Some cookies tend to be hoarded by children’s small hands — say, chocolate-chip cookies, especially warm ones from the oven. Other cookies remind us, instantly, of what’s hiding inside the family cookie jar in the kitchen. For Lisa, it’s her mom’s Latvian piparkukas at Christmastime. For John, it’s the peanut butter, crispies, and chocolate-dipped buckeyes.
The dry, crunchy Italian cookies known as biscotti, however, fall into an entirely different class of sweet treat. They’re meant to be savored crunch by crunch, not inhaled like softer cookies often are.
Despite having no Italian blood running through either of our families, we love both the crunch and the conversation that biscotti offer when shared with friends. We love the dunking part, too; the cookies are perfect for dipping in a cup of joe, tea, or dessert wine.
Meaning “twice baked” in Italian, biscotti naturally double the effort in the kitchen, which is one of the reasons for the price they command at fancy coffeehouses. First, biscotti are baked in a loaf. After the loaf cools, it’s sliced into the familiar elongated biscotti shape; the resulting slices are then sent back into the oven to be toasted. Their resultant crisp, dry texture provides a satisfying crunch or, if you’re so inclined, some dunking fun.
Because biscotti are dried, they have a long shelf life if kept away from humidity in an airtight container. Even without preservatives or additives, biscotti can last, stored well, for several months.
Traditionally flavored with anise seeds or almonds (or both), biscotti can get more colorful and festive for the winter holidays with a change of flavor. We like to make biscotti with peppermint, which gives a bit of chilly zing to the crunchy cookie.
The inspiration for our recipe came one cold evening after we noticed bags in our farmstead pantry filled with various leftover candy canes and peppermint candies — you know, the ones you or a family member pick up at a restaurant after a meal, but never eat later.
We hate to throw things out, yet we realized we’d never eat the candies. So we repurposed the minty rejects into an essential cookie ingredient.
The cast-off candy canes are now part of a annual holiday cookie tradition, in which we make unusual “conversation starters” as gifts for friends and family. For us, it’s a taste of winter.