To paraphrase Shakespeare, some cookies are made great, and some cookies have greatness thrust upon them. I think that biscotti are the latter.
With very few ingredients (what, no butter?), biscotti seem like cookies born of deprivation. A biscotto* is a cookie that is hard, dry, and looks very much like toast. Truly, there is not much to recommend it. But have it with a cup of tea or coffee, or even a glass of red wine, or vin santo (my favourite), and you have achieved cookie perfection.
For a start, biscotti hold up very well to being submerged in liquid, so you will not lose a bit in your mug and end up with a bit of sludge when you have your last sip of coffee. The sweetness of biscotti is not overwhelming, so you never feel that you can’t have just one more. And the flavours are often subtle, so they tantalise the senses and draw you in for more exploration.
Biscotti make all other cookies look immature; they are the grown-up, sensuous, sophisticated cookies of the world. And yet my kids love them! Of course, I like to think my kids are precocious in all matters, including culinary choices. But what I suspect is that biscotti are the kind of cookie that, despite a restrained taste and a humble appearance, have achieved greatness. At least at our house.
Orange Pistachio Biscotti
The name “biscotti” used to specifically refer to dry, oblong, almond cookies from Prato, but now it simply means any twice-baked biscuit. (Purists may want to substitute almonds for the pistachios in this recipe!)
Some of the students I’ve cooked with have been surprised at how easy it is to make biscotti. You can quickly whip up a batch of these in less than 15 minutes and using only one bowl. They are simplicity itself.
- 2 eggs
- 250g (1.25 C) sugar
- 1 TB orange zest
- 1 tsp orange brandy (or regular brandy, or vanilla)
- 300g (just under 2.5 C) flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- ¼ tsp salt
- 65g (about ½ C) pistachios
Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and salt. Set aside.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale and creamy. Stir in the orange zest and brandy or vanilla. Add in the sifted dry ingredients, and stir until most of the flour is incorporated, then stir in the pistachios.
Form the dough into 2 thin logs approx. 2 inch in diameter (if in doubt, go smaller) and flatten slightly on your baking sheet.
Bake the logs at 170C (350F) for 20-25 minutes until firm.
Cool for 5-10 minutes. Using a serrated knife, slice the logs into pieces about 1cm wide. I like to cut mine on the diagonal.
Set the slices on the baking sheet (you will most likely need to use another one as well) and bake at 150C (300F) degrees for approximately 20 minutes. (Tip: I set my slices all facing the same way, and then about halfway through this second bake, I flip them over for even cooking. Having them all start in the same direction keeps them organised, so I don’t have to think too much about which ones I’ve flipped. It may sound silly, but you’d be surprised – especially when dealing with a lot of cookies – how easy it is to lose track!)
When they are firm, remove the cookies from the sheet pans onto a cooling rack. When they have cooled completely, you can store them in an airtight jar for a few weeks.
But only if you hide them.
* Biscotti is plural, biscotto is singular. They’re both great!