This is the biscotti recipe I used to win a 2nd place ribbon at the Oregon State Fair. Given there were several biscotti entries, I think it’s a solid bet.
I was originally going to use the biscotti recipe from the excellent Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book, because they have done research on what makes a fine biscotti. But then I stumbled across a recip from SheLovesBiscotti.com that varied so greatly from the Cook’s Illustrated recipe I couldn’t resist giving it a try. It was so old-school that I couldn’t believe it would best the Cook’s Illustrated recipe. I was wrong.
We did a blind comparison of biscotti from the two recipes and everyone preferred the SheLovesBiscotti.com recipe. As for the differences, the SheLovesBiscotti.com recipe uses olive oil instead of butter, brown sugar in addition to white sugar, an extra egg, more flour, more almond extract and lemon zest. I love the citrus flavor the lemon zest provides, while my wife prefers I leave it out. (When grating the zest of any citrus, do not include the white pith, only the colorful exterior.)
So I Combined Elements from Both Recipes
For my entry to the state fair, I incorporated some additions from the Cook’s Illustrated biscotti into the SheLovesBiscotti.com recipe.
• 1 1/2 cups whole raw almonds —or– 1¼ cups whole raw almonds and ¼ cup almond flour. Please read my precautions about almonds below.
• 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
• 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 3/4 cup brown sugar
• 3 large eggs (room temperature)
• 1/2 cup olive oil (you can use extra virgin, but I’ve only made this with light olive oil and find it works really well)
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of pure almond extract (you might use less if you have artificial almond extract)
• 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon lemon zest
• 1 egg for the egg wash (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spread almonds on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven for about 5 minutes.
- When the almonds are done, chop them up coarsely with a knife or put them in a food processor and pulse it a few of times until they are coarsely chopped.
- Take a ¼ cup of the chopped almonds, and use a food processor or mill to grind them into flour–OR–if you have almond flour, use that.
- Turn your oven down the 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a bowl, combine the all purpose flour, ¼ cup almond flour, baking powder, salt, white sugar and brown sugar. Mix them together.
- In a decent sized bowl, put in the eggs and whisk them well. Then add the olive oil, almond and vanilla extracts, and the lemon zest. Stir it all together.
- Add the flour mixture to the egg-olive oil-extracts mixture. Stir it all together with a wooden spoon until it’s mixed pretty well, but do not over mix.
- Fold in the toasted chopped almonds after they have cooled down to room temperature.
- Use a pencil to mark two 3 x 8 inch rectangles on the back of a sheet of parchment paper. This will give you a target area. Turn the parchment paper over and put it on a baking sheet.
- Scoop the dough out and put it in the two rectangles on the parchment paper that you put on your cookie sheet.
- Cook’s Illustrated suggests using a spatula coated with vegetable oil to shape the loaves, but I end up coating my fingers with vegetable oil and shaping the loaves by hand. Either way, you’ll save yourself some serious grief if you use vegetable or olive oil to coat whatever you shape the loaves with. No matter how patient you are, the best you can hope for is two shapes that mostly look like rectangular logs.
- (Optional, but it can give them a nicer look) Whisk a whole egg in a bowl and add a splash of milk or water. Use this to brush on top of the raw loaves.
- Bake the loavess for 25 to 30 minutes in a 325 degrees Fahrenheit oven, or until they are golden brown and starting to crack on the top.
- Cool the logs for about 10 to 20 minutes. Then transfer them to a cutting board.
- Use a serrated knife if you have one, and slice the loaves into individual biscottis that are about a ½ inch thick.
- Lay the biscotti slices on a wire rack that you put on top of a baking tray or on the parchment covered baking tray, and put them back in the oven for about 15 to 35 minutes. You need to turn them over half way, so be sure to set a reminder alarm to go off about 10 minutes after you put them in the oven. (Sorry for the disparity in baking times, but the SheLovesBiscotti says 15 to 20 minutes and Cooks Illustrated says 25 to 35 minutes. I eyeball them and usually split the difference, although there are times when I’ve left them in for 30 minutes.)
- When they are done, put them on a wire rack to cool. They should last for about a month, although around here, they are lucky if they survive for a few days.
Not All Almonds Are Created Equal
When I first started experimenting with biscotti, I got a beautiful looking bag of raw almonds from Costco. But when I tasted them, something was wrong. They had very little, if any, taste. Toasting them did not help.
I assumed this was simply a bland batch. So I waited two months and got another bag of the beautiful looking almonds from Costco. It was the same problem the second time—gorgeous looking almonds with very little taste. Fortunately, while I was shopping at Fred Myers/Kroeger, they had unsalted toasted almonds in the bulk foods section.
Wow! Those unsalted toasted almonds packed a ton of delicious almond flavor, and the texture and crunch were perfect for biscotti. So I used these for the biscotti that I entered in the Oregon State Fair, with excellent results. So do not assume that because almonds look great they taste great. *While the Tamari almonds in the bulk food section also taste great, do not use these for biscotti.
IF YOU ARE USING PRE-TOASTED ALMONDS, do not roast them again (skip #1 – #4 in the instructions above).
Extra Virgin vs. Light Olive Oil
The SheLovesBiscotti.com recipe uses ½ cup of olive oil, but I was concerned the extra virgin olive oil would overwhelm the delicate almond flavor of the biscotti. So I’ve been using the light olive oil from Costco. Someday, I’ll get the courage to try this recipe with extra virgin olive oil, but for now, it works so well with the light olive oil I’ve not used the higher octane extra virgin olive oil.
I added more almond extract than either recipe called for, for a total of 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon. I did use natural almond extract; you might not want to add the extra teaspoon if you are using artificial almond extract.
I have tried adding Amaretto to this recipe. It was not a good idea. It did not improve the flavor. If anything, it took away from it.