Sunday Salon: The secret of making good biscotti.

Later today I will be making biscotti.

Years ago, I had my first homemade biscotti, made by the Italian mother of a friend of mine.  They were delicious, unlike any biscotti I’d ever had.

Instead of being dry and hard, so hard that you risked cracking your teeth by eating them like the ones you’ll find for sale in individually wrapped packets, they were crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.  There was a brief snap when I bit into them followed by warm Italian-mother goodness.


Not having an Italian mother, what was I to do?  I’m from the Mid-West.

I come from a very long line of very bad cooks.  My mother pioneered the use of frozen vegetables back in the 1960’s along with not just Hamburger-Helper but Tuna-Helper in the 1970’s.  Both of my grandmothers were even worse.  One would never let any food go to waste, even fallen fruit we passed by the side of the road.  She even bought ice-milk instead of ice-cream because it was cheaper.  You can’t get ice-milk anymore, but trust me, it was cheaper for a reason.

My other only discovered the existence of olive oil very, very late in life which sums up her cooking quite well.  When she once tried making bak lava, she thought it would be a good idea to add the basked of blueberries she saw in the market.  It was not a good idea.  Neither my father nor either of my grandfathers cooked anything other than the occasional pancake.  Men of their background did not cook family dinners.

So, with no one to make homemade biscotti for me, I had to become my own Italian mother and teach myself how to make them.

There is a key to making excellent biscotti.  It makes no difference what recipe you use as long as it contains both almonds and anise seeds.  There are people who do not put anise seeds or almonds in their biscotti, but they are generally very sad people.  One should avoid their biscotti.

Simply follow the recipe you’ve found with one exception.  When you go to bake the biscotti reduce the stated cooking time by about one third.

Your biscotti will be delicious.  The outside will cook to a crisp cookie while the inside will stay soft and chewy.

I once gave my biscotti to my friend whose mother introduced me to their wonderful goodness in the first place.

She said, “Not bad,” which is high praise in my book.

Her mother’s biscotti were the best.

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