Biscotti is an Italian word that comes from the medieval Latin word meaning, “twice-baked.” The cookies, or biscuits, are first baked into loaves, cooled, sliced into long pieces, and baked again until crisp and crunchy. They are conveniently shaped for dunking into a hot beverage on a chilly, grey morning. And they are almost always present on my kitchen counter.
Like many Italian foods, biscotti reminds me of the flavors and textures of Levantine cuisine. Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese culinary traditions have similar dunking cookies known as kaak sim sim (sesame biscuits) or kaak yansoon (aniseed biscuits). So I thought I would combine the best of both worlds here and add one of my favorite baking ingredients, olive oil, for extra depth. I like it when simple cookies are dressed up with flavors, so pistachios, apricots, and dark chocolate are also welcome additions. Feel free to play with the recipe and swap add-ins to your liking. Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, orange zest, dried cranberries, dates, spices, cocoa powder, espresso powder, almond extract, etc. are all great with biscotti. This version, however, is my favorite. Maybe it is because it tastes like home. The combination of aniseed, pistachios, apricot, and olive oil always brings me comfort. And it results in a texture that is perfectly crisp yet tender.
Don’t worry about getting perfect measurements – biscotti is meant to be rustic and some variations are even shaped into individual balls and simply baked until crisp. Dip the cooled cookies into melted chocolate for added indulgence. And when the day allows, take a quiet moment to treat yourself to a warm cup of something soothing and a side of your homemade biscotti.
Happy fall baking!
INGREDIENTS/ MAKES ABOUT 24 COOKIES
2 cups/ 280 gr. all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cups/ 150 gr. sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoons aniseeds
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
1/3 cup/ dried apricots (about 7)
1/2 cup/ whole pistachio nuts
1/3 cup/ 50-60 gr./ 2 oz. chopped 70% dark chocolate
1 egg white mixed with a pinch salt, for brushing
Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk together to combine. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs for about 3 minutes or until light and frothy. Add olive oil, sugar, and vanilla and mix well to combine. Add half of the flour mixture and using a spatula or baking paddle, fold until the flour is no longer visible. Add the other half of the flour mixture along with the aniseeds, sesame, apricots, pistachios, and chocolate. Fold just until combined. The mixture will be sticky. Place two large sheets of plastic wrap on a kitchen surface, separate the dough in half, and place each piece of dough onto the center of each piece of plastic wrap. Loosely cover and shape each piece of dough into a roll. Gently flatten using the palms of your hand to form a log that is roughly 10 by 3 inches. Cover tightly with wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F/180C and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Unwrap each log of dough onto the pan leaving a few inches of space in between the two. With floured hands, shape the dough one last time so that the logs are about 1/2 high, more or less – no need for precision here. Brush the surface of the dough pieces with egg wash and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until golden. Rotate the pan halfway through baking. Let the loaves cool for about 15-20 minutes to allow for cleaner cuts. Using a serrated knife, slice the loaves horizontally with a slight slant to make pieces that are 1/2 inch thick. Arrange the biscotti cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for a total of 15-20 more minutes – 7-10 minutes on each side, or until lightly golden and crisp.
Place biscotti on a wire rack to cool completely. Then transfer to an airtight container. The flavor of biscotti develops overnight and is best after 2 days. The cookies will keep well for 3-4 weeks.
Variation: Butter. If you have a preference for butter, substitute 5 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter for the olive oil and begin the recipe by creaming together the butter and sugar. Then add the eggs and vanilla and mix until pale and creamy. Continue with the rest of the recipe.