At some point in my childhood, my mom started making biscotti at Christmas. As a kid, it was low on my priority list—there were so many other, sweeter cookies in the house. But even though my mom was the household’s master baker, my dad, sister, and I ate most of her creations before she had a chance to enjoy them with a cup of tea and a good book. She probably made biscotti because we tended to leave it for her.
Now that I’m older, I’ve come to appreciate these twice-baked cookies. They pair well with tea, coffee, or even an evening alcoholic sipper. When I traveled in Italy, I ate them with straight espresso and once with a dry Italian dessert wine I assumed was a type of sherry but later discovered was called vin santo (holy wine). The Italians are biscotti masters, traditionally flavoring them with almonds. But the technique works with many flavors, from nuts and dried fruit to my mom’s favorite gingerbread biscotti. And because they’re so dry, they can be stored a long time, making them ideal for sending to others.
Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You just need 2 main ingredients plus some baking staples.
1. Mix the dough.
2. Shape it into logs.
3. Bake and slice.
4. Bake again, cool, and enjoy.
Biscotti Master Recipe
2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sliced or chopped nuts
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon Homemade Vanilla Extract
Turbinado sugar for topping (optional)
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the nuts; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla; whisk until thoroughly combined. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just combined but still sticky.
Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface and knead a couple of times, until the dough comes together, adding flour only if necessary. Divide the dough in quarters, and then shape each quarter into a log about 1/2 inch thick, 2 inches wide, and no longer than the width of your baking sheet.
Sprinkle with raw sugar, if desired, and then transfer the dough to a lightly greased baking sheet; lightly press with your fingers to slightly flatten the logs. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until browned at edges and springy when touched. Remove from the oven; reduce the heat to 325°F. Let the loaves cool for about 10 minutes, until they can be easily handled but have not fully hardened.
Transfer the loaves to a cutting board. With a serrated knife, cut the loaves straight across or at an angle into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the biscotti flat on the baking sheet. Return them to the oven and bake for 15–18 minutes, flipping the biscotti halfway through, until brown and crisp. Transfer the biscotti to a rack to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container for several weeks. Makes about 36 cookies.
Tips & Tricks
- This master recipe has room for plenty of variations even before you begin adding other flavors (see below). White granulated sugar lets the almond flavor shine through, but you can mix in or replace it with some brown sugar. Almonds are traditional, but other nuts work well, including pine nuts or chopped pistachios, hazelnuts, or walnuts. Homemade (or store-bought) vanilla extract can be replaced with anise extract or lemon extract or zest.
- This recipe comes together quickly, but you can boost or alter the flavor slightly with a little more time. The butter can be browned, like for last week’s oatmeal cookies, for a deeper flavor. You can also toast the nuts: Put them in a 350°F oven for 5–8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden and aromatic; dense nuts like whole hazelnuts may need a little more time. Let cool before chopping.
- I tend to put nuts in all of my biscotti, but don’t shy away from the recipe if you have an allergy. Instead, mix up a nut-free master recipe but add at least one of my suggested flavors to every batch.
Twice as Tasty
My mom typically made two versions of biscotti at Christmas: one with nuts and fruit and one inspired by gingerbread. But when I began browsing other recipes, I found an amazing range of flavors, many of which can be made using my Biscotti Master Recipe.
If you’re mailing biscotti with your holiday gifts this year, you can make a full batch and alter it to suit any of these flavors—or multiple full batches that can be divided into assorted flavor packs. If you’re keeping these all to yourself (perfectly understandable) but want several flavors, stick to the basic recipe but divide the dough into quarters before kneading. Then work a flavor into each mound of dough, either in a bowl (for liquid or powdered ingredients) or while you knead (for dried fruit and chocolate chips).
Ready to give it a try? Consider some of these flavors. Quantities are for a full batch of the Biscotti Master Recipe; choose your variations and divided by 4 if you’re making 1 batch of 4 assorted flavors:
- Nut & Fruit: Add 1 cup chopped dried cranberries or cherries.
- Gingerbread: Add 6 tablespoons molasses, 1/2 cup coarsely chopped crystallized ginger, 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon each ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and/or allspice.
- Coffee: Add 1/4 cup previously brewed coffee grounds and 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Orange: Add the zest and juice of 1 medium orange.
- Chocolate: Replace 1/4 cup flour with unsweetened cocoa powder and add 1 cup chocolate chips.
- Honey: Replace the vanilla with 1/3 cup honey, reducing the recipe’s sugar if desired.
- Cinnamon & Sugar: Replace the raw-sugar topping with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon; you can mix 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon into the dough too.
- Chocolate Glazed: Melt 4 ounces of chocolate in a double boiler (or a bowl set over, but not touching, a pot of simmering water) and then spread it on the biscotti or dip the cookies into it; let set before storing.
Need a holiday gift idea—besides cookies? Get a signed copy of The Complete Guide to Pickling and The Pickled Picnic digital collection, available exclusively through Twice as Tasty. Click here to order.