Last weekend I began my annual Christmas biscotti bake-a-thon where I bake about 25 dozen biscotti to give as gifts to close friends and family. This has been a holiday tradition in our house for 22 years. How do I know? Because I always use the same recipe from the December 1992 issue of Gourmet magazine.
Gourmet …remember it? That publication was the go-to source for fine dining and “good living” – as it said on the cover – long before quinoa was even a twinkle in the eye of vegan’s gluten-free diet.
When I take the magazine off the shelf, I’m always amused by the cover photo of an intensely-pink cranberry mousse-type dessert that is almost overflowing from a huge crystal bowl. The photo is so representative of the over-the-top excesses of the 1990s. I flip through the magazine, past the NordicTrack ad with the guy in the sexy short-shorts to my trusted Biscotti di Greve recipe on page 164. By now, I’ve used the recipe for so many years that the page is so crusty and spattered that the magazine practically opens by itself.
The recipe itself is wonderful in its simplicity: the number of ingredients can almost be counted on one hand: flour, sugar, eggs, almonds, orange zest, vanilla, salt and baking soda. The mixing process is really just dumping everything into the bowl. The only challenge is not burning out the motor of my 30 year-old Kitchen Aid mixer because without any butter or fat in the recipe, the dough is as stiff as partially-set cement.
Once mixed, the dough is shaped into logs that are baked, cooled, and then sliced into the finger-like cookies that are the traditional shape. The slices are baked a second time, giving my biscotti a delightful crunchy texture…assuming that you don’t have any loose fillings.
Biscotti are the perfect treat to give as gifts because they there is no such thing as a stale biscotti; in fact “stale biscotti” is redundant. Since they have the same shelf life and structural integrity as cardboard, I can make them early in the month, pack them, and know that they can withstand being drop kicked off the UPS truck.
In fact I think I might still have a few biscotti left from a batch in the early 2000s…just as good as they day they were baked.