Ah, biscotti — perhaps the most forgotten of all cookies when the holidays roll around. Unlike rollout cookies, they’re not cut into fanciful shapes and glammed up in glitter. And OK, they’re not exactly an old-time American favorite like Gingersnaps or Chocolate Crinkles. But when it comes to what’s truly important at the holidays — transportability, long shelf life, and an amazingly varied assortment of flavors — biscotti just can’t be beat.

With all their positives, why are biscotti so neglected by the general public? Three potential reasons:

1) Unfamiliarity

I daresay not many of us grew up with a batch of biscotti in the countertop cookie jar. Nor did Mom pick up a pack of Stella D’oros at the supermarket along with the Oreos. So we’re just not as used to biscotti as we are, say, the various drop cookies — oatmeal, chocolate chip, peanut butter — that populated our childhoods. And we’re not as likely to think of them when making up our holiday cookie list.

2) They’re quite different than most American cookies

Traditional Italian biscotti, made without fat (save for their eggs) and with just a touch of baking powder, are denser and harder than most American cookies. And for good reason: They need to maintain their structure when dipped into a glass of vin santo or cup of espresso.

However, there’s an American cousin of traditional Italian biscotti that are more like the cookies most of us grew up with. Including both butter and eggs, plus a generous amount of baking powder, American-style biscotti are light, open-textured, and crunchy (rather than dense): think an old-fashioned thick-yet-crispy sugar cookie

Cranberry-pistachio biscotti dipped in white chocolate on a serving plate. Shilpa Iyer
Pistachio-Cranberry Biscotti are a typical American-style biscotti: light, crunchy, and filled with yummy add-ins.

3) They look complicated  

Involved? More so than drop cookies, yes. But much less so than cutout cookies, with their fiddly dough-rolling and cutting and decorating. “Twice baked” (biscotti’s literal translation) means you bake a log of dough first, then slice it, then bake the slices. So while biscotti spend longer in the oven than most cookies (upward of an hour), that simply gives you time to kick back with a cup of tea and map out your next holiday baking project.

Put your reservations aside

Cookies: The New Classics author Jesse Szewczyk includes a great beginner-level biscotti recipe in his book (which I’ll be using to share some general biscotti tips, below) — and he’s totally sold on these cookies. 

(Heads up: At King Arthur, we only recommend the cookbooks that we, as bakers, truly love. When you buy through external links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.)

“Biscotti are a super practical holiday cookie,” says Jesse. “You don't have to worry about them drying out, getting stale, or losing their perfect bite. Biscotti are meant to be crisp, so you can feel confident making them several days in advance without worrying that their texture will suffer. If you’re hosting a large cookie swap or holiday party, biscotti are a simple make-ahead treat that can help you get a head start.”

Jesse has been kind enough to share the Malted Brownie Biscotti recipe from his book on our site (which we liked so much, we included in our holiday collection of New Classics Cookies — great minds think alike). And after baking them myself, I can highly recommend these. With their rich, brownie-like flavor highlighted with bits of chopped dark chocolate, they’re a wonderful accompaniment to a cup of coffee — or for doubling down with a mug of hot cocoa!

I’ll use this recipe to illustrate some universal biscotti tips and techniques — the “insider knowledge” you need to make your biscotti barista-worthy right out of the gate.

Malted Brownie Biscotti dough in a mixing bowl. PJ Hamel
A bowl scraper is the ideal tool for dealing with sticky biscotti dough.

Sticky dough is good dough

American-style biscotti dough is generally a bit stickier than regular drop cookie dough; its looser texture helps it bake up crunchy rather than hard. Don’t try to firm the dough up by chilling it or adding more flour; when it’s time to shape the dough, wet your hands and work with it on a floured or lightly greased surface.

Weighing in on add-ins

Pistachio-Cranberry Biscotti — what a lovely red-and-green choice for the holidays! Adding nuts, dried fruit, and/or chips to your biscotti dough is a delicious option, but be aware of how your recipe might change. Using certain add-ins will increase the dough’s moisture and lengthen your total bake time: According to a tip in our Essential Cookie Companion, for every 1 1/2 cups dried fruit or meltable chips, you can expect to add 5 minutes to the initial bake time, and 5 to 10 minutes to the second bake.

The Cookie Companion adds, “While it’s tempting to use whole nuts, extra-large chips or chocolate chunks, or large pieces of dried fruit in biscotti — they just look so impressive – it’s challenging to slice biscotti for their second bake with these obstacles stopping the knife and knocking it off course.” Your best bet is to chop whole nuts or large chunks of dried fruit into smaller pieces; and use mini chips when you can.

Two logs of biscotti dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet, showing generous spacing between them. PJ Hamel
Give your dough logs plenty of breathing room on the pan; they'll spread significantly as they bake.

Leave plenty of room between the shaped logs

Biscotti directions sometimes have you shape the dough into one large log. But usually you’ll be directed to cut the dough into two or three smaller logs, each about 2” to 2 1/2” wide. While it may look like you can crowd three logs onto your baking sheet — don’t do it! The biscotti logs will spread as they bake, usually to at least double their width. For collision-free expansion, place no more than two logs crosswise on your pan. Leave 3” to 4” of bare space between the two, and another 1 1/2” to 2” empty on either side of them.

Malted Brownie Biscotti dough shaped into squared-off logs on a parchment-lined baking sheet. PJ Hamel
A wet bowl scraper (and your wet fingers) are the ideal tools for shaping biscotti dough into squared-off, straight-sided logs.

Shape the logs carefully

The more carefully you shape your dough logs, the more beautifully shaped your final biscotti will be: no bumps, no ragged ends. A bowl scraper dipped in water is immensely helpful in turning the logs into smooth, even blocks.

Malted Brownie Biscotti dough shaped into logs, being brushed with beaten egg and sprinkled with Swedish pearl sugar. PJ Hamel
Yes, do take the time to brush the dough with an egg wash before coating with sugar. The egg will hold the sugar firmly in place, which is especially important if you're shipping or toting the finished biscotti from one place to another.

Add sugar topping for crunch, flavor, and enhanced appearance

Coarse sugar — either sparkling or pearl — is often applied to biscotti dough logs before baking. Here’s how to do it:

  • Brush the dough logs with beaten egg before adding any topping sugar. This will be the “glue” that holds the sugar in place.
Malted Brownie Biscotti dough shaped into logs, topped with sugar, and ready to bake. PJ Hamel
Remember to sugarcoat the sides and ends of the biscotti as well as the top.
  • Apply the sugar liberally. Remember, the logs expand significantly during baking, so you want your sugar crystals closely packed to provide thorough coverage of the final cookies.
  • For best overall appearance, cover the entire log. Sprinkle sugar on top, but don’t stop there: Pat additional sugar along the sides and ends.
Malted Brownie Biscotti log baked, ready to be sprayed with water prior to slicing. PJ Hamel
I use a simple mini spray bottle to soften my baked biscotti's crust with water prior to slicing.

For crumble-free cutting, spray baked biscotti logs with water

Once your biscotti logs are baked it’s time to slice them — hopefully without crumbling! I like to mist the logs with water and wait 5 minutes, then cut. The resultant very slight softening of the crust allows your sharp chef’s knife (or serrated knife) to glide through the exterior without resistance; and the slices quickly dry out once they’re back in the oven.

Biscotti on a baking sheet showing the difference between long ones sliced from the log on the diagonal, and shorter ones sliced crosswise. PJ Hamel
Look at the difference in size and yield between a biscotti log sliced crosswise (top) vs. one sliced diagonally (bottom). 

Slicing the logs: the angle of the cut matters

Many biscotti recipes call for you to cut the baked logs on the diagonal. But that’s not required; you can instead simply cut them into crosswise slices. How you cut them determines both how long your finished biscotti will be, and exactly how many you’ll end up with. The greater the angle of the diagonal, the longer your cookies will be (and the smaller the yield).

Looking for an impressive presentation in the center of your dessert table? Cut biscotti logs on a steep diagonal and stand the resulting long biscotti in a pretty jar. For shorter biscotti (and more of them), perfect for a cookie plate or for mailing, simply cut the logs into crosswise slices.

Biscotti log being sliced showing the knife completely perpendicular to the cutting surface, not canted, in order to yield the straightest sides. PJ Hamel
For biscotti of even thickness, keep your knife absolutely perpendicular as you slice.

Watch your knife angle while slicing

For biscotti with perfectly straight sides, keep your knife perpendicular to the cutting surface when slicing the logs. Canting the knife either way will result in biscotti that are skinnier at the top than the base, or vice-versa.

Malted Brownie Biscotti, fully baked, lined up on a baking sheet. PJ Hamel
It's fine to stand your biscotti slices quite close together for their second bake; I generally leave no more than 1/2" between each slice and can fit an entire recipe on a single half-sheet pan.

Bake biscotti slices upright rather than laid flat

The purpose of biscotti’s second bake (after it’s been sliced) is for each slice to dry out completely. For best circulation (and to avoid add-ins potentially sticking to the pan) stand the biscotti on their bases rather than laying them flat. If they’re so thin (or unevenly sliced; see “watch your knife angle,” above) that they won’t stand up, then fine, lay them down. Just be sure to turn them over midway through their second bake, so both sides are equally exposed to the heat.

Sliced biscotti standing on end on a parchment-lined baking sheet, just out of the oven. PJ Hamel
See those cut sides? Give them a poke to assess whether the biscotti are fully baked. 

“How do I know when they’re done?”

Let’s turn to the Cookie Companion again. “Once the biscotti have been sliced and baked for the time directed, take the pan out of the oven and probe the side of a biscotto … If the biscotto feels soft, like a piece of cake, give it another 5 minutes in the oven. If it feels firm but still gives a bit when you poke it, take it out for rather soft-textured but still crunchy biscotti. If it feels firm, [even though] the cut crust is still a bit damp, take it out; this will yield biscotti that are crunchy all the way through.”

A final word from Jesse

We asked Jesse Szewczyk why he loves biscotti, and this is what he said: “Biscotti are a super underrated cookie. The dough is easy to make, they can be dressed up or down however you like, and because you bake them until crisp, they’re super forgiving. I personally love dipping them in hot tea or coffee to achieve that perfect crisp-gone-soggy texture. I also think biscotti are naturally beautiful, so if you want to make a cookie that's as impressive as it is delicious, they’re a great option.”

I totally agree. Check out our recipe site now to choose your favorite biscotti. Don’t know where to start? My personal go-to’s include American-Style Vanilla BiscottiButter Pecan Biscotti, and mini Barista Biscotti Bites. Now let’s get baking!

Malted Brownie Biscotti bagged in waxed paper bags and labeled, on a wooden countertop. PJ Hamel
Biscotti look impressive and travel well — making them perfect for a bake sale.  

Looking for holiday cookie exchange inspiration? Discover some exciting options in our New Classics Cookies recipe collection.

Cover photo by Rick Holbrook.

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About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was an award-winning Maine journalist (favorite topics: sports and food) before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. Hired to write the newly launched Baker’s Catalogue, PJ became the small but growing company’s sixth employee.&nbsp...
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