Or perhaps just [insert holiday here] biscotti?
I feel like I’m finally, belatedly getting into the holiday spirit! Maybe it’s the wintry weather we’ve been having in SF, or possibly the the feel-good financial hemorrhage of gift shopping. Or, maybe it’s the fact that I wore heels for 6 hours last Thursday night*, but it finally feels like it’s “The Holidays” and it’s about damn time. I’m ready to leave the dead carcass of 2016 in the rear view and head towards the Christmas lights and cookies and carols, and maybe some latkes and donuts too, because the fun of being religiously unaffiliated is you get to pick and choose the best eats the season has to offer. Hell no to Kwanzaa cake, though.
*suddenly remembering I told my podiatrist about this blog. Oops.
And it’s funny, because as soon as my attitude shifted from my November depression to determined December delight, I found myself listening to Christmas songs while building my very own book tree, and I was actually bummed that I couldn’t find my Santa hat to wear for the occasion. Then, yesterday, I got my very own Christmas miracle in the form of Hamilton tickets to go see it with my sister on OUR ACTUAL BIRTHDAY and I don’t know, it’s enough to make me believe in the power of positive thought or something.
But hey, I’m not here to brag about the fact I’m going to Hamilton. No, I actually want to share these cookies, which we can all enjoy regardless of whether we live in NYC, SF, or Chicago, and really, inclusion is what the Christmas spirit is all about, right?
If your only exposure to biscotti is the boring-looking, dry, stale slabs sold in chain coffee houses, then may I suggest you try baking your own at home? I did, and I learned I actually love biscotti, and can appreciate it for its hard yet tender quality and superior dunkability powers. Trust me, the homemade version is nothing like those jarred specimens crumbling away unloved by the register.
I first made these citrusy cookies almost ten years ago, and I’ve learned which add-ins I like and most-importantly, which ones my family likes, as these have become an expected addition to my Father’s annual Christmas cookie delivery, along with Deb’s Apple Pie Cookies and a Blue Bottle re-up. It took me almost 10 years, but I finally realized my perfect version of these last year. It turns out I don’t hate nuts in cookies if they are tasty pistachios, and chocolate chips are good, but cacao nibs are better because you get all the aroma and flavor of cocoa but the cookie stands up better to repeated dunking. And, since it’s Christmas and there is no such thing as too many cookies, it’s a good idea to also have a version without nuts and nibs but instead just some fresh, aromatic rosemary added in. I mean, that’s not boring at all.
Christmas Biscotti, Two Ways
Adapted from Everyday Italian.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal (fine ground or regular)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup sugar
- zest of 1 orange
- zest of 2 lemons
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup chopped pistachios
- 1/8 cup cacao nibs
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped fine
- Heat oven to 325. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the sugar and zests. With your fingers, rub the zests into the sugar until fully combined. This will help the zest release more oils and make your cookies even more delicious. Add the eggs and beat until mixture is pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture and beat until just blended together.
- Divide the dough in half and place one half in the large bowl you used for the flour mixture. To the half remaining in the bowl of the stand mixer, add the pistachios and cacao nibs and mix on lowest speed until just combined. Remove dough to one of the prepared baking sheets, scraping bowl and paddle to get every last bit.
- Add the reserved half of the dough back to the stand mixer and add the rosemary. Again mix on lowest speed until just combined and then transfer to the second prepared baking sheet. Let doughs rest 5 minutes.
- Moisten your hands and shape each mound of dough into 11x4 inch logs. Bake until lightly browned, about 30-35 minutes (check at 30 minutes). Let cool for 5 minutes, then, using a serrated bread knife cut each log into 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices. Place slices cut side down on baking sheets and bake another 25 minutes, until golden. Let cool and enjoy with tea or coffee or send to loved ones!