Question: What is the origin of biscotti?

Answer: Biscotti (or biscotto) is an Italian cookie that is twice baked. First, it is made into a loaf and baked. Once slightly cooled, it is sliced — preferably with a serrated knife — and re-baked at a lower temperature until crunchy and tasty.

In Italy, it is served with dessert wines or coffee. The sweetness and crunchiness of the cookie is a wonderful complement to these beverages. It comes in many flavors and can include nuts such as hazelnuts or almonds. Biscotti can also be dipped in chocolate.

Here is one of my favorite recipes for a simple version of biscotti. Start with this recipe and add whole nuts to it or dip in chocolate and stud with chopped nuts. They make great gifts around the holidays.

Simple Biscotti

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon orange zest

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar in another large bowl until pale yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the orange and lemon zest to the dry ingredients. Add the flour mixture to the eggs and sugar and beat just until blended (the dough will be soft and sticky). Let stand for 5 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet, forming two mounds spaced evenly apart. Moisten your hands with water and shape the dough into two 11 by 4-inch logs. Bake until lightly brown, about 35 minutes. Cool the logs for 5 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices. Arrange the biscotti cut side down on the same baking sheet. Bake until the biscotti are pale and golden, about 25 minutes. Cool the biscotti on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Using a metal spatula, transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely.

Biscotti can be made ahead. Store them in an airtight container up to four days, or wrap them in foil and freeze in resealable plastic bags up to 3 weeks.

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