The other day I had a discussion with a fellow about biscotti. I’d just made some, and asked him if he wanted one.

“I don’t like biscotti,” he said, wrinkling his face and pursing his lips to reinforce the point.

“Yes you do.” I countered.

“No, I really don’t,” he insisted.

I’m thinking, what’s not to like about biscotti? Crunchy, light, a perfect balance of sweet and whatever flavor you’ve nudged them towards… Rather than continue along the “Yes you do, no I don’t” path, I decided to branch off.

“What’s your favorite flavor?” I asked.

He thought a moment, smiled, and said, “Believe it or not, black licorice.”

Ah-HA! He’d played right into my scheming hands… I went into the kitchen, and pulled my favorite biscotti recipe off the wall. Note to self: King Arthur Flour’s next cookbook should be entitled “Off the Wall Recipes,” because I keep my favorites, those grease-stained, tattered printouts I use all the time, clipped together and hung on a pegboard in the kitchen, for easy reference.

So, how exactly did this particular biscotti recipe become my favorite?

1) It’s easy. With the hectic pace of life these days, I’m a sucker for EASY. And FAST comes in a close second;

2) It makes a light-and-crunchy (rather than traditional, rock-hard) biscotti;

3) It involves just enough playing with dough to be fun without becoming an onerous task;

4) It makes professional-looking biscotti. I mean, who knew I could make biscotti that look like those perfectly formed ones they sell at Starbucks–and taste much better?

Biscotti are especially appropriate at this time of the year, when you’re madly trying to rustle together your home-baked holiday gifts. Bake the biscotti first! They keep easily for a couple of weeks on the counter–no need to freeze. Just wrap airtight in a plastic bag, find an out-of-the-way corner (away from prying eyes and smacking lips), and stash. Bring ’em back out when it’s time to assemble the gift bags.

Another really nice biscotti characteristic is their chameleonic ability to take on any flavor you choose. Hazelnut, vanilla, almond, coconut, cinnamon… those are easy. But how about cherry flavored biscotti studded with chocolate chips? Or butter-rum with pecans? Then there’s eggnog-flavored biscotti dipped in white chocolate or dark bittersweet ganache… be still, my heart!

But back to my friend the biscotti-naysayer. I made some black licorice biscotti–uh, make that anise-flavored, with fennel seed–stuck a half dozen in a gift bag, and presented them to him. He was skeptical… but the pull of sugar and licorice proved too strong for him to resist. He tried ’em, and–hey, he LIKED them! “These aren’t what I thought biscotti were like. These are GOOD,” he mumbled, munching away. “That’s because they’re American-style biscotti,” I told him. “You know us Americans: more sugar, more flavor, more crunch, MOREMOREMORE! Too much is barely enough.”

Want to convert a lukewarm biscotti fan into an apprecianado? Or make a biscotti-lover’s holiday extra-special? Follow these easy steps to American-Style Biscotti.

Mix up your biscotti dough, shape it into a rough log, and place it on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

The dough is easily malleable, like clay. Shape it into a smooth, flat-topped log, about 14" long and 2 1/2" wide.

Bake the log; it'll puff up a bit and spread out. After it's cooled for about 10 minutes, lightly spritz with lukewarm water; this will make it easier to cut.

Use a serrated knife to cut the biscotti in 1/2" to 3/4" slices. Cutting crosswise will give you short (about 4") biscotti.

Or cut the log at an angle, for longer, "standard-size" biscotti.

Place the biscotti back on the baking sheet. You're going to bake them again, so they become dry and crunchy all the way through. That's where the word "biscotti" comes from: the Latin for "twice baked."

TA-DA! Beautiful biscotti. Make ’em now–avoid the last-minute holiday rush!

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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.    ...
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