Many years ago, I was invited to a holiday cookie party. It was my first. And my last. The idea behind such an event is that everyone comes bringing bags of homemade cookies. Then, you swap cookies until you have the same number of bags you came with, but with all different cookies! Sounds fun, yes? And what a great way to celebrate the holidays and accumulate lots of different homemade goodies without actually baking every single one.
The instructions were specific – “Bring 12 bags with no less than 10 cookies in each bag.” Once I’d figured out how many that would be, I chose the worst possible cookie to bake – biscotti! They were only the worse possible choice because biscotti are twice baked and require much more hands-on time than a simple drop cookie.
In order to make the mandated 120 cookies (plus a couple of extras just in case), I needed to quintuple my standard recipe. And, long story short, let’s just say it took me a long time to get over that long night of baking. And baking. And baking.
But these biscotti won me back in the end, because they are so light and subtly spiced -- a nice change from the cloyingly sweet iced cookies and whatnot that predominate over the holidays. And they’re really not that hard at all – they just have a couple of extra steps. Best of all, these keep very well for at least two weeks in an airtight container, so you can bake them well before the Christmas madness sets in. Then, put them in a nice cellophane bag with a ribbon and, if you’re feeling really flashy, pack them in a coffee mug for gift-giving. Happy holidays!
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon anise seed
1 tablespoon lemon zest, grated
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
3. Beat the butter and sugar together in a mixer until light and fluffy (very important that the butter is a room temperature of this won’t happen!) Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, anise and lemon zest, mixing until incorporated, about 30 seconds
4. Slowly mix in flour just until combined. Split the dough in half and shape in two loaves measuring 2” x 13” (flour your hands first!) Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 35 minutes, rotating the baking sheet about halfway through.
5. When loaves are golden and just starting to crack on top, remove from oven. Reduce heat to 325 degrees F. Allow loaves to cool for about 15 minutes, then slice on the diagonal into ½” thick slices. Places slices back on baking sheets with about ½” between each one.
6. Bake for 15 minutes, flipping the slices over halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Keeps for at least two weeks in an airtight container.
Makes approximately 25 biscotti.