Treat Well: Biscotti Time, Excellent

The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, mom!
When I spy a jar of biscotti perched on a coffee shop counter, it’s hard for me to resist since nothing pairs more perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea. Biscotti are Italian twice-baked cookies. Because they are dry and traditionally don’t contain any fat, they stay fresh for weeks, so for centuries they’ve been a food staple for those on-the-go, including Roman legions. They are fun to bake and since they store well, are great to keep on hand for unexpected tea parties or coffee klatches. They can be flavored with nuts, spices, peels, dried fruits, seeds, liqueur, or chocolate. It’s fun to experiment with flavors and chose a combination that appeals to you. 

There are many different recipes out there for biscotti. “American Style” biscotti contain butter, but I prefer the traditional Italian ones. They are lighter, but both are ideal for dipping into coffee. I like Alice Water’s recipe. It’s very traditional and, for some reason, brings to mind sitting in front of a warm fire with a good book. I love the original recipe with almonds and anise but also enjoy them made with cardamom seeds, almonds, and orange peel (either fresh or candied). If you want to add chocolate, use the small chips. Or dip them in melted chocolate for added decadence.

A couple of tricks to bear in mind. The eggs need to be at room temperature before you beat them. (You can put them into hot water for a few minutes if you forget to take them out of the refrigerator in time to warm up.) Make sure you beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture forms ribbons when you lift the beaters out of the batter. This will ensure that they are light and airy. (Use egg beaters, not paddle, if you are using a KitchenAid.)

If you desire gluten-free biscotti, you can substitute gluten-free baking mix for the flour (make sure it contains guar gum or xanthan gum). The gluten-free versions I made for David’s PhD party were absolutely delicious but were definitely a little more delicate than those made with wheat flour. If you want sturdier gluten-free biscotti, you might want to make them with butter as in this recipe. David swears by The Blackbird Bakery biscotti recipe if you don’t want to use a ready made flour mix.)

Alice Waters' Anise Almond Biscotti 

1 ½ cups whole almonds
2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon aniseed (or fennel seed)
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread out almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Let cool and coarsely chop.
 Measure and stir together flour, baking powder, and aniseed.
Beat together eggs, sugar, and lemon zest until the mixture forms a ribbon when the beaters are lifted (the mixture will fall back onto itself slowly and thickly in a ribbon-like pattern).
When the eggs are warm it will take about 3 or 4 minutes to beat the eggs to this point; when they are cold, it can take up to 10 minutes. Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated and then gently fold in the almonds.
On a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet (I ran out and used aluminum foil this time which works fine), form the dough into two 3-inch wide loaves, about 3 inches apart. The dough will be very wet and sticky. Wet your hands before touching it to keep from sticking. Smooth the loaves with wet hands and the back of a spoon. 
Bake for 25 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove the loaves from the oven and let cool on wire rack (still on paper) for about 10 minutes. 
Lower the oven temperature to about 300. Peel paper off and cut the cooled loaves into ½ inch-thick cookies and place cut side down on 2 baking sheets.
Cook for 10 minutes, turn the cookies over, and cook for another 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cool completely. They will keep for up to a month in an airtight container.


Use other nuts such as walnuts, macadamia, pine or pistachios.

Add 1 cup of dried fruit, such as raisins, currents, or cranberries

Add ½ cup chopped candied citrus peel

Add a spice other than anise, such as fennel, coriander, cardamom Add chocolate chips (mini ones) with your favorite nuts.

Substitute ¼ cup of cocoa powder for ¼ cup of the flour.

Add orange, lemon, or almond extract (a few drops) or a tablespoon of liqueur of your choice (add a little extra flour if it’s too wet)

Dip in melted chocolate—Melt semisweet chocolate over hot water and dip cooled cookies half-way in chocolate, then let cool on parchment paper (can stick in the refrigerator for a few minutes to set).