November 17, 2013

Anise and Almond Biscotti

It has been far too long since I wrote my last recipe post. If the truth must be told, I have not been so inspired in the kitchen lately. This is partially due to the fact that I have been preoccupied with other exciting projects around the house. My creative juices are only temporarily being sidetracked from food and fresh recipe ideas.  Many readers have been writing to me with reminders that Thanksgiving is coming up and I have not posted anything new. Thanksgiving is the one holiday where I really don't try to make anything new and exciting. Like many other people, I like Thanksgiving dinner to have all my childhood favorites just like my mom made them. All of those recipes are already here for you to enjoy. But I will do my best to provide you with some new things to try this holiday season as well.

With this year being the first in a few that I am no longer strictly dedicated to a plant-based diet, I am feeling a desire to embrace my roots in pastry and the preparation of home style desserts. This particular recipe for Anise and Almond Biscotti is a personal favorite of mine to make for holiday gifting as well as for my own personal sweet tooth.

If you are making biscotti for holiday events or gifts, they can be made well in advance as they will hold well in an airtight container for at least a couple of weeks. The word biscotti which is the plural of biscotto is Italian for twice-baked. Twice-baked cookies or cakes are extremely dry and can be stored for long periods of time. During times of war and long journeys, non perishable twice-baked foods were staples in the Ancient Roman diet.

Feel free to deviate from the traditional almond based recipe and add or replace ingredients to make them more festive and seasonal. Adding in dried cranberries, candied citron, or another sort of dried fruit or nut always makes them a little different and visually pleasing.


Anise and Almond Biscotti

Makes about 50 cookies.

I wish I could tell you how this recipe came about. I have hunted through my books in hope of locating the original source, but all I have is an stained sheet of paper handwritten with my notes and no date. If I were to guess, this recipe was possibly adapted from one by either Maida Heatter or Nancy Silverton.

 1/4 pound unsalted butter
 2 vanilla beans scraped
 2 eggs whites and yolks separated
 3/4 cup sugar
 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
 4 teaspoons almond extract
 3 cups all purpose flour
 1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
 1 1/3 cup almonds
 2/3 cup pepitas
 2 1/2 teaspoons anise seeds

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

The vanilla bean should be fresh and supple. Use a small knife to cut along the length of the beans. Use the back of the knife to scrape the seeds from the pods. Put the scrapings and the pods in a small saucepan or bowl along with the butter and melt together on the stove or in the microwave.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together.

Add the lemon zest, almond extract, flour, and baking powder. Beat to incorporate the ingredients.

Remove the pods from the melted butter and add the butter to the batter. Beat to incorporate.

Add the nuts and pepitas and combine thoroughly. The mixture will be sticky and loaded with the nuts and seeds. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl to be sure that all of the nuts and seeds are mixed into the dough.

Dampen your hands with water and remove half of the dough from the mixing bowl. Use your hands to form the dough into a log along the length of the pan leaving room for one more. You will have to push the nuts into the dough as they will pop out. This is normal. Just do your best to smooth the dough around the nuts so they stay within the loaves. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Beat the egg whites and brush onto the tops of the loaves. Generously sprinkle the tops of the loaves with the anise seeds and put the pan into the preheated oven.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the loaves are golden.

Remove the pan from the oven and lower the heat to 250 F. Allow the loaves to cool for only a few minutes.

Carefully remove a loaf from the pan using a long spatula. It should still be very hot. Put it onto a cutting board and use a very sharp slicing knife or serrated knife to slice the cookies. I prefer using a sharp slicing knife as experience has proven it to keep the cookies and nuts in tact better than when I use a serrated knife with this particular recipe. You will lose some nuts in the process as well as break some of the cookies regardless. just try to accept it as part of the learning process. I like to slice them about 1/4 inch in thickness. You can slice them thicker or thinner per your preference. If you happen to have an electric knife around, they are perfect for slicing super thin biscotti.

*For longer biscotti, slice the loaves at extreme diagonals. For the shortest biscotti, slice them perfectly perpendicular to the lengths of the loaves. For the happy medium biscotti in terms of size and shape, slice at a slight diagonal.

Arrange the sliced cookies on parchment lined baking sheets and repeat with the remaining loaf.

Put the sliced cookies back into the oven and allow to dry out completely. This will take at least 2 hours. Biscotti should be dry and hard.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven and allow to cool completely before storing in airtight containers.



Categories: Cookies, Brownies & Bars, Desserts

Index: , , , , ,