Everyone needs a good cookie in the Christmas repertoire. Mine is biscotti. It is so easy to make it hardly requires a recipe. And, it's my excuse to call a friend so we can bake several batches for holiday gifts (no more scented soaps or candles). I'm always surprised by the delight such a simple present brings. For me, baking biscotti is a welcome pause in the season's hurly-burly, a chance to gossip and chat, as the dusk dims its rosy light through the cinnamon-scented kitchen.
I started this tradition when our boys were little by trying to make Christmas cookies with their friends. But, frankly, all that mixing, chilling, rolling out and cutting, baking and decorating was too ambitious. (Rolling pins turned into swords, glue-like dough stuck to the ceiling.) Baking biscotti is a simple one-bowl process, clean-up is a cinch.
No biscotti is ever the same. Using this recipe, I can toss in whatever ingredients I have on hand, my friend can bring what she likes, and we can dream up comb-o's on the fly. I don't feel pressured to give these cookies out right away, they keep well, and can be wrapped and distributed over time. They'll just get drier and crunchier.
This biscotti recipe is easily doubled, or tripled without any adjustments, unlike most cookie batters. So make a few batches to last into the new year. Then call that friend back, set out a plate, and brew a pot of coffee or open that bottle of wine.
Makes about 4 dozen
"Biscotti" means twice baked in Italian. This original recipe has been tweaked with just a little butter to make a tender cookie, that doesn't dry out quite as quickly. See the variations and dream up your own.
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 all purpose flour, plus more if needed
See ADDITIONS below !
Preheat the oven to 375-degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly butter. Cream together the butter and sugar, beat in the eggs, and then the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the salt, baking powder and flour. Add it to the batter a little at a time to make a stiff dough. (Add a little more flour if it is too wet.) Stir in the ADDITIONS (see list below).
Divide the dough in half and shape each into a loaf about 2-inches wide. Place each log onto one of the baking sheets. Bake until the loaves are golden and cracked on top. Lower the temperature to 250 degrees F. Remove and cool, then slice the logs 1/2-inch thick with a serrated knife. Place the slices on the baking sheet and continue baking until crisp, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool before storing in airtight containers.
Cranberry Almond: 1 teaspoon almond extract, 1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds plus 1/2 cup dried cranberries
Chocolate Chip: 1 cup mini-chocolate chips
Orange-Walnut: 1 tablespoon grated orange zest and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Triple Ginger: Substitute light brown sugar for the white sugar, add 1/4 cup diced crystallized ginger, 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon dried ginger
Rosemary-Lemon: 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped rosemary and 1 tablespoon grated orange zest.