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reach into the cookie jar above for the recipe I use!

Biscotti started to become better known in the US  outside of all the Little Italys everywhere about 15-20  years ago, although they quickly transformed into oversized affairs covered in thick sweet icings and chocolate, with a hundred different additions ranging from raspberries and white chocolate, to chocolate chips  and craisins (dried sweetened cranberries).

Everyone has their own preferences, but I tend to like mine simple and traditional – some almond or anise extract, either of which is a very traditional flavoring.  Sometimes with whole almonds or hazelnuts, and maybe one side of the finished cookie finished with a little chocolate:  That is my idea of a good time , with a cup of coffee.  After all, they are twice-baked and benefit from a dip in something wet so you don’t break your teeth on them!   So dip them in a little coffee, or wine or sherry (I don’t drink alcohol myself, but this is also a combination in the afternoon or early evening enjoyed by a lot of people around the world).  One reader from a Sicilian family says they had a soft biscotti when he was growing up!

Because this version is twice-baked (like mandelbrot or rusk) they are easier to digest, the carbohydrates having been broken down by the toasting process in the second baking.  They do traditionally have sugar and fat- including eggs- so they do also have some richness.  The anise (in the form of liquid extract or actual anise or caraway seed) points to the relative antiquity of the recipe, and to the fact that at one point they might have been intended to be an aid to digestion- as well as keeping bugs away from them, since they store well for long periods of time.  But anise also gives them a distinctive flavor that people familiar with European patisserie will recognize.   There are lost-flavors in cooking today that it would be nice to see make a comeback- rosewater, jasmine, angelica are a few others that can be found in recipes ranging from baklava to petit fours.

I’ll post the recipe I use shortly, but thought I’d put it up on the blog, because holidays are coming up and people LOVE to give and receive biscotti as gifts.  There is something special and festive about them, and while they take a little time to make, they are not intimidating to make, especially after you’ve made them once or twice.  And they are versatile- try making them with walnuts, pine nuts or pistachios (all very traditional as well)- and of course, dip them, coat them and lace them with dark, milk or white chocolate if you are a chocoholic.  There really isn’t a lot of limitation to what you can do with a standard biscotti recipe, and you can probably find some new recipe or combination to experiment with every week for a year without repeating yourself.

Mix the dough and shape it into flattish logs and bake  for about 15-20 minutes in a medium oven (about 375F) and while they’re still warm, slice them with a serrated knife.  Lay the cut biscotti out on a baking sheet and subject them to further baking, until they are golden brown and fragrant.  After they’ve cooled you can decorate them…or keep it simple and leave them unadorned.

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