Wow, I have been so busy with my Christmas baking that I didn’t realize it’s been so long since my last post. What have I been baking? Well, I’m glad you asked!
Every year, I make batches upon batches of biscotti to give as gifts. I didn’t realize how strange this was until I tweeted about this year’s first batch of biscotti being in the oven and I received a reply along the lines of “First? How many batches do you make?” To be honest, I never actually counted, although this year, if I remember correctly, I made one regular batch and then three double batches (thanks to my fabulous new mixer, a much-appreciated early Christmas gift), for a total of seven regular batches. Plus, there’s still time for some more!
I don’t find this strange because to me, biscotti are the perfect holiday cookie. Not only is it the best cookie to enjoy with a warm beverage during the cold months of December and early January, it’s also incredibly versatile. It also keeps for what seems like forever, which is a plus when making them as gifts ahead of time.
Being Italian, you’d think I have a long family history of making biscotti. Not so. My family favored other Sicilian treats such as “S” cookies and sfinge (a New Year’s tradition when I was younger). And so I have only recently learned and perfected my biscotti technique (it helps when you make countless batches every December – practice makes perfect, so they say).
So, without further ado, here is my basic recipe for a single batch of biscotti, modified from JoyofBaking.com. This is an Italian style biscotti, which only includes eggs, no butter. This produces a slightly drier and crunchier cookie than its American cousin, which uses butter as a tenderizer. Historically, my go-to mix-ins have been toasted almonds and bittersweet chocolate, but this year I also made cranberry-pistachio, cinnamon-fig-pecan, and chocolate-hazelnut batches.
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 ¾ cups flour
Mix-ins of your choice*
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix together the sugar and eggs on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale, and fluffy (about 5 minutes). The mixture should fall back into the bowl in ribbons when you lift up the beaters. Mix in the vanilla extract and any additional extracts your flavorings may require.
Meanwhile, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the egg mixture and beat until combined. Fold in your mix-ins.
Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet and form into a rectangular log about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. If needed, moisten your hands with water to help smooth out the dough. Bake for 25 minutes or until firm and lightly browned.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the log to a cutting board and cut into ¾-inch slices. Place the slices back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Turn slices over and bake for about 8 minutes. (If you prefer your biscotti to be a little less crunchy, reduce the amount of time you bake the slices.) Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.
Chocolate Almond: Add a slight dash of almond extract when mixing in the vanilla. Mix in ½ cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped, and ½ cup of bittersweet chocolate (either chips or roughly chopped bar).
Cranberry Pistachio: Mix in ½ cup pistachios and ½ cup dried cranberries.
Cinnamon Fig Pecan: Add 1 tsp. cinnamon to the flour mixture. Mix in ½ cup chopped pecans and ½ cup chopped dried figs.