Classic Italian biscotti belong to the tradition of little cookies, small sweet snacks to accompany a cup of tea or an afternoon break from work. If you love little cookies designed for such times, then I have just the book for you: A small, rich, and elegant book full of nibbly cookies.
This book hails from Rome, and it's full of cookies baked in the kitchens of the American Academy in Rome. The food there is overseen by the Rome Sustainable Food Project, which is guided by Alice Waters and helmed by chef Mona Talbott. Talbott and the resident pastry chef cowrote this book, which features dozens of small yet perfect cookie recipes.
The authors describe how much these cookies are loved at the Academy; they are cookies to coax academics out of their study carrels, and to delight visitors. There are biscotti for every taste and preference: Milk and wine biscotti like whole wheat honey cookies, and pine nut and rosemary cookies, start off the book. Then there are nut biscotti like almond wafers and walnut jam cookies. There are honey, citrus, and spice biscotti (lemon pistachio sandwich cookies, anyone?) and meringue biscotti. Chocolate biscotti finish the book, and this chapter includes the celebratory recipe below, full of cocoa powder and blood orange zest.
As you can see, this book goes far beyond the simple twice-baked rusks that are called biscotti in the United States. This is a full book of small, well-tested cookie recipes that are designed to please and delight in a gentle, understated way. I plan to bake the recipes in this book frequently, and if they sound appealing, well believe that the book itself is even more so. It's stuffed with full color photographs of the cookies, the Academy, and the Academy's guests. It's a small celebration of biscotti, and it's lovely.
• Find the book: Biscotti: Recipes from the Kitchen of The American Academy in Rome, The Rome Sustainable Food Project, by Mona Talbott (Author), Mirella Misenti (Author), Annie Schlechter (Photographer), Alice Waters (Foreword). Little Bookroom (October 12, 2010). $12.89 at Amazon.
Biscotti al Cioccolata e Arancia (Chocolate and Orange Cookies)
yields approximately 50 cookies
This recipe is a variation on our reliable chocolate wafer cookies and utilizes our bountiful supply of candied orange peel. Chocolate and orange make a fantastic combination. Sometimes we substitute candied pink grapefruit peel if we have some to use up.
420 g / 3 cups all-purpose flour
105 g / 1 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1 g / 1/4 tsp salt
10 g / 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
225 g / 1 cup + 2 tsp butter
250 g / 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
Grated zest of 1 blood orange
1 egg plus 1 yolk
90 g / 1/2 cup candied blood orange peel, finely chopped
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder in a medium-size mixing bowl.
Cream the butter, sugar and orange zest until light and fluffy. Add the egg and yolk and mix well. Gradually add the flour mixture and the peel, mix at low speed until well combined. Wrap the dough in plastic film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Shape the dough into two logs 5 cm / 1 1/2 inches in diameter, taking care not to incorporate too much flour. The logs can be frozen for up to 2 months wrapped in parchment paper and plastic film.
To bake, preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F.
Slice the logs into 5-mm / 1/4-inch-thick slices. Evenly space them on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, leaving 2 cm / 3/4 inch between each cookie. Allow the dough to come to room temperature before baking 7–8 minutes.
If you want to make these cookies really special, drizzle them with melted chocolate and garnish with more finely chopped candied peel.
They are best eaten freshly baked, but will keep in a container for 2–3 days.
Related: Edible Gift Recipe: Chocolate-Dipped Peppermint and Pumpkin Walnut Biscotti
(Image and recipe courtesy of The Little Bookroom)