Biscotti used to seem just those rock-hard objects in big plastic containers at coffee stands until I made some. Now I think of them as packed full of almonds and eggs – and as part of hospitality.
Wanting to make anything in Jack Bishop’s “The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook,” I tackled biscotti. Bishop says toast a cup of almonds at 350° till they are fragrant (about eight minutes). Let the almonds cool and then chop roughly. Leave the oven on.
In a large bowl and using a whisk, combine two cups of flour, one cup of sugar, one-half teaspoon baking powder, and a pinch of salt.
Beat with a fork two eggs, two egg yolks, and a teaspoon of vanilla.
Pour over the flour mixture and combine. Then knead the dough (Bishop says till smooth – mine was really sticky – so sticky that I had one of those moments of questioning whether I added two cups of flour?) Knead the chopped almonds into the dough.
Eventually I could turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in two – (it wants to stick to the counter – so the flour helps).
I shaped each piece into a long flat object – aiming for about three inches wide by 12 inches (mine was pretty rustic). Place on an oiled and floured, large baking sheet about four inches apart. Brush with the last egg – beaten.
Bake about 35 minutes, till “firm to the touch and lightly browned on top” – they looked beautiful.
Biscotti means “twice baked” in Italian – so after cutting one-inch wide diagonal pieces (do it while hot and hold on with a tea towel or oven mitt), put them back on the baking sheet. Then bake about ten more minutes. They’ll be crisp.
Frances Mayes tells tales of vin santo – each family’s special wine served to guests, often with biscotti (the crispness dunks perfectly). I like the idea of having biscotti sealed in an airtight container to offer with drinks of all kinds.
Italy was all inspiration for me – to paint, to cook, to live life most fully. And here is August. It’s our time to be warm, enjoy the garden and the woods and the mountains. Guests are coming, and there’s work to catch up in between. So a late-summer break is in order for “Her spirits rose…”
But I’ll be back – and I hope you will be, too! Arrivederci – buon divertimento!