Thursday, December 8, 2011

Grandma Nettie's Biscotti 2.0

almond-cranberry biscotti

My maternal grandmother was an excellent baker.  Born in Racine, WI to Sicilian immigrants, she spent a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and baking.  I remember as a child helping her clean her house and taking coffee breaks which always produced a large tin of homemade cookies.

One of her favorites that I always bake around this time of year is her biscotti.  Over the years I've played around with and tweaked the recipe quite a bit.  I use extra-virgin olive oil instead of canola oil or butter, I toast sliced almonds with a few grinds of coarse sea salt before incorporating them into the batter, and I add finely chopped dried cranberries and lemon zest. 

Biscotti recipes are easy to customize to suit your taste.  My grandmother sometimes used anise to flavor her biscotti, I prefer almond extract.  You can use any kind of nut you like or add dried cherries, chocolate chips, orange zest, even finely chopped rosemary or thyme.

In Italy, it's customary to eat biscotti with your morning cappuccino or espresso; truly a match made in heaven.  I could eat them everyday although I don't; but if you look at the ingredients in my recipe, you'll find these cookies healthier than most holiday cookies (please keep in mind we are talking about cookies, so healthy is relative here).  These biscotti come in at about 60-70 calories per cookie, depending on your add-ins, and contain olive oil, eggs and almonds - all of which make your hair shiny and your skin glow!  So if you find yourself having a few biscotti breakfasts, a la Italia, at least you've got that going for you.

Another great thing about these cookies is that they have a long shelf life, making them great for holiday gifts.  I ship these cookies to family and friends on the East Coast every Christmas.  A friend once told me he was still eating the cookies in April - four months after I shipped them - and they were still good.  I'm not sure why, but these biscotti get better with age. 

Grandma Nettie's Biscotti 2.0

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons pure almond extract
2 eggs
1 3/4 unbleached flour (can use 1/2 whole-wheat pastry flour and 1/2 white flour)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup dried cranberries - finely chopped
1 cup sliced almonds
coarse sea salt

1.) Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.  Spread sliced almonds on ungreased baking sheet and season with coarsely ground sea salt.  Toast almonds for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and set aside.  Once they are cool, give them a rough chop.

2.) In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.  

3.) In a large mixing bowl, combine olive oil, sugar, almond extract and lemon zest; stir until blended.  Beat eggs into mixture until smooth. 

4.) Slowly stir the dry flour mixture into the wet mixture until well combined. 

5.) Add cranberries and almonds, and mix until they are well incorporated into the batter.

6.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with flour.  You may need to flour your hands as the dough may be sticky.  Divide the dough in half.  Mold each half into a rectangular log and place each on the baking sheet.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool for at least 20 minutes.

7.) Slice biscotti on the diagonal with a serrated knife into 3/4" slices.  Place the slices back on the parchment-lined baking sheet and into the 325 degree oven for 6-7 minutes on each side.

Enjoy these light & crispy cookies with coffee or tea.

"The Greatest Wealth is Health" - Roman Poet Virgil

1 comment:

  1. OMG - my mouth is watering. Ryder can't have nuts around though, so I'll just have to imagine how awesome they taste! :)