Twice-baked and sturdy, traditional biscotti are an ideal cookie to send through the mail as a holiday treat. Note the “traditional” modifier: in recent years, biscotti in the U.S. have grown soft and flabby, overly sweet, and often coated in sugar, glaze, or chocolate. Their Italian cousins are firm, dry, nut-laden, and perfect for dipping into a glass of vin santo or coffee. To prevent the texture from being too firm in my traditional biscotti, I use sliced almonds, slivered almonds, and coarsely broken pecans; the nuts’ varied textures offer a different crunch in each bite.
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons meyer lemon zest, finely grated
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely broken
Cream butter, shortening, and sugar; beat in eggs one at a time, scraping bowl well after each addition. Beat in vanilla & almond extracts, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt. Stir in flour a cup at a time, then stir in nuts. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter or pastry board; divide it into three. Shape into long, wide rectangles about 1/2″ thick. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes at 375; dough logs will be firm to the touch and lightly browned at the edges. Remove from the oven; reduce oven heat to 300. Allow the dough to cool enough to handle. Using a serrated knife, carefully and gently cut the logs into long fingers 1/2″ to 3/4″ wide. Place the slices cut side down onto the cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn over, and bake for 20 minutes more.
To me, plain is best, but a small drizzle of dark chocolate isn’t over the top. Resist all urges to dip these lovely cookies in cheap coating chocolate and then roll in nuts or christmas-colored sugar dots.