It’s lemon season again, so I am cooking up lots and lots of delicious lemony recipes, from savory to sweet. This time, it was lemon biscotti or cantucci.
Biscotti are Italian hard finger-shaped cookies that are perfect for dipping into your coffee or lattes or cappuccinos, or espressos, though originally, biscotti was served with sweet wine. The Ancient Romans thought biscotti were more about convenience food for travelers rather than a pleasurable treat for leisurely diners. They are unleavened, finger-shaped wafers that were baked first to cook them, then baked a second time to completely dry them out, making them durable for travel and nourishment for the long journey. Pliny boasted that they would be edible for centuries. I don’t know about that, but they certainly do have a longer shelf life than most other cookies. Biscotti were a staple of the diet of the Roman Legions.
Biscotti have their origins dating back to the Ancient Romans, but became really popular in 14th-century in Tuscany, in the city of Prato. They were originally made from almonds, which were abundant in the region. Because the second baking drew moisture out of the biscuit, it rendered the biscotti hard, sturdy and, importantly, resistant to mold.
The word biscotto is derived from the Latin ‘bis’ for ‘twice’ and ‘coctum’ or ‘baked’ which would soon be adapted to ‘cotto’ meaning ‘cooked’. In Tuscany, biscotti is known as cantucci or Cantucci de Prado. Biscotti is the generic Italian term for any type of hard cookies, though here in the United States, biscotti is the term used for the cantucci style cookies. Originally biscotti, or cantucci, were made primarily from almonds. Today anything goes, and they are made with a wide variety of flavors and ingredients. Lemon is always a very popular choice for biscotti.
My latest version of lemon biscotti was a big hit on the church coffee cart. They all disappeared within minutes. They are lemony with a hint of almond flavor and are sweet, tangy and crunchy all at the same time. And all you need are a few simple, basic ingredients too, and magic happens.
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 TBSP lemon zest
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup slivered almonds
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 cup powdered sugar
For the glaze, just whisk everything together and set aside until you are ready to use it.
For the cookies, mix all the dry ingredients together and set aside.
I like to toast my almonds first, and the easiest and quickest way I find to toast them is in a skillet directly on the fire. It only takes a few minutes until they are golden brown.
Mix the eggs and sugar together until light and creamy, for about 2- 3 minutes, then add the vanilla and lemon and almond extracts and blend again. Add the flour mixture 1/2 at a time, mixing in between each addition. Mix just until everything is blended together.
Fold the almonds into the dough. Mix together until it forms into a ball. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before shaping.
When you are ready to shape the dough, preheat the oven to 325* F or 160* C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, cut the dough in 1/2 and shape each dough ball into 1/2 into a log about 12 inches long. Place one log on each prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned.
Let the logs cool for about 5-10 minutes then slice at an angle into strips or fingers, that are about 1/2 inch thick. Turn the cookies on their edges and re-bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until they are lightly browned.
Allow the cookies to cool completely then dip into or drizzle with the glaze, making them however you like and enjoy. ! Mangia! These are so light and crunchy and oh so good. I bet you can’t stop at just one.
Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘ Til next time.