Christmas and Winter Holiday Cookies: Biscotti and Mandelbrot

Three Favorite Biscotti

Biscotti! Probably needs little introduction. Many of us enjoy dunking and munching the slightly sweet little wedges of crunchy goodness. And since they are available in almost every coffee shop, super-market and gourmet shop year-round, most people may not associate them with the winter holidays. But once I learned to make them and found recipes for the delicious versions I am sharing below, they have become a holiday tradition at my house.

The Italian word for the "cookie" we know in the USA as 'biscotti' is actually cantucci meaning quite literally "twice baked". And baking them twice is what gives biscotti their unique longevity - they can be stored for months and months and months without spoiling or succumbing to molds. Before, during and after the time of the Roman empire, anyone going on long journeys, including Roman soldiers deployed to the far reaches of the Empire and Christopher Columbus on his hopeful journey across the Atlantic, relied on a plentiful supply of biscotti as a source of nourishment.

Of course, biscotti of that time were somewhat different from the Americanized version most of us here in the USA are accustomed to eating. For one thing, they did not contain fat - other than what was contained in egg yolks. And without the addition of fat, biscotti tend to be quite hard - which if you think about it, they would need to be if they were going to withstand long journeys. If you are eager to try a more authentic biscotti - here is a great recipe from from one of my most favorite chefs - Mario Batali.

And if you do make Mario's biscotti and want to be totally traditional, be sure to serve with Vin Santo for dipping!!!

Just so you know, biscotti and mandelbrot are very much the same thing! Read more about Mandelbrot here at King Arthur Flour.

Making biscotti is very, very easy, requiring little in the way of baking skills or equipment. If you want to impress - present a glass cookie jar filled with biscotti!

Baking Biscotti

Once the cookie dough is mixed, simply form it into a couple logs about 10 to 12 inches long and 2" wide and about 1" thick. Bake and cool a few minutes.

Baking Biscotti

After the logs have cooled about 10 to 15 minutes, slice and bake again! Many recipes suggest spraying lightly with water using a spray bottle a minute or two before cutting into cookies. I prefer placing a damp kitchen towel over the logs for a minute or two. In either case, the object is to gently soften the surface so that it is a little easier to slice the logs into cookies.

Always use a serrated knife for slicing. Break the top surface with a gentle sawing motion and then apply gentle but firm pressure straight down to complete the slice. This technique will minimize crumbling.
 Baking Biscotti

One recipe I am sharing suggests placing the cut biscotti on the cookie sheet in the position you see above. Having never given this technique a try, I baked the cookies on their sides as instructed just for this post. I really do not think this is such a great idea.

Baking Biscotti

Much better - after slicing the log, place the biscotti on the cookie sheet so that they are resting on their "bottoms" as shown above. This method results in more even drying and a much prettier cookie. Cookies should be about 1" apart.

Keep in mind that they have had all the moisture baked right out of them, so keep your beautiful biscotti in an airtight tin so they don't begin absorbing moisture from the atmosphere.

 

RECIPES FOR BISCOTTI AND MANDELBROT

 

Note: For every recipe I have shared previously in this series, I have answered the questions what do I like about this cookie and what do I not like and would I bake it again. Every one of the recipe's below yield perfect and delicious biscotti. So I am answering the questions here by saying: I absolutely love every single one of the biscotti/mandelbrot shared below and there is nothing I don't like. I bake all four every year!

 

Chocolate Biscotti from "Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours": recipe here
Chocolate Biscotti

These are truly the most sublimely delicious chocolate biscotti! Deeply satisfying chocolate taste (espresso will do that to a chocolate cookie)!

A liberal sprinkling of large sugar crystals over the top of the logs before baking give the cookies an extra pretty sparkle.

A tin filled with Chocolate Biscotti would be welcomed by almost anyone on your gift list! And since they don't take all that long to make, they are the perfect solution to that need for a last minute gift.

 

Bizcochito Biscotti from New Mexico Magazine: recipe here

Bizcochito Biscotti

It is no secret at my house that these are my favorites! After all, Bizcochito Biscotti are a perfect marriage of two of my favorite cookies - biscotti and bizcochitos - the official State Cookie of New Mexico! (That recipe is here)

Biscotti laced with brandy, anise, cinnamon and pine nuts! Heaven!

And this one gets even better after a couple days - the flavors have time to develop and blend.

Note: I use 1 teaspoon of anise instead of the 1/2 tsp called for. I also increase the baking powder to 1 teaspoon. I also find that I need to increase the baking time to 40 minutes on the first bake and about 25 minutes on the second (cookies standing on the bottoms).

Note:  This particular dough is quite sticky.  I found it easier to make the logs after spraying my hands with Pam.

Bizcochito Biscotti are probably the most firm of the three - the crumb being finer and more densely packed. Flavors and firmness make this one a great choice for dunking in Vin Santo or coffee! But it is not too firm to simply eat on it's own.

BTW there are several cookie recipes included at the New Mexico Magazine link along with this one and they are all delicious. Give them a try!

 

Mandelbrot from King Arthur Flour: recipe here

Mandelbrot

I have been wanting to try this recipe ever since I first spotted it at King Arthur Flour. Mostly I was curious - is it really a dairy free biscotti by another name!!!

It IS! And this recipe makes a very delicious biscotti/mandelbrot! And a very pretty cookie with all that sparkling coarse white sugar on top!

Note: Instead of butter (dairy), Mandlebrot is made with vegetable oil. I used mini chocolate chips and walnuts but reduced the amount of both by 1/4 cup so I could add 1/2 cup of dried cranberries.

Note: The recipe calls for chilling the dough about three hours or over night. I was in a hurry so I placed my dough in the freezer for about an hour - turning over after the first 30 minutes. The dough was perfect to work with - very easy to form logs. And this recipe makes four logs - so I have frozen two of them for baking closer to the holidays.

 

American-Style Vanilla Biscotti from King Arthur Flour: recipe here

This is a perfect Americanized (butter added) version of biscotti - simple flavor profile with almond flavoring. Perfect basic recipe for adding goodies like pistachios and dried cherries (which is the way I like them best); but most any kind of nut will work, most dried fruits or flavored chipsÂ… check out all the options for tasty additions under "tips from our bakers".

I love this biscotti just as much as all the others and have even created a mostly sugar free version which I bake for Diane and her sweetie. If anyone is interested in the recipe for nearly sugar free biscotti - e-mail me.

Be sure to pop over here where you will find more tasty recipes for cookies that say Christmas!

I make cinnamon sugar

I make cinnamon sugar biscotti. It's great and gives your coffee a hint of cinnamon after dunking. I just tried a lemon biscotti recipe but it didn't have enough lemony goodness. Will have to try again. Biscotti and scones are two of my favorites to bake. My work thinks it's their favorites, too.

Yummmmmmmmm!  Cnnamon sugar

Yummmmmmmmm!  Cnnamon sugar Biscotti!  Thank you for sharing that version!  I bet they smell wonderful too!

Hi Pam! I was thinking of you

Hi Pam! I was thinking of you this morning and thought I would check in. All of these biscotti recipes look delightful. I checked out the link that Avital left in the comments as well, and oh yum! Parmesan black pepper? Yes, please.

I made biscotti last Christmas for the first time, and while they do require a little bit of elbow grease, the results were worth it. I used a Martha Stewart recipe, which I can't seem to find online, but if I see it in my magazines I'll pass along via email.

Hope you are well! xo

It is nice to hear from you

It is nice to hear from you Sarah!  Yeah - I reacted pretty much the say way when i followed the link Avital left for us.  Definitely must give them a try.

I really wouldn't put Biscotti in the elbow grease catagory!!!  No rolling, cutting yucky mess to clean up!!!  Just stir, form, bake, slice and bake!!!  I love making AND eating them!!!

I love biscotti - over the

I love biscotti - over the years it's become one of my favorite cookies to make and eat... whenever I do make them, they're gone pretty quickly, too. I grew up in my grandparent's bakery & there was always mandelbrot - plain or with almonds and candied cherries (my favorite). It's funny how over the years my tastes have changed from loving very sweet treats to enjoying more subtle flavors and less sugar. (One day I'll figure out my grandfather's recipe, too.)

Thanks for the new recipes, going to add these to my Recipes folder for the next time I want to try something new.

Yummi Pam!!!! Thank you for

Yummi Pam!!!! Thank you for the links;-D

The biscotti look so

The biscotti look so delicious, I'm going to give a try!

Pam, another gorgeous post!

Pam, another gorgeous post! I love sitting down with a cup of hot chocolate and reading your lovely descriptions and being transported into your kitchen by your wonderful photos! I'm not usually a big fan of biscotti (probably because I don't like coffee or tea, so I have nothing to dunk it in), but your post has made me pencil in jars of homemade biscotti for my coffee and tea drinkers on my Christmas list for next year! Thank you! I love to plan ahead!
Your posts always make me feel warm and happy, and make me smile.
Big hugs,
Arielle

Arielle!  The recipes I have

Arielle!  The recipes I have shared are so tender, you really don't need to dunk to eat!!  We nibble ours any old time and not always with a hot beverage.  

I absolutely love biscotti

I absolutely love biscotti and mandelbrot! It took me a while to get the hang of slicing them so that they didn't fall apart. Now I have a whole new set of recipes to try!

Have you seen Smitten Kitchen's recipe for Parmesan Black Pepper biscotti? It's on my list of things to try, although I might need to take out a loan to afford that quantity of cheese. Or maybe I'll just reduce the quantities. http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2006/12/the-anticandy/

Thanks for the recipes and gorgeous photos!

Oh my goodness Avital!  Thank

Oh my goodness Avital!  Thank you for the compliment on my photos.  You make me blush!!!

And especially thank you for providing the link to the parmesean black pepper version of biscotti.  Must try it.  MUST!

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