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Biscotti is a serious subject for me. I've long scoffed at the sort of biscotti sold in grocery stores and coffee shops: Laden with butter, they're basically just oversized cookies. The word biscotti is derived from a Latin word meaning twice-cooked; traditionally, these cookies are hard and dry, allowing them to last for weeks.
I grew up on my mother's biscotti, which have no butter or oil. They're impossibly crisp, crunchy, and delicate. To get the lofty texture, she beats eggs with sugar for 10 minutes, then very gently folds in the dry ingredients to keep all that air in the batter.
I love her biscotti, and am constantly disappointed when I try other kinds that taste just like cookies flavored with anise or almonds or pine nuts. Thus, I didn't expect to be wowed by today's recipe, which I uncovered in the Odense Almond Paste archives. But these biscotti are exceptional, truly. Our household ate through two batches in a week, and I'm ready to make more.
The biscotti have everything going for them: crunchy, buttery, spicy, and sweet. The exterior is dry and crisp, but the interior has a slight chew and bend, thanks to the addition of butter and almond paste to the dough. I love the kick that crystallized ginger gives the cookies; a touch of lemon zest and a handful of sliced almonds add even more flavor.
You could easily swap in a different citrus (grapefruit or lime), or leave it out altogether. You could replace the ginger with dried fruit, or chocolate chips, or cacao nibs. The base recipe is wonderfully adaptable to any flavor combination you like. Just be sure to leave in the almond paste and use roughly the same quantity of add-ins (I use a cup of chopped crystallized ginger and a cup of sliced almonds, so you'll need no more than 2 cups of add-ins).
Make a batch, curl up on your couch by a window in a patch of winter sun, and dunk one of these in a cup of tea or a glass of milk. There's little than can rival that in the way of simple pleasures.
- 1 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
- 7 ounces almond paste
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) very cold butter, cut into pieces
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 1/2 cup sugar (use slightly less if you prefer less sweet cookies)
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 egg whites
- 1 cup sliced almonds
Do you have a favorite biscotti recipe? Tell us about it in the comments.