Double-baking gives biscotti their crunch

December 02, 1992|By Marie Piraino | Marie Piraino,Contributing Writer,United Feature Syndicate

"Biscotto" ("biscotti" is the plural) means twice-cooked and refers to the peculiar double-baking process that produces a crunchy cookie with a long shelf life. The dough is shaped into a log and baked; then it is sliced and the cookies are returned to a slow oven to dry out.

In Italy, biscotti can mean any of a wide assortment of cookies, but here it usually means an almond-studded biscuit.

Biscotti are easy to make in large quantity, and they stay fresh for a month or more when stored in an airtight container. Their flavor and texture actually improve with several days in a tin. Packaged in bright-colored bags or tins, they make thoughtful and delicious gifts for friends.

Mocha-almond biscotti

Makes about 4 dozen.

1/2 cup whole unblanched almonds

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2 large egg whites

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons instant coffee powder

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Spread almonds on a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Set aside.

Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk together eggs, egg whites and vanilla, and add to the dry ingredients; mix just until smooth. In a small bowl, combine cocoa, instant coffee and 4 teaspoons water. Divide the dough in half. To one half, add the cocoa mixture and melted chocolate. Mix just until incorporated. To the other half, stir in almond extract and almonds.

Place half the almond dough on a well-floured work surface. Pat into a 4-by-8-inch rectangle. Top with half the chocolate dough. Form into a cylinder, then roll it back and forth to form a 14-inch log, 1 1/2 inches thick. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place the logs on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Transfer the logs to a rack to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Cut the logs diagonally into 1/2 -inch-thick slices. Stand slices upright on the baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes. Let cool before storing.

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