Biscotti are one of the simplest, most versatile cookies you can possibly bake. Butter, sugar, eggs, flour, and baking powder come together in a simple dough that can be flavored to taste (vanilla, almond, anise, orange, maple… pineapple! banana!). Or enhanced with impunity (aside from any possible fallout related to your waistline): chocolate chips, pecans, cinnamon bits, chopped ginger, diced apricots… In short, biscotti are Everyman’s Cookie.
So why doesn’t Everyman bake them?
I’m always surprised at the number of my baking friends who’ve NEVER baked biscotti. The ingredients are basic; the techniques are simple. (Can you pat out a meatloaf? Slice a loaf of bread? You have the necessary skills to make biscotti.) Just because something LOOKS fancy or unusual doesn’t mean it’s difficult. Witness my favorite all-time pastry, Almond Puff Loaf.
Or maybe it’s that people are used to those rock-hard coffee-shop biscotti, the traditional dense, Italian-style cookies meant to be softened in a cup of cappuccino before submitting to your nibble. I agree, those can be hard to deal with. But American-style biscotti—ah, a different creature entirely. Light and crunchy rather than dense and hard, these biscotti are made for eating out of hand (sans the need for a coffee bath). Or for crumbling and layering with pudding or mousse and fruit to make a tasty parfait, as our King Arthur Flour test kitchen director, Sue Gray, often does.
So, next time cookies are in the offing, don’t forget biscotti. They’re easier than they look. More versatile than chocolate chippers (in fact, they can easily become chocolate chip biscotti). Most kids are afraid to try them (too weird…) Which means—for once, the adults don’t have to stick their hand in the cookie jar and find it empty.
Lemon-Almond Biscotti make a nice, simple dessert, served with fresh berries or a perfectly ripe peach. To make the biscotti flavor of YOUR choice, simply leave out the lemon and almond, flavor with your favorite extract, and add your own touches: up to 2 cups nuts, and or chips, and/or dried fruit. Hazelnut cappuccino chip biscotti, anyone?
Start with 1 fresh lemon. First, grate its rind, taking only the yellow part, not the white; the white pith is bitter. Once you've taken off the rind, squeeze out 2 tablespoons of juice (or 3 tablespoons, for more lemon-y biscotti).
Find our recipe for Lemon-Almond Biscotti.
Bake vs. Buy:
BUY Starbucks biscotti: 80¢/ounce
BUY Stella Doro Anisette Toast Cookies: 44¢/ounce
BAKE Homemade Lemon-Almond Biscotti (ingredients cost): 10¢/ounce