Tuesday, May 19, 2009

classic almond biscotti

classic "nonna's" biscotti

The trouble with homemade care packages you mail out – is that most homemade treats have a limited shelf-life. Cookies – three days or so, granola – loses its crispness if not refrigerated, cupcakes – can’t quite ship them without compromising their shape as the frosting gets in the way. I’ve always wondered what do people send as care packages, and do they send it overnight, or on ice? Needless to say, I’m not the most ingenious person out there, so if I’ve failed to think of obvious solutions, please leave a comment and let me know your suggestions.

before pulverizing mixing the batter
thick classic "nonna's" biscotti

And yet, there I was, trying to think of a treat for my friend, Katy (who designed Sassy Radish and made it so pretty!), who was working on her master’s thesis at RISD while battling an interminable nasty cold. Apparently, there was this cough she couldn’t shake, and congestion that was persistent and relentless. Poor Katy couldn’t even smell her morning coffee – and if there’s anyone other who lover her coffee, it’s Katy. I felt for her – I wanted to help somehow, but short of sending decongestants (which aren’t all that exciting – I mean, who looks forward to receiving decongestants in the mail?) I couldn’t think of much that might survive a few days of shipping.

classic "nonna's" biscotti

So after thinking about the short shelf life of perishable goods, I discovered what I call a “care-package loophole”, and that loophole is biscotti! Originally eaten by Roman legions – the word originates from the Latin word biscoctum, which means “twice baked”. They were twice baked, in fact, so that they could be easily stored for long periods of time, say for long journey and battles. You wonder where I dig up this wealth of useless knowledge – and I say to you proudly, middle school Latin class complete with a Latin Feast at the end of every year! And in case you’re wondering, cooking Roman food was by far my favorite part of the class curriculum. Today, biscotti are probably some of the most definitive Italian baked treats and are really easy to make. I liked this recipe because the author who contributed it for the January issue of Gourmet, got it from his Italian grandmother so this was the real deal.

classic "nonna's" biscotti

In fact, the recipe’s notes highlighted that these “biscuits” will get better the day after baking, so the flavors will only improve! A baked good that improves with age and goes perfectly with coffee – if this isn’t a perfect care-package material, I don’t know what is!


Classic Almond Biscotti
Adapted from Gourmet, January 2009

Yield: Makes about 42 cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons brandy
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole almonds with skin, lightly toasted , cooled, and coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preparation:

Stir together sugar, butter, brandy, and extracts in a large bowl, then stir in almonds and eggs. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt until just combined.

Chill dough, covered, 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Using moistened hands, halve dough and form 2 (16-by 2-inch) loaves on an ungreased large baking sheet.

Bake until pale golden, about 30 minutes. Carefully transfer loaves to a rack and cool 15 minutes.

Cut loaves into 3/4-inch slices with a serrated knife.

Arrange biscotti, with a cut side down, on a clean baking sheet and bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool completely.

Cooks’ note:
Biscotti improve in flavor if made 1 to 2 days ahead. Keep in an airtight container at room temperature.

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18 Comments

  • 1
    Kasey said:

    Funny, my best friend just finished her last nursing school final and my first inclination is to send her baked goods, but that same dilemma crossed my mind! Biscotti definitely seem like the perfect solution to the broken cookies care package!

    May 19, 2009 11:51 pm
  • 2
    kim said:

    Oh of course, bis-cotti, I should’ve figured that out myself (but had only one year of Latin in middle school without any cooking). Uhm, I should add that I love useless (Trivial Pursuit) knowledge…

    May 20, 2009 2:46 am
  • 3
    Katy. said:

    And may I say, these biscotti were LETHAL, in a perfectly delicious kind of way. :)

    May 20, 2009 7:23 am
  • 4
    darla said:

    Shortbread cookies will keep long enough for mailing, especially if well-wrapped with wax paper in a tightly sealed tin. And it’s easy to make a variety of flavors for one tin: crystallized ginger, orange peel, etc.

    May 20, 2009 9:01 am
  • 5

    You’re so sweet for thinking of your friend like that. Care packages are totally awesome. I say this as a recent graduate from college who never got them, haha.

    May 20, 2009 10:26 am
  • 6

    I just made biscotti for an Italian tapas dinner party — mine were made with Sambuca, and were lovely. You make a brilliant point — biscotti are the perfect “sending” cookie, since they keep as long as spam (seriously; just found some in my pantry from Christmas. I ate one. And lived. It was still quite good). I’m putting together a care package now for a friend in Canada — I think you’ve just inspired me to bake up another batch or two of biscotti before I do.

    May 20, 2009 10:28 am
  • 7
    codfish said:

    What a wonderful friend you are!
    And oh, wow, didn’t think they’d sound so easy to make. I feel so silly now for never making biscotti before. Will get right on it. :)

    May 20, 2009 10:32 am
  • 8
    Jen said:

    You are such a caring friend! I want to make these for my mama. She’d be delighted to dip them into her coffee too…

    May 20, 2009 11:08 am
  • 9

    When I was in college, my mom once managed to mail an entire chocolate pecan pie in the mail, and it arrived beautifully intact. My roommates and I sat on the floor and ate it with our hands. I have just been thinking about biscotti recently, so this is a nudge to make it again. Thank you!

    May 20, 2009 11:09 am
  • 10

    You done a good deed girl. You can’t go wrong with almond biscotti in my opinion – they’re my favorite. and yours look wonderful.

    May 20, 2009 1:24 pm
  • 11

    These look great! Biscotti are a favorite for shipping, but really anything that is relatively firm and won’t go stale or start growing things in about a week should work – so most butter cookies and shortbread are great, or even caramel corn and nut brittle. I like to use well sealed glassine bags to individually wrap cookie bundles and then pack in crumpled tissue inside a larger box to be sure they won’t knock around much. And if you’re not shipping at Christmas, it only takes a couple days to get cross country.

    May 20, 2009 5:43 pm
  • 12

    These look great! Biscotti are a favorite for shipping, but really anything that is relatively firm and won’t go stale or start growing things in about a week should work – so most butter cookies and shortbread are great, or even caramel corn and nut brittle. I like to use well sealed glassine bags to individually wrap cookie bundles and then pack in crumpled tissue inside a larger box to be sure they won’t knock around much. And if you’re not shipping at Christmas, it only takes a couple days to get cross country.

    May 20, 2009 5:43 pm
  • 13

    Can anyone please tell me how many grams ‘a stick of butter’ is?

    May 21, 2009 3:01 am
  • 14
    radish said:

    Kate 113.5 grams – is one stick of butter. A stick of butter is 1/4 lb – which means 4 oz.

    May 21, 2009 7:03 am
  • 15

    I’ve actually had good luck with Nigella Lawson’s granola staying quite fresh and crisp…

    May 21, 2009 6:40 pm
  • 16
    Ulla said:

    My mother makes chocolate biscotti for Christmas, this looks so great! The almonds most be so toasted and wonderful in these! I feel inspired even though I am not much of a baker!

    May 21, 2009 7:11 pm
  • 17
    MsGourmet said:

    I love the fact that this recipe is the ‘real deal’ in that it is someone’s Nonna’s original recipe. Could you please specify what a stick of butter translates to?

    May 25, 2009 9:07 am
  • 18
    lola said:

    your pictures are making me so hungry. :)

    May 29, 2009 12:58 am

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