biscotti recipe

Biscotti, photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Biscotti is the perfect accompaniment mid-morning when I’m into my fifth or sixth cup of coffee.  I drink coffee all morning long and I’m able to do so because I don’t use one of those horrible drip machines, but rather what I think of as my personal 1956 Lincoln Continental of a coffee machine. The problem has always been that I’ve never really liked biscotti.  Maybe because I’ve only ever had the stuff that comes in a gift basket from Gallucci’s (a store I adore).  Or the one time I tried to make it myself.  It was rock hard and tasteless, so I figured I’d done a perfect job.

But a while back, someone asked for a biscotti recipe, perhaps even a ratio.  My able colleague Emilia Juocys was intrigued and so recently set to work. She has here devised a superb recipe and ratio for a great biscotti that includes eggs and butter: delicate, not gravel in your mouth, flavorful but not overly, an excellent canvas if you want to add chocolate or nuts or the traditional anise flavor.

Here’s the new ratio: 5 parts flour : 3 parts sugar : 2 parts butter : 2 parts egg

(For more excellent ratios, see the book Ratio, or the Ratio app for iPhones and Android phones)

And now, over to Emilia and the actual recipe.

by Emilia Juocys

The ratio base for the biscotti is a blank canvas.  It allows you to create something unique, whatever you crave.  The base hold its together.  It can be simple with one concept like orange or anise, or it can be over top with nuts, dried fruit, spice, and even dipped in chocolate.  I have three favorite combinations: almond praline, roasted hazelnut & dark chocolate, and almond & dried cherry.  If you want it classic, stick go with an anise flavored biscotti (add a tablespoon of anise seeds and 3/4 teaspoon of anise extract to the recipe below). Biscotti should reflect the personality of the baker.  What kind of biscotti are you?

On my path of discovering more about the components of the popular coffee house biscotti I ran across the history of this biscuit.  I also recalled my trip to Italy and noshing on these crunchy cookies with a glass of Vin Santo for dessert.

Biscotti means “twice cooked” from the Latin.  For the first bake the dough is shaped into a cylinder; because of the high fat content it will settle into a loaf shape. The loaf is cooled then sliced and the slices are baked to dry them out. You can keep these cookies for up to a month if well sealed, but they don’t last long in my house.

They can be made in a variety of ways; the lower the fat content, the harder they will be. We like them rich and tender, thus the butter and eggs.

Types of biscotti include cantucci, rosegons, and carquinyoli, and like all things Italian, vary by region and inspire heated debate over authenticity.  These cookies have been valued throughout history because they can be stored for a long time (fat content is a factor; the more fat, the less well they keep).  They are originally from the Italian region of Tuscany in the town of Prato.  An original recipe was documented by Amadio Baldanzi in the 18th century and then in the 19th century, Antonio Marttei a pastry chef presented the biscotti at the 1867 world’s fair in Paris.  His name is still associated with a biscotti bakery in Prato.  Marttei’s biscotti recipe includes flour, sugar, eggs, pine nuts, and untoasted, skin-on almonds.

Biscotti

  • 10 ounces/280 grams all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces/120 grams butter, unsalted
  • 6 ounces/170 grams sugar
  • 4 ounces egg/120 grams (2 large eggs)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • optional garnish, added as desired: nuts, chocolates, dried fruit
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F./180 degrees C.
  2. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper or silpat.
  3. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk it to distribute the ingredients.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar together with a paddle attachment in a standing mixer (or however you want to mix), for about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add in the eggs one at a time and extract. Be sure to scrape sides of bowl down with a rubber spatula after each addition of egg.
  6. Once the eggs are incorporated, turn the mixer on low speed and slowly pour in the dry ingredients. Mix just until the dough comes together (adding optional garnish if you’re using).
  7. Flour a work surface and spatula the dough out of the bowl. Divide in half (it should be sticky, thus the flour; use as little flour as possible). Roll the dough into two cylinders 2 inches/5-centimeters in diameter and place on the lined sheet tray far enough apart that they won’t relax into each other.
  8. Bake until golden brown, 35 minutes, then set aside to cool.
  9. Slice the cooled loaves with a serrated knife on the bias making 1/2 inch/1-centimeter to 3/4 inch/2 centimeters pieces.
  10. Place these slices on the sheet tray and bake for another 12-15 minutes, until they are lightly golden.
  11. Remove from oven cool completely.

Yield: About 2 dozen biscotti

If you liked this post on biscotti or ratios, check out these other posts:

© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

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42 Wonderful responses to “A New Ratio: Biscotti”

  • Michelle

    I am a fan of the crunchy cookie, nibbling and dunking, wine or coffee. I have a recipe that I use but I never really content with it, I will give this a whirl. I think I was missing what you explain to be the key ingredient, FAT!

  • Andrew

    You really shouldn’t describe automatic drip machines as horrible (even though they are) when you are (over)brewing coffee with a percolator that those who are knowledgable about coffee would describe as equally if not more horrible. If you enjoy your percolator, fine, enjoy it. But as someone who routinely critiques the inferior cooking or ingredient choices of others based on your vast expertise on food, you should consider re-educating yourself on coffee. Just as you have an extensive food knowledge base, there are many people out there with a comparable understanding of coffee, and you could learn a lot from them. Coffee is food after all. Why not experience it at its finest? You might discover how much better it can be via freshly roasting green coffee beans (easy to do at home), and extracting the flavors at proper temperature with appropriate methods (percolators not being among those).

    • Ryan Silva

      Agree. Although, cheap drip machines are usually not that great, and I have no way of knowing if they brew at the correct times and temps. Since I only brew one cup in the morning, I use a Hario V60 pourover cone with a cloth filter. Pour-over is seriously underrated, but those who don’t want to do more than press a button to get coffee will probably think it’s too much work.

  • Scordo

    Hi Michael, Torrone, from Sicilia, is also nice with a good cup of coffee, here’s my recipe for the “soft” variant: http://www.scordo.com/2010/12/torrone-recipe-torroncini-turron-italian-candy-recipe.html

    Also, Andrew makes a very good point about coffee being a food type and that drip, along with perc, isn’t the best method for enjoying superior coffee. A French Press works well as does a Chemex or a single serving “clever coffee” from Sweet Maria’s.

    Vince from Scordo.com

  • ruhlman

    Andrew and Scordo, I know, I know. As I’ve said before, I’m a coffee cretin. I do use a french press when I want one cup of really good coffee. I shouldn’t have brought up the coffee business. People get riled.

    • Scordo

      : – ) We love you, Michael, we just need to regulate our critical sides! Thanks for a good post!

  • Celeste

    While I prefer a leaner, crunchier biscotti, it’s worth noting that this sort of biscotti recipe will accomodate other grains nicely. Sub half whole wheat or oat flour for the AP flour…or go the traditional route for cantuccia di Prato and add 2T cornmeal for an excellent crunch, along w/some rosemary & toasted pine nuts. Another tasty variation: unsweetened dried coconut, with coconut oil in place of butter. (Can you tell I’m a biscotti fan?)

  • Andrew

    (Also, “#8 Bake until golden brown, 35 minutes, the set aside to cool.” should be “# Bake until golden brown, 35 minutes, then set aside to cool.”)

    Otherwise, this sounds lovely and I look forward to making it this weekend!

  • claudia

    oh dear, i’d just never ever put butter in my biscotti. EVER. plenty of eggs, of course yes. but butter makes them something different. i like mine with whole roasted almonds, anisette, anise seed, vanilla, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and eggs… that’s it. i also add chunks of candied ginger on occasion because i love that stuff. but butter in biscotti makes me crinkle my nose up… and ruhlman, mine might be a bit on the hard side but it’s all in the baking timing…

    anyway, hard is good. but you’d expect that coming from me…

    • emilia

      A true purist on the biscotti. :) Nice. Claudia, I like your combination of almonds and the anise, makes me want one right now. Thanks for chiming in. Great to see your comment here.

    • ruhlman

      I believe the really traditional ones don’t use fat or yolks, just whites. these would keep forever and be very hard. if that’s good.

  • Andrew

    One more:

    “You can keep these cookies for up to a a months if well sealed, but they don’t last long in my house.”

    A month?

    • Andrew

      I lied:

      “An original recipe was documented by Amadio Baldanzi in the 18th century and then in the 19th century, Antonio Marttei a pastry chef presented the biscotti at the 1867 world’s fair in Paris.”

      should be either,

      “An original recipe was documented by Amadio Baldanzi in the 18th century and then in the 19th century, Antonio Marttei, a pastry chef, presented the biscotti at the 1867 world’s fair in Paris.”

      or

      “An original recipe was documented by Amadio Baldanzi in the 18th century and then in the 19th century, pastry chef Antonio Marttei presented the biscotti at the 1867 world’s fair in Paris.”

      I’ll stop now. This still looks delicious.

      • Matt

        Someone invited my seventh-grade English teacher to the discussion. Awesome.

        • Andrew

          Oh – finally:

          “#11 Remove from oven cool completely.”

          “#11 Remove from oven and let the biscotti cool completely.”

          • mark

            Hey man you’re so knowledgable! I’m glad you pointed all of the typos out so we could all see that!

  • Renaccio

    Oh yeah, the butter makes them a lot softer but the real cantucci di Prato are hard as rocks and meant for dunking. I make them all the time for my Florentine husband. It’s my favorite dessert here in Tuscany and they’re always hard. Period. Perhaps the butter and the softer result is more pleasing to the American palate. Sure as hell is easier on the teeth.

  • thelm

    Are there any plans to include this ratio in the mobile apps? I use ‘em all the time, but they’re only as good as their location (until I memorize them)

  • melissa

    Biscotti are the only baked item I can stand to dunk! So they really should be hard and dry. But definitely NOT flavorless…how sad that you should have had to suffer through flavorless biscotti. I really should make some more for work.

    Something similar I’ve been enjoying with coffee recently is mandelbrot, with nuts and covered in cinnamon sugar.

  • Jason Sandeman

    Alas, I broke my large bodum this weekend past. I knew there was a reason I should have hesitated with the tile flooring! I have a much smaller bodum, but it will do the trick until *(AHEM) perhaps I get a new one for my birthday!
    As for biscotti – I once did a smartie one on a dare. It turned out not bad. Then again, it was not so good either…

  • Johnny Toronto

    No fat or yolks in my biscotti. I do about 200 miles a weekend on my bicycle and pretty much live on homemade jerky and savory biscotti. I put sharp chedder and dried chilis in mine. Goes great with my 50 mile reward beer. And by the way, it’s all in the bean. Coffee beans are stale 5 days after roasting. Source free-trade green beans and roast them yourself.

    • emilia

      What are you training for? Your savory biscotti sound great, so does the beer.

  • Gluten Free Diva

    Biscotti. Fancy name for Jewish mandelbrot. That and a cup of coffee or tea, and I’m in heaven. And it’s one of the easiest recipes to adapt to gluten free. Thanks for the ratio. It’s honestly changed my baking forever, in the best way.

    • Elliot W

      I recently went into a Jewish bakery, saw some mandelbrot that looked like my grandma’s, and asked for a few, whereupon the baker said, “those aren’t mandelbrot, they are biscotti!” I almost fell to the floor…

  • Skip

    I made a batch today. They’re fabulous. Thank you for the recipe. I ground up some fresh anise (1 tsp net) and added a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips. I’m enjoying my late afternoon tea time right now. Wish I could show you a photograph or two.

  • Ed

    Butter in biscotti? Never seen such a thing, I will give it a try. I have great success with the recipes I use, they call for egg, a touch of milk, or juice, or coffee, but no fats.

  • kevin Locke

    I’m going to throw my weight into Michael’s corner on the coffee thing – if we limit our experiences by the “best method” for everything, we’d all have to eat at Keller’s places the rest of lives. Who will tell the Turk’s to skip the sugar in theirs? Keep on Perkin! And enjoy the butter in your biscotti! Thanks for the great site Michael.

  • Wilma de Soto

    Great Biscotti recipe. Thanks. Now can we have a ratio for Zeppoli?

  • ruhlman

    emilia, i think we need to do a completely lean biscotti recipe, or maybe not completely lean, but without butter. (I still love these most though!)

  • Salpy Kabaklian-Slentz

    It’s posts like this that make it REALLY hard to stick to Lent. Well, at least I know what I’m serving my family when they’re here for Easter!

  • cherylk

    I love my French press. Now, about the biscotti…thank you for the ratio! Am jotting it in my book in the “cookie” section.

  • Durae

    I just made these gluten-free and with lavender and almond… They’re absolutely beautiful! I am going to be making these very often!

  • Diane

    Finally today I made this biscotti recipe–with dried Michigan cherries and walnuts–and they smell wonderful: just out of the oven. How long can I wait to sample? We’ll see. They are going with us, with Italian sesame seed cookies and homemade “fragolino” to our neighbor’s this evening.

  • other side

    Are you going to push an update to the Android app with the biscotti ratio?

  • Christopher G.

    So, I have been baking a variety of biscotti all week for the new restaurant/coffee shop I’ve been working at using my mother’s old recipe, which she highly covets and would probably break my knees if I ever divulged the specifics.

    You should have seen the smile that ran across my face when I read this post tonight and compared the ratio to what I’ve been using for years and it is almost spot on. Though there is a bit more fat in mine than what you’re using here. This post along with the comments have got my mind whirling with some variations I can try as far as flavorings go, but in one version that turns out nicely for me has been using

  • Michael Massimino

    I’ve made biscotti before using my Nana’s recipe but they never came out as tender as hers. She doesn’t measure anything so her instructions were a bit vague, can’t wait to try these today. Making an anise version.

  • Run Fast Travel Slow

    I love biscotti! I’m interested to try this recipe, but I agree with the previous commenters that butter is tricky. I’ve found that including butter actually makes the biscotti too soft (more like a cookie) and prevents the right texture. Also, the cooking time looks short to me. I like my biscotti very dry…

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