I get enormous satisfaction out of putting a lot of time into a recipe - especially a baking project - and having it turn out beautifully. But sometimes the amount of enjoyment I get is (math, sorry) inversely proportional to the amount of effort expended.
Take, for example, these Almond Biscotti, also known as Cantucci di Pratto, from Italian culinary expert and cookbook author Domenica Marchetti. The recipe is an oldie but a goody from The Washington Post archives that is made almost entirely with pantry ingredients you likely already have on hand, save the whole-skinned almonds - easier to order online than find in store, but once you do, you'll be set for many batches. This version of the classic oblong cookie comes together in a single bowl and barely takes a half-hour of hands-on work. Most of the time they're in progress is during baking and cooling.
That small amount of buy-in yields dividends: Almost four dozen biscotti to accompany any and every cup of tea and coffee you linger over for the next few weeks, whether you decide to dip them into your mug or not. And linger you will want to. First, there's that manageable but pleasant crunch (you won't crack a filling, I promise) thanks to the two rounds of baking. Then a double dose of almonds in the form of the toasted whole nuts and extract, plus vanilla, makes for a fragrant, elegantly flavored treat.
I think writing all that might very well have been more work than actually making them. I'm off to put together another batch.
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ALMOND BISCOTTI (CANTUCCI DI PRATO)
Active: 30 minutes | Total: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 40 to 42 pieces
This is Domenica Marchetti's version of the "original" Italian recipe for crisp, delicately almond-flavored biscotti.
We preferred the texture of the biscotti made with a stand mixer, but you can also make the dough by hand. Put the flour in a very wide bowl and create a well in the center. Add the remaining ingredients, gradually stirring the flour in from the edges, as if you were making pasta. Finish kneading the dough with your hands.
Make Ahead: The biscotti will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Recipe notes: Toast the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet in a preheated 350-degree oven for 7 to 10 minutes or until just fragrant. Cool completely before using.
2 cups flour (265 grams), plus more for the work surface
1 cup (194 grams) plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Scant 1 cup (135 grams) blanched whole almonds, lightly toasted
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine the flour, 1 cup of the sugar, the baking powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer. Add the almonds and beat on low speed to blend well, then add 2 whole eggs and the yolk of 1 egg and the extracts; increase the speed to medium and beat just until a sticky dough forms.
Lightly flour a work surface. Turn the dough out onto it, patting it into a disk. Divide the disk into four equal sections.
Lightly moisten your hands; use them to gently roll one section of the dough into an oval shape. Place it on the baking sheet, then shape it into a log that's about 1½ inches wide by 9 inches long. Repeat with the remaining three sections of dough; the shaped logs should be spaced at least 2 inches apart. Press them gently to make sure their tops are all even.
Lightly beat the remaining egg white; brush it on the tops of the logs, then sprinkle them evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the logs are lightly browned and just set; there will be cracks on the surface. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire cooling rack; let the logs rest for 5 minutes, then carefully peel them off the parchment and place them directly on the rack to cool slightly for 10 minutes. Discard the parchment.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.
Working with one log at a time, use a sharp knife or bench scraper to cut it on the diagonal into about 10 equal slices (press straight down rather than sawing, to keep the pieces intact); lay the slices flat on the baking sheet, with a cut side facing up. Repeat with the remaining logs. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn each slice over; bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the slices are totally crisp.
Transfer the slices to the rack to cool completely before serving or storing.
Nutrition (based on 42 pieces) | Calories: 70; Total Fat: 3 g; Saturated Fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 15 mg; Sodium: 25 mg; Carbohydrates: 11 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 6 g; Protein: 2 g.
(Adapted from "Ciao Biscotti: Sweet and Savory Recipes Celebrating Italy's Favorite Cookie," by Domenica Marchetti. Chronicle, 2015.)