A friend on Facebook recently sent me a link to a place in Italy we frequented, and that got me thinking about my time in Italy…
10 1/2 years ago, I was fortunate enough to spend a semester “studying” abroad in Florence, Italy. I say “studying” because I was supposed to be studying, but really, I just wanted to experience the culture, food, and art. My “studies” were definitely on the back burner, and fun was the name of the game! I visited amazing small towns, large cities; I went to museums and saw famous works of art; and I ate (boy did I eat) the varying cuisines of Northern and Central Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Spain. It was incredible & I brought home the extra pounds to prove it!
The two classes that I did care about, and did actually study for, were my Italian language class and a cooking class, titled Food of Italy. My cooking class was taught by a very Italian man, and during each class we cooked meals from the different regions of Italy; risotto from Veneto, amatriciana from Lazio, pappa al pomadoro from Val D’Aosta, etc. At the end of each class we were able to enjoy what we had created. Yes, we got to eat! I remember for one class we made a traditional biscotti with almonds.
The word biscotti, is derived from the Latin word, biscoctus, which means “twice-cooked/baked”. The biscuits or cookies, are baked twice in the oven, so they could be stored for long periods of time, which was particularly useful during journeys and wars (Wikipedia). Italians usually eat their biscotti with a sweet dessert wine, or a cappuccino.
It was so bizarre to me to make a cookie that was rock hard, but when dipped in coffee or a cappuccino, it was spectacular! I tried to recreate these biscotti shortly after I arrived back in the US, but fell short in my execution. They were terrible. I haven’t attempted biscotti since then, until now…
Adam has been traveling for work these past 5 days, and I am excited to welcome him home. I thought it would nice to make him, and his co-worker a little snack for when their flight arrives at midnight. Since I have become more confident in the kitchen, I have decided to try my hand at making biscotti again. And who better to learn from than an Italian American, Giada De Laurentiis. I have enlisted Giada’s help and I am attempting her Almond and Lemon Biscotti Dipped in White Chocolate. I decided to use semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of white chocolate because I love semi-sweet chocolate. I also did not use the entire 18 ounces of chocolate that the recipe calls for – I used 12 oz which is the normal package size at the store, and found that if you pour the melted chocolate into a mug, it is easier to dip the biscotti. I also added the juice of half of a lemon (had to add a bit of flour to account for the extra liquid) because I felt the lemon flavor was a little too mild. The lemons didn’t seem to yield the 3 tablespoons of zest like the recipe says. Additionally, if I were to make these again, I would reduce both cooking times by a good 5 or 10 minutes. They seemed to brown-up quickly.
These Italian cookies should definitely be paired with a nice glass of milk or coffee – they are great on their own, but like the traditional biscotti, they are crunchy. I am excited for Adam’s arrival! I hope he likes the biscotti!
Almond and Lemon Biscotti Dipped in White Chocolate (Giada De Laurenttis http://www.foodnetwork.com)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons grated lemon zest (from about 3 to 4 lemons)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped whole almonds
18 ounces white chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
In another large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs with an electric mixture until pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Mix in the lemon zest and then the flour, and beat until just blended. (The dough will be sticky). Stir in the almonds. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
Divide the dough evenly into 2 equal mounds and place on the prepared baking sheet. With moist hands, space the dough evenly apart and form into 2 (9 by-3-inch) logs. Bake for 35 minutes until lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick diagonal slices. Arrange the biscotti cut side down on the same baking sheet. Bake until the cookies are pale golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely.
Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the pan does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Dip the end of each biscotti in the chocolate. Transfer the dipped biscotti to a wire rack, set over a baking sheet, until the chocolate has hardened. Store in an airtight container.