I believe this was the first recipe I tried out of "Baking With Julia", the Julia of the title being the late, great Julia Child.  The book was published in conjunction with the same-named PBS series: each episode featuring a different baker baking with Julia.  The series and the book provided a wonderful cross-sections of baking techniques and traditions, as well as a varied selection of both sweet and savory baked goods. I believe it’s the one cookbook on my shelf out of which I’ve at least attempted a majority of the recipes, with "The Joy of Cooking" a most likely close second.

These biscotti are one of the classic Italian double-baked cookies.  In his introduction to the recipe, contributing baker, Nick Malgieri, states: “The traditional accompaniment is vin santo, but they’re great with espresso or tea. No matter the libation, they’re meant to be dipped.” I’ve found that if sliced to just the right thickness, they can be easily and satisfyingly eaten right out of the cookie jar – no dipping required. Or as an accompaniment to a generous scoop of ice cream or gelato.

Cantuccini

2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1-½ cups unbleached whole almonds
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350℉.  Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl and stir with a rubber spatula to mix.  Stir in the almonds.

Whish the eggs and vanilla together in a small bowl, then stir them into the flour mixture. The dough may seem dry at this point, but it will come together as it is kneaded.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, folding it over onto itself until it is smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a 12-inch-long log. Gently press down on the logs to flatten them until they are about 2 inches wide and 1 inch high. Transfer them to the prepared pan.

First Baking Bake the logs for about 30 minutes, or until they are slightly risen and firm to the touch. Slide the logs, parchment and all, off the baking sheet and onto a cooling rack. The logs must be completely cool before you can continue with the recipe. Since they will take about 30 minutes to cool, you can either turn the oven off or leave it on for the next step. You can bake the biscotti up to this point several days ahead. Wrap the logs well in plastic and continue when it’s convenient.

Second Baking When the logs have cooled completely, preheat the oven to 350℉, if necessary. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Working with a sharp serrated knife, cut the cooled logs diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Place the sliced cookies cut side down on the pans and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the biscotti are crisp and golden. Cool on the pans.

Storing There biscotti will keep for up to a month in an airtight tin or plastic container.

My Notes and Observations

  • The recipe states that it makes 8 dozen biscotti. I’ve usually just managed to get about 6 dozen slices.
  • Make sure your baking powder is fresh – check those expiration dates! It’s the only leavening in the recipe, and it contributes greatly to the airy-crunchiness of the finished product.
  • Once the dough starts to come together, it really does come together quite fast.  I’ve found it easier to knead the dough while it is still in the bowl, and then transfer halves of the dough directly to the parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Your hands will get messy!
  • Besides the vanilla, I also like to add a ½ teaspoon of almond extract to help round out the almond flavor and aroma.
  • As a final fillip, you can dip the cantucinni in the melted chocolate of your choice once they are cooled.
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