The customer marched angrily towards me and promptly declared she needed to lodge a complaint. “I bought these biscotti and they are inedible”, she pronounced, handing me the paper bag. “I am so sorry – what is wrong with them?” “Touch them, they are hard”. I slide my fingers in the bag and break one of the biscotti easily apart. “Well, they are supposed to be hard” I meekly start, quickly veering towards “Let me give you a refund”.
Biscotti are supposed to be a bit hard, to better dip them into anything liquid and let them soak. Vin Santo, an Italian dessert wine, comes to mind.
The word biscotti, which, in Italian, has come to mean any sort of cookie, comes from the Latin biscoctus, meaning twice-cooked (or baked) and it used to define any type of cake baked twice for durability. In ancient Rome it was said that biscotti (or their equivalent) could last for centuries.
The mother of all biscotti recipes is to be found in Prato, a lovely town near Florence, where the modern version of biscotti comes from. In Italy, we actually call them “cantucci” (little nooks) and it’s common to serve them at the end of a Tuscan repast with a small glass of dessert wine to dip them into. The traditional biscotti is made with flour, sugar, eggs, pine nuts and almonds although, these days, most recipes will call for a small amount of butter.
Here is the recipe for the chocolate almond biscotti my customer complained about. The longer you bake them the second time, the harder they will be.
RECIPE – Yield: about 4 dozen small biscotti
2 C AP Flour
1/2 C Cocoa Powder (we use Valrhona)
1 ts Baking Soda
1 ts Salt
6 T Butter, softened
1 C Sugar
1 C Toasted Almonds, lightly toasted and cooled and roughly chopped
3/4 C Mini Chocolate Chips
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
- Cream butter and sugar in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping sides of the bowl between additions.
- Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix on low-speed until incorporated.
- Stir in nuts and mini chocolate chips.
- Form into 2 or 3 thin logs.
- Egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar before baking.
- Bake at 325 F for 20/30 minutes, until firm to the touch.
- Remove from oven and let cool. You can freeze overnight as well.
- Slice the biscotti on the bias into thin biscotti and then bake at 300F for a second time, until firm and crisp, about 15/20 minutes.
- Cool and store in air-tight container.