Hit the road, snack! The well-traveled biscotti

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Looking for a cookie that travels well? One that stays fresh for weeks, stands up to the rough-and-tumble of a UPS warehouse, and happily makes a cross-country (or transcontinental) journey without crumbling?

You’ve found it.

Biscotti are my favorite pack-and-send cookie, whether I want to surprise my mom in Florida, or treat my buddies in Maine.

Or my virtual friends in Australia. Or my in-laws right next door in Massachusetts – who over the years have been the beneficiary of many a test-kitchen goodie, including all manner of biscotti.

In casting around for a different biscotti flavor, one I hadn’t made in awhile, I found my thoughts drifting to cookbooks. My go-to source for recipes these days is the Internet. But before there was Google, there was Good Maine Food

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…and a host of other REAL books, books with pages you can dog-ear, and stain with butter and chocolate.

For those of you who still love your cookbooks, here’s part of my “wall of books” in our Web team room. As much time as I spend online, I can’t bear to give up my cookbooks… ANY of them!

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Including, of course, my nearly 20 years of Baking Sheets, our King Arthur Flour baking newsletter. Here’s one of five well-worn binders of my older Baking Sheets, stretching back to 1990.

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I had a vague memory of a maple-walnut biscotti recipe… Ah, there it is.

Hmmm… Lemon and maple? Cloves and maple? Not sure what planet I was on back then, but right now I’m in the mood for comfort food, not edgy flavor fusion. So let’s rework this recipe a bit, shall we?

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Back in the early ’90s we didn’t stock the range of maple products we do now. Maple is a really, REALLY hard flavor to capture in baking; it’s incredibly elusive. Unless you use artificial maple flavor (the stuff they put in pancake syrup to make it taste familiar, if not maple-y), you’re hard-pressed to produce maple-y baked goods.

In this recipe, we use real Vermont maple syrup (extra-strong Grade B, perfect for baking); maple sugar; and maple flavor to add what’s still, admittedly, an elusive hint of maple.

If you don’t have all (or any) of these, feel free to make these cookies anyway; they won’t be maple-walnut, but they’ll still be crunchy and sweet and yummy.

Oh, and about that fake maple syrup – yes, it does taste good. But it’s bland in baking; if you use it here, increase the amount from 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup.

You might try 1/4 cup honey, though honey tends to burn easily in baking, so… hmmm, I guess you’d just have to watch them closely as they bake. Brown sugar corn syrup (Karo’s newest iteration) might be a better choice.

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Let’s begin by toasting 2 cups of chopped walnuts. Here’s what they look like going into a 350°F oven…

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…and here they are 10 minutes later.

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Regular walnuts on the left; browned on the right. They should be golden; don’t let them darken too much, or they’ll taste bitter.

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The original recipe called melted vegetable shortening. I decided to substitute melted butter for the shortening; it’s a tastier alternative, in my opinion.

Put the following in a bowl:

2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon maple flavor, optional

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Mix together, then pour 1/3 cup melted butter on top. Why did I add the butter after the other ingredients had already been mixed up? Because I didn’t want to pour the hot butter over the eggs, for fear it might cook them a bit.

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Mix in the butter to make a smooth batter.

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Next, beat in 2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

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Stir in the toasted walnuts.

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Divide the dough in half on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

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Using your wet fingers, shape each half into a rough 10” rectangle.

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I like to use a plastic bowl scraper to smooth the dough. And yes, we’re going to start selling these bowl scrapers again soon — we’re doing the research now to find one with the perfect flex. (Who knew there could be such a wide range of flexibility options in plastic scrapers?!)

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Here we are: two 10” x 4” rectangles, each a generous 1/2” thick.

If you have maple sugar, now’s the time to use it: sprinkle 1 tablespoon maple sugar atop each rectangle. While strictly optional, maple sugar adds another note of maple, and nicely subtle crunch.

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Bake in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, and cool for about 10 minutes. Cooling the dough allows you to cut it more easily, with less crumbling.

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Now you have two options. The original recipe called for cutting the dough into 1” slices, like this.

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The recipe said to lay the slices on the baking sheet cut-side down. Bake for 12 minutes, turn over, and bake for an additional 12 minutes, till browned. I did that; but the resulting biscotti were, to my taste, too thick and clunky. So I reverted to my usual biscotti method…

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Slice the baked dough, slightly on the diagonal, a generous 1/2” thick.

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Line the slices up, on edge, on a baking sheet. They can be close together; the baking sheet doesn’t need to be greased.

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I’m finding our new USA Pans are a great choice for these cookies. The corrugated surface promotes air circulation on all sides, including the bottom, so biscotti dry out thoroughly without burning.

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Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, till the biscotti’s cut sides are beginning to brown. Remove from the oven, and cool right on the sheet.

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Lots of walnuts enhance both taste and looks.

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Note the difference in length/thickness between the 1”-thick biscotti and the 1/2”-thick biscotti. I prefer a longer, thinner cookie. And you’ll get twice as many of the 1/2” biscotti, of course.

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Finally, longer biscotti are much easier to play pick up sticks with. Or create a freeform biscotti sculpture.

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Nicely browned, ready to enjoy. And remember – one of the best things about biscotti is that you can throw them in a plastic bag, leave ’em on the counter, and they’re just as crunchy and delicious in 3 weeks as they were the day you baked them.

Which means they’re the ideal holiday cookie. Bake ’em tomorrow, they’ll still be perfect for your New Year’s Eve party.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Maple-Walnut Biscotti.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Vermont Country Store, Chester, VT: Maple Walnut Biscotti, 8 oz. tin, $21.95, $2.74/ounce

Bake at home: Maple-Walnut Spice Biscotti, 21¢/ounce

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Gale Reeves

    I think you should have used your biscotti pans in this blog post. I have two of the pans and use them every time I bake biscotti. I LOVE the pans!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks for the suggestion, Gale – they would indeed work very well here. No need to measure or eyeball… PJH

    Reply
  2. Mary Corbet

    Our favorite biscotti, among about six recipes we make faithfully, is maple-praline, which is similar to the recipe here, but made with pecans and almonds, and it has a maple glaze across the top. For those who are allergic to walnuts and not pecans, or who just don’t like walnuts, it might be a good alternative. This year, we shipped 30 pounds of biscotti to family and friends all over the country! You’re right – it’s the perfect shipping treat!

    Reply
  3. Cher

    Love the wall of cookbooks! You can never have too many.

    A thin drizzle of maple or vanilla glaze would send these over the top.

    Cher, you’re so right – and it would add to the maple flavor, too. Thanks for the inspiration! PJH

    Reply
  4. Cindy

    New scrapers coming soon!!! What fabulous news – and now I can stop hiding the ones that I guard so zealously for fear that someone will destroy them and I’ll be left with nothing… Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
    ps – nice recipe, too!

    Reply
  5. Lorrainesfav

    You make the best biscotti at KAF! I was at a demo in Tampa a while ago and Nick Malgieri (The Modern Baker) made an Easter biscotti. His technique was fabulous in mixing and forming the dough on the baking sheet. He used a big cookie scoop to line up the dough and then fomed the dough with his dough scraper for a perfect rectangle.

    Reply
  6. Ernestine Ranson

    As a biscotti lover, I think this will be added to my library. Speaking of which, your cookbook wall looks like heaven to me. I have collected them for years but because of a kitchen make-over, had to pare down. I still have a great collection, but now seem to be adding food magazines as well. Need to watch that.

    Merry Christmas.

    Reply
  7. Amanda

    I’m not a huge biscotti fan (I’m in the chewy vs. crunchy camp) but I do love maple so I might have to give these a shot at some point.

    One note about possibly subbing in honey–the general convention is to decrease oven temp by 25 degrees F and increase cooking time by a few minutes (it really is a watch-and-see thing) to avoid over browning and still have the item bake through.

    Reply
  8. Jackie

    Too funny – I came to your blog just now to look for a biscotti recipe to send to a relative out of state. It’s like you read my mind! I don’t have maple syrup on hand so I’ll have to improvise, perhaps mixing a tablespoon of water into an extra 1/4 cup of brown sugar will work?

    Jackie – You could try using 1/4 c. honey (watch for browning too quickly, turn oven down 25 degrees) or brown sugar karo syrup. Elisabeth @ KAF

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  9. Joan Brehon

    Great news to hear the scrapers are coming back! Thank you! One of your very kind and generous staff sent me hers when I couldn’t get one. Makes it extra special!

    Merry Christmas and happy holidays. You are a fabulous company and wonderful people. Love EVERYTHING about King Arthur!

    Joan Brehon

    Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you, Joan! Thank you for your nice comments! Elisabeth @ KAF

    Reply
  10. Jess

    YESS! Now my husband doesn’t have to keep listening to me whine about not having that scraper for much longer! :) Many years ago my first job was with a pizza shop that had those and I have always had one until a move a few years back… Now that I’m getting into yeast breads I’m missing it again!

    Supposed to be arriving in our warehouse today, Jess – then they need to get set up in the system, and THEN they’ll be live. When they’re ready, I’ll post their picture in a blog. They’re so cute, and the absolute, couldn’t-be-better-flex – since you’ve used one, you know what I mean… :) PJH

    Reply
  11. Lee

    *staring enviously at the wall of cookbooks* I’m guilty of standing in my public library’s cookbook section and browsing until my kids are rolling on the floor in boredom…
    I’ve never eaten biscotti – are they really crunchy? My go-to sugar these days is Sucanat, I think that would enhance the maple-y flavor since it is such a hearty tasting sugar already. I’ll let you know after I make them! :)

    Lee, you HAVE to make biscotti! They’re so so so crunchy and good. And so many different variations. Sucanat would be a dandy choice – let me know how they turn out. PJH

    Reply
  12. Lyna

    My first cookbook was a Betty Crocker I bought for my mother for Christmas (c1970) because her old copy was ragged, but she didn’t think she needed it. That ‘new’ one is now more ragged and stained than her old one. No computer file will every hold a candle to a recipe written by my grandmother on the back of an envelope that still has its 2cents stamp.
    Thanks for the glimpse of your library. Maybe a post someday about researching a receipe–what books, sites, etc. are most useful?

    Thanks for connecting, Lyna – I do mostly random searching, but love foodtimeline.org for the history of various dishes. Although they recently changed their search, and I can’t figure out how to use it anymore! :( Other than that, if I’m looking for an ethnic recipe, I usually click on an ethnic site in the results that come up. For example, the other night I was looking for “potato knick,” and found it at jewishfederations.org. Or Pizza Sfincione – bestofsicily.com. I figure that’s as close to the original source as I’ll come. Just for general purposes, I often find good recipes on epicurious.com, and foodnetwork.com. And southernfood.about.com, for Southern recipes. Readers, good question – what are your favorite recipe sites? (Besides this one, of course!!) Most reliable recipes, biggest selection, etc. You’re right, Lyna – I’ll pose this in a blog sometime – thanks! PJH

    Reply
  13. Sue E. Conrad

    O-o-o-o-o, yum! And I just happen to have a couple containers of Grade B that we bought last summer while in New England. I use it to make maple-cider vinaigrette among other items. I’d only make one substitution in the biscotti – pine nuts for walnuts as my husband doesn’t “do” walnuts. Must make these soon……….

    Reply
  14. Anhedonia

    Re: wall of cookbooks (you don’t have to post this)
    I had to box up my cookbooks as they ‘detracted from the appearance’ of the kitchen and ‘decreased the resale value’ of my home according to more than one real estate agent. Well, you have to jump through hoops in this economy, so I caved in and pared down to two shelves of shiny untouched gourmet cookbooks. But behind them I rebelliously hoarded my favorite stained, splotched, and fingerprinted cookbooks – the ones that fall naturally open to the recipe you need. The one where my mom made me meticulously calculate a double then a quadruple batch of chocolate chip cookies when I was in grade school. The green stars, post-its, tabs, dog-ears, the alterations, substitutions, and “never again!” notes – these are the things that make a well-used cookbook a living thing, a family history. Too bad they don’t have ‘value’ to anyone else.

    Reply
  15. Holly

    Made them this morning – no maple sugar for the topping, but they are delicious. Wet fingers work amazingly well for shaping!

    Ah, yes – your first and always best kitchen tool, your hands- :) PJH

    Reply
  16. Shirley

    I was interested in how you do your research for recipes. I love to research recipes as well but use only popular sites including those you mentioned. I also like CooksIllustrated which charges one for essentially what you are doing. They do have videos you can watch which are helpful. They have another site as well that is a bit different: Cooks Country. Saveur is a new one for me and has a large collection of recipes. It’s all so interesting even if one doesn’t make all of the recipes. Just good reading for a foodie!

    You’re right, Shirley – I bet I actually make about 5% of the recipes I read and bookmark. But the bedside reading is wonderful! PJH

    Reply
  17. Harriet says

    I always stand my biscotti on edge instead of laying them down. It browns better and the time is shorter and you do not have to turn them over. Plus, you can see all sides of the biscotti. I make biscotti all the time and it always comes out perfect.

    Reply
  18. AJ

    Would good old Boiled Cider work in place of the syrup or is it too thin?
    Think *apple-walnut topped with coarse natural sugar*. Someday I’ll
    have to splurge on “real” maple syrup and get some more maple flavoring (after the budget recovers from Christmas!).

    Sounds good to me! Experiment, have fun. The vicosity of the 2 are similar. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  19. Lorraine

    Just wondering. What if the walnuts were first coated with pure maple syrup and toasted/baked then chopped and then added to the dough?

    Haven’t tried this recipe yet but it’s this weekend’s on the list to do.

    Sounds like you talking about a Maple Walnut brittle. This would probalby work better on stove top than in the oven method you describe. You will need to boil the syrup until it is thick enough to coat and hold onto the walnuts pieces, tehn spread out on an oiled marble or silpat to cool, then grind. Call the hotline if you have questions. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  20. Rachel

    I am thrilled to see a real test of baking biscotti on the second bake standing up – the only thing I don’t like about biscotti baking is the flipping – and that’s not really about the time or effort, it’s about the space – we live in a condo, so the small oven (for now) we have only fits (brace yourselves) 1/4 sheet pans. I’m planning a big bake this weekend to get about 100 pcs (mostly cranberry-pistachio, loosely based on a Giada recipe) and I thought I’d be forced to do 5 rounds for each batch instead of three. If this works with 2 rounds, you will have changed my life! :) PS – what does everyone think of almond extract instead of vanilla w/cranberry-pistachio? I thought it might give me a more deep, marzipan flavor that might work.

    I’m sure this will work well for you, Rachel – have fun! I’d use almond and vanilla both, for some double-depth of flavor… PJH

    Reply
  21. Ricardo Gonzalez - Petrópolis, R.J. - BRAZIL

    I bake my Biscottis here and the only change was to replace maple by honey, because maple is not comon in Brazil. It turns absolutely great.

    For me, Biscottis are entirely new way to bake. Now i´m one of Biscotti´s lovers. I have a small artisan bakery here and of course Biscottis will be one of the most desired treats in my Baker Shop!!
    Thanks to this excelent recipe. P.J. Hamel is one of my favorites at KAF´s staff!

    :) Looking forward to trying your “Jewish Strudel,” Ricardo – photo was SO mouthwatering… Frank shared it with me. PJH

    Reply
  22. Tami

    I’m so glad I stopped by tonight! I make Cranberry Almond Biscotti every year (if I don’t, there’s a revolt!), and my dough is generally dryer, I actually end up with a dough that needs kneaded, and roll them into logs, flatten, etc. The most tedious part of my recipe is the flipping of the biscotti – so happy to see the ‘stand up’ method (one of those “well duh” moments for me lol). Thanks SO much. Oh, and to the poster who inquired about the almond extract – definitely try it – I use both almond and vanilla and the flavor is great! Happy Holidays!

    Reply
  23. Pete

    Now retired, we had over 400 cookbooks when we closed our farm house. Called a local used book store and they were amazed. Sent us a nice check for the 200 we decided to sell. Now in Florida and the count is back to over 400 and like you, I just like to browse books along with the Internet.

    I find “The recipe source” to be a great recipe database. Well organized and an excellent search option. Started as SOAR and now has thousands of recipes. The 4 King Arthur books and used often and I’ve been making bread for over 60 years. Bought your 5″ x 10″ pans several years ago and they are used each week.

    Pete, I’d lost touch with SOAR and didn’t know it was now The Recipe Source. I’ll have to try it again, thanks for reminding me- PJH

    Reply
  24. Carolyn

    My first experience with biscotti was a recipe for Cranberry-Pistachio that used the food processor to mix the dough. I was dubious but it worked beautifully and the cookies were very popular. Have never seen that technique used again.
    As for the recipe search, these days I enter the name of what I want in a search engine ending with the word ‘recipe’ so I’m not too deluged with sources to buy the item. But when my then boss asked if I could combine her two favorite flavors in her next birthday cake – chocolate and scotch whiskey!!!! – I figured it would be an impossible task. I went to Epicurious and wound up in some odd search site, entered my request intimating that my job depended on success (it didn’t really, well, maybe, sort of). I was just amazed to have a response from allrecipes.com within about two days. The cake was quite simple – it had raisins soaked in the whiskey and then added to the batter (raisins and whiskey). It was a huge success and watching the expressions on people’s faces as they bit down on a raisin – wonderful fun. I’ve never made the cake again. It’s not too suitable if children are around and my events these days almost always include them. I should make it for my birthday (today) but I now live alone and it’s too much for just me.

    Baking sure has multiple rewards.

    Happy holidays to all and the best of new years.

    Reply
  25. Lorraine

    I made the biscotti over the weekend. I had chopped the walnuts into small pieces, poured about 1/4 cup of pure maple syrup, coated them, and baked these walnuts in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. The syrup was still a bit liquidy (I coated the nuts some more0 but as the nuts cooled the coating harden but not to a brittle level. After the biscotti were baked, cooled and the smell of maple permeating the kitchen, we all tasted the biscotti. I found that the walnuts were not hard but the syrup seemed to have softened them. The fmaily loved them. Unfortunately, they’re gone already.

    Thanks for a great recipe.

    Reply
  26. Shannon

    I made these yesterday to bring to my family for Christmas. My brother has a nut allergy so i replaced the 2 cups of nuts with one cup cranberries and one cup raisins. They are so delicious!!
    I love that these will only get better with time.

    Reply
  27. Rachel

    Just a note – the almond and vanilla extracts together worked beautifully – I used half as much almond as vanilla and it does indeed have an almost marzipan/fruitcake quality with the cranberries and nuts. Thanks, PJ!

    Good show, Rachel – glad it worked for you. PJH

    Reply
  28. Lee Stein

    I always make biscotti when my son and his little family come from Prague – I always end up making a second batch for their long flight home! Id love to see Ricardo’s recipe for “Jewish strudel”

    Lee, I’m going to try it soon – Ricardo makes challah dough and then tops it with different fillings (banana and cinnamon come to mind, though I don’t have his recipe here in front of me) – then simply gives it a 3-fold like a letter, and bakes in a wide baguette pan – like an Italian bread pan. His photos look delicious. PJH

    Reply
  29. Caryn Hart

    I just want you to know that I commented on this very recipe on March 7 (2009) when you featured the history of the Baking Sheet. This has been a favorite of our family for years, having made it from the original in the Baking Sheet, and we love the spice. So your readers may also like the recipe as it was in the original as well. I never used the shortening, though, using butter as my own substitution. It is nice to know that a simpler version is also worth trying.

    Caryn, I remember that – but COULD NOT for the life of me think where I’d referenced this recipe in the blog before, and so was unable to mention you. Thanks for reminding me – and for connecting here again. Cheers! PJH

    Reply
  30. Marsha

    With regard to having to the flip the biscotti in order to guarentee even browning…I am stunned! I have been baking these for years and always do the second bake on the oven rack without a pan-never flipped a single cookie and they always come out perfectly dried. Other than having to brush away the few crumbs that fall, I find this method to be ideal.
    Thanks for sharing Marsha. It’s always great to hear different ideas, it keeps us thinking and trying new things. There’s always room to grow and learn. Happy New Year!
    ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  31. Michelle

    I just made these. I substitued 1/2 cup of maple sugar for the 1/2 sugar. I must say…it did not improve on the maple taste. I added pure maple syrup as well. The only thing I didn’t have on hand was the maple flavor. But I thought for sure that the maple sugar would make a difference. I’m sad to say that it didn’t. Is there a reason why the maple sugar didn’t make a difference? The biscotti I made have no taste what so ever.
    Hi Michelle,
    Maple sugar is a very subtle flavor, more maple-y than regular sugar but not as concentrated as maple flavor. It will lend a bit more flavor to your baked goods, but for a big punch of taste, go with the maple flavoring. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  32. Cathy M

    I tried this biscotti recipe and my family really enjoyed it. The maple flavor was subtle, a nice compliment to the walnuts. My husband commented that this biscotti was more like a meal, so much heartier than store bought kinds. Thanks for the recipe!

    Reply
  33. Bonnie White

    I tried this recipe using a few changes: all whole wheat (but I cut back on the amount of flour), 1/2 cup fructose, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup mixed: maple syrup and date honey. Used vanilla and almond flavorings. Thanks for the tip to dry out the biscotti. It came out wonderful and everyone liked it… even those that don’t like whole wheat.
    Thank you for another wonderful recipe…

    Reply

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