Toooooooooo sweeeeeeeet....

Your pantry is packed with panettone. The counter is crammed with Christmas cookies. Even the foyer is filled with a flood of "ripening" fruitcakes...

Sugar high!

It's time to back off the granulated, light brown, dark brown, confectioners', turbinado, raw, and sanding sugars.

To say nothing of the honey, molasses, corn, maple, agave, and cane syrups.

It's time to take a savory break: with cheese biscotti.

Yes, CHEESE biscotti. Who says biscotti have to be sweet? These cheese-y, peppery, crunchy biscotti, packed with toasted nuts (or not), are a lovely accompaniment to wine or beer. Which means they're a lifesaver when holiday guests drop by unexpectedly.

Make these now; store them airtight on the counter, and they'll stay fresh and delicious right up through the end of December...

...or until Santa enjoys the last of them, whichever comes first!

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment.

Place the following in a mixing bowl:

6 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons Vermont cheese powder, optional, for flavor
1 cup, firmly packed, freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix until well combined.

Add 4 large eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition. By the time you've added the 4th egg, the dough will be soft and creamy looking.

Stir in 2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour and, if desired, 1 1/2 cups diced toasted pecans or walnuts. I like the addition of nuts, but if you have nut avoiders or dislikers in the crowd, it's fine to leave them out.

Transfer the sticky dough to the prepared baking sheet, dividing it in half as you do so and plopping the halves so that they're about 2" from each short edge of the pan. You want to leave plenty of space between them.

Using your wet fingers and/or a wet spatula, shape each piece of dough into a log about 9 1/2" long, and 7/8" thick. If you've used nuts, the logs will be about 3" wide; with no nuts in the dough, they'll be about 2 1/2" wide.

Do your best to smooth the tops and square off the corners. If desired, sprinkle the tops of the logs with additional grated Parmesan.

Bake the logs for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they're beginning to brown around the edges.

Remove them from the oven, and carefully lift them off the pan; if you've used parchment, simply lift the parchment off the pan and set it, biscotti and all, on a work surface.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Using a sharp serrated or chef's knife, carefully cut the biscotti into 1/2"-wide slices. It helps to start cutting at an outer edge, rather than cutting straight down through the top; this seems to lessen any crumbling.

For long biscotti, cut on the diagonal; for shorter biscotti, cut crosswise.

Set the biscotti, on their edges, back on the baking sheet; no greasing or parchment is necessary. Space them fairly close to one another, so you can get them all onto the same pan.

Return the biscotti to the oven, and bake them for 50 to 70 minutes, or until they feel dry and are just beginning to brown. Midway through, reverse the pan in the oven, so the biscotti in back change places with those in front; this helps ensure even baking.

To make sure the biscotti are fully baked, perform this test: pinch the center of a biscotti. It should be fairly hard, with perhaps just a slight bit of give; that's OK, as it'll continue to firm as it cools.

See the slight browning around the edges? That's your goal.

Remove the biscotti from the oven, and let them cool right on the pan. If you're not sure if they're completely dried out, turn off the oven, crack the door open several inches, and let the biscotti continue to dry out right in the cooling oven.

When biscotti are completely cool, store them airtight at room temperature; they'll stay fresh for several weeks.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Parmesan and Cracked Black Pepper Biscotti.

PJ Hamel
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

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