Sunday, December 16, 2007

Best Biscotti

Christmas cookies of the cookie-cutter variety are cute and all, but to me, the best sweet bites of the season are biscotti. I grew up eating my family's version, which have walnuts, anise seed, anisette or sambucco, and a hint of almond extract. They're a little soft and crumbly, not too sweet and shaped a bit like rounded rectangles. A far cry from the long, skinny and rock hard versions they serve at Starbucks. I once gave some to my building's doorman and he told me they were "Delicious! They taste like something imported!"

While the family's biscotti are still my favorite, I have branched out to try many other varieties over the years, with varying degrees of success. This year I went to one of my new favorite cookbooks, Dolce Italiano, by Gina De Palma, and tested out the Mosaic Biscotti, and the Polenta and Sesame Biscotti. I'm pleased with both, though I'm partial to the polenta/sesame ones. The Mosaic Biscotti are a riot of nuts and chocolate, containing semisweet chocolate bits, and chopped hazelnuts and pistachios. They're a substantial cookie. Next time, I'd chop the chocolate into smaller pieces; the chunks I used melted into blobs that lend more of a homemade than dainty look to the biscotti. But they do taste pretty yummy. The Polenta and Sesame Biscotti, on the other hand, are, to me, the perfect biscotti. As De Palma says, sesame seeds and cornmeal are a fantastic combination. The cookies are light and lovely, with a tender-crisp texture and bright interior. A definite keeper.

I also made a batch of nut brittle to give my grandparents--they love this stuff. It's Best-Ever Nut Brittle from December's Food & Wine, and it looks pretty sweet.--S

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