.. Well, first of all, i think the quantities may be wrong.. the dough was too wet in my opinion and terribly sticky.. i dont mind getting my hands dirty but the dough acted like a superglue making it impossible to form it into anything! I had to add some more flour but even that didnt help a lot.. took me a while to make something that resembles logs.. Well, but that’s just the first problem.
As i said – they taste nice, but are so hard. I didnt exceed the time in the oven.. Are they supposed to be like that?
I was really tempted by this recipe and its a shame it didnt work out the way i expected. Did i do something wrong? Any tricks i should have known?

Antonio Tahhan Says:

George – I love making these as party favors! I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe!

Teresa – Gracias! Si, no hay problema. Dime como te sale la salsa.

Franco – You should definitely make some at home!!

HoneyB – For me biscotti were one of those things I always bought but never thought to make from scratch. I also enjoy how crunchy they are 🙂

Hilda – Gracias! Espero q te animes hacerlos, son una de mis galletas favoritas.

Mackie – Let me know how the biscotti turn(ed) out!! A cilantro pesto sounds so good, especially now that summer’s here! Restaurant recommendations are always welcome 🙂 Lately I’ve been on the lookout for some really good Ethiopian food… any suggestions?

Garbane – I’m so sorry to hear that because these cookies are up there with some of my favorites. I’m glad though that after everything they still tasted good. Here are a couple of ideas that came to mind as to what could have gone wrong:
– Every batch of flour has different absorbtion levels, so bench flour (extra flour that is used during the kneading process) is key for the dough to come out right.
– In order to avoid really messy fingers, I whisk the eggs (in the well) with a fork and incorporate them slowly into the flour until a semi-solid mass is formed. Then I flour my hands, add the almonds and knead it until it all comes together.
– These cookies are supposed to be hard because they are twice cooked; but they’re not supposed to be as hard as rocks, for instance. The main culprit here seems to be gluten. I’m thinking that you might have overworked the flour while trying to form the dough. You’re looking for a crisp exterior and a firm interior (but definitely not a break-a-tooth texture).
-Personally, I always dunk mine in a tall glass of ice cold milk. This also helps with the texture if you found your biscotti to be too hard.
-As for tricks, I like to use the fork during the well method to avoid a big clumpy mess on my fingers. Also, keep flour handy for your work surface and your hands to keep the dough from sticking as much.
I hope these pointers help and you get to give these cookies another go. Let me know how they turn out.
Happy baking,
Tony

garbane Says:

Tony, thank you very much for answering!
I guess I’ll just blame the flour and try again… They taste and look cute after all 🙂 The tips you mentioned – extra flour and fork – that’s what I did as well. No luck, however. The thing is – I am not that novice in baking but I’ve certainly never encountered dough THAT sticky and unmanageable! But well.. I’ll try again. The biscottis are worth it 🙂


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