Published November 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.
Italians like these cookies dry and hard, while American versions are buttery and more tender. We wanted something in between—that is, crisp but not tooth shattering.
Some biscotti are so hard they can jeopardize your dental work, while others are more like sugar cookies.
We wanted a cookie with big flavor and even bigger crunch that could be dipped into coffee but didn’t have to be.
We knew that the cookies’ crunch or lack thereof corresponded, in part, with the amount of butter in the recipe. With this in mind, we experimented with quantities until we found the one that would give us a dough that was neither too hard nor too lean. But the amount was too small to work with the traditional creaming method—it was simply getting softened instead of aerated. We needed to find other elements of the dough that could be aerated in the stand mixer. The answer was eggs. We whipped the eggs until they were light in color and then added the sugar and continued to beat the mixture. Finally, we folded in the butter, followed by the dry ingredients.
The whipped eggs gave the dough the lightness and lift it had been lacking, but the cookies still baked up a bit hard. To rectify this, we swapped out some of the flour for nuts that we had ground to a fine powder in the food processor. This made our cookies crumbly and crunchy, but easy to bite.
With the texture perfected, all that was left to do was fine-tune the flavor. We added more nuttiness along with the dry ingredients in the form of coarsely chopped nuts. But we noticed that the almond extract's flavor dissipated after the biscotti’s second stint in the oven. To compensate, we started with a higher-than-average dose. Similarly, we found that we had to load up on other ingredients with volatile compounds in our anise, hazelnut-orange, hazelnut-lavender, and pistachio-spice variations.list of recipes