Tonight was girls’ night out. Our plan was a few bottles of wine, good food, and a chick flick. Courtney, our camp counselor for the evening, and I had attended KH Krena‘s art exhibit at the Alliance Francaise (aka the French Library) earlier in the week. When she inquired whether there might exist an analogous Italian Library in Boston, and she mentioned that she lives in the North End, I offered to make biscotti for our girly evening.
Granted, I did warn her that the last time I made biscotti was for a Thanksgiving dinner when someone sat down next to me and whispered, “Don’t eat the cookies, they’re hard as a rock.” Heathen!
It has been a few years since I’ve baked biscotti, so it took me about an hour to unearth the right recipe. I recalled I used to make one almond version, and one chocolate hazelnut version. But which recipe was the right one? I would have to go by touch. Literally. I skimmed through some likely cookbook culprits, narrowed down my options based on ingredients and then felt my way through the pages to find one correct recipe. Bingo — Biscotti di Prato — dogeared and Post-it® flagged like many others, but most importantly, covered in a bas relief of my sticky biscotti dough fingerprints.
When I made the biscotti this morning, I remembered the immense stickiness of the biscotti dough and how I used to liberally flour my hands when shaping the logs for the first baking. I like the little bit of excess flour all over the logs, reminding everyone that the biscotti are homemade and very authentic.
Tuscan almond biscotti
Adapted from Lou Seibert Pappas’ Biscotti (recipe for Biscotto di Prato) and Nick Malgieri’s Cookies Unlimited (recipe for Cantuccini – classic Tuscan biscotti). Both recipes mention that these are meant to be dunked into sweet wine or coffee and are a bit crispier than most Americans are used to (take that, “‘hard as a rock'”). I attribute this crispness to the lack of shortning; these are on the lowish fat side, though they are still quite caloric. I used the Pappas proportions and toasting of the almonds, and the Maglieri cinnamon addition. The cinnamon flavor is not very strong — it just gives a hint of extra “flavor texture” if there is such a thing. Or is this complexity?
Makes approximately 3 dozen
3/4 C sliced blanched almonds
1 t vanilla
2 C unbleached or all-purpose flour
7/8 C sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1 t baking soda
Preheat oven to 350°F
Toast nuts: place nuts on baking sheet in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, checking frequently, until golden brown. Do not allow nuts to burn. Let cool.
Turn oven down to 300°F
In large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Make deep well in center and beat eggs with vanilla, then gradually incorporate dry ingredients into wet until well blended.
Add cooled almonds and mix in.
First baking: Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. If you don’t have parchment paper, liberally grease and flour cookie sheets. Flour your hands, divide dough in half and pat dough into 2 logs about 1/2 inch thick, 1 1/2 inch wide, and 12 inches long. Make sure to space the logs at least 2 inches apart. Bake in middle of oven at 300°F for 50 minutes until golden brown.
Transfer from baking sheet to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes. NOTE: this is different from most other biscotti recipes that call for a full cooling after the first baking. With a serrated knife, slice logs diagonally into 1/2 inch slices.
Lower oven to 275ºF
Lay slices flat on cookie sheets (I usually find that I need 2 cookie sheets by this point) and return to 275ºF oven for 20-25 minutes, turning over once. Cool on rack.
Store cooled biscotti in tin or plastic container with tight-fitting cover.
Or wrap and bring as a gift.