Biscotti are cookies that I think most people have tried, but very few have made at home. Believe you me, those overpriced biscotti in the jar at your local Starbucks can't hold a candle to a fresh homemade one. General consensus seems to be that they're too fussy to make... cookies you have to bake twice?!? Too much work! But honestly, I find that chocolate chip cookies are far more fussy to make than biscotti. No waiting for butter to soften, no getting halfway through to realize you're missing an ingredient, and unlike those chewy chocolate chip cookies, biscotti really never go stale. Plus, biscotti are so versatile! You can throw just about anything into a biscotti... nuts, dried fruits, chocolate, candied ginger/citrus peel, spices, tea, etc. And they give you a great excuse to have a nice big cup of coffee, or tea, or hot chocolate, or milk, or wine... ok, I'm starting to sound like some weird biscotti lobbyist. ;) Point being, if you haven't tried making your own biscotti, you should.
The original recipe for this biscotti (found here and here) calls for hazelnuts, and I stood in the baking aisle of the grocery store for quite a while trying to decide between hazelnuts and almonds. More than once I decided and started to walk away, only to come back and ponder some more. Seriously, I was getting odd sideways glances from people. Finally, I opted to go with almonds (who knew almonds vs hazelnuts would be such a difficult decision? :P Heh). Reason being, I've made both hazelnut and almond biscotti before, and I honestly prefer the almond. Hazelnut is fantastic in lots of things... nutella, ferrero rocher, coffee, etc. but when it comes to biscotti, I find the sweet, toasty flavor of the almonds more enjoyable.
So, with the nut dilemma dealt with, this recipe was really a cinch to make. I used my stand mixer for the dough, knowing it would be a tough one... last time I made these I broke a wooden spoon trying to incorporate the nuts! I used slivered almonds and toasted them in a pan on the stove top (do NOT leave the room if you are toasting nuts! They will patiently wait and then burn to a crisp the second you turn your back) then laid them out to cool while I made the rest of the dough. Instead of a liqueur, I tossed in a few teaspoons of almond extract, followed the rest of the recipe as written and in the space of about 5 minutes I had my dough ready to bake.
Biscotti differ from the cookies of most of our childhoods in that they are baked twice, which gives them a very crisp, crunchy texture. I get the feeling this may be the part that people find too time consuming or difficult, but really, it's pretty simple. You form your dough into one or two logs (depending on how big you want the resulting cookies to be) and bake it for about half an hour in a relatively low oven (300F in this case). Once the logs are semi-baked, you let them cool slightly so you can slice them into the biscotti and place them back in the oven for their second bake (mine took about 10 minutes more). From start to finish, including making the dough, first baking, cooling, and second baking, it took me less than an hour.
Once the biscotti are cool, you can get fancy and dip them in melted chocolate or coat them in powdered sugar, but I prefer mine plain with a big mug of coffee. Although, considering the warm summer weather we're having, it might be time to take a tip from the Italians and try them with a nice chilled glass of vin santo!