Hard Cookies

Back in 2000 (which will forever be in my mind as Y2K – the year the world was going to end and computers were going to blow up), my sister Jen and her daughter Maggie traveled with Bill and me to Italy. Bill and I had been before, and we were so excited to show off that country we loved so much to Jen and Maggie. We spent two weeks and had a BLAST.

At the time, Maggie was in her early 20s and absolutely gorgeous. (She’s still absolutely gorgeous, but no longer in her early 20s.) Her appearance gave us an advantage in many regards, not the least of which was getting into restaurants that were completely full. We would send Maggie in to see if there was room, and shockingly, they always found us a spot, at least if the spot-finder was male. One waiter was so taken with her that he actually had us take a picture of himself with her. Oh, to be young and beautiful.

Anyway, many years later when Maggie got married (but not to the waiter), at least in part because of her fond memories of her trip to Italy, she elected to have somewhat of an Italian theme for her wedding. As such, she decided to give an Italian theme to the treats she left in the hotel rooms for the out-of-town guests. I don’t remember what all she gave save for one thing. She included cellophane-wrapped packages of three biscotti.

You know, biscotti. Those hard quarter-moon-shaped cookies that Italians dip into their espresso. Or into their wine if they are so inclined. I’ve tried it. It’s delicious.

She was going to purchase the biscotti. But I told her that was a waste of money. I could make biscotti. She agreed and so I did. They turned out quite nicely, thank you very much. I don’t remember what kinds I made, but I do remember that I made a heck of a lot of them. We put three in a package and decorated it with curly ribbon.

As an aside, Bill, Jen and I spent an entire day preparing the gift packages for the guests. In addition to biscotti, she also had little bags of M&Ms. I still can picture Bill preparing those bags.  A handful for the gift bags, a handful for Bill. And so it went.

I hadn’t given biscotti much of a thought since then until our recent visit to Chicago. Wilma had some of the best biscotti I had ever tasted. They had crunchy pistachios and tart cranberries. They were crunchy and delicious when we would dunk them in our morning coffee and eat them without dunking throughout the day until – oops – they were gone.

Where did you get them, I asked Wilma. The answer: Bill’s brother Bruce. Well, of course.

So I sent Bruce an email asking him where he got the biscotti so that we could replace them. The answer will be no surprise to those who know Bruce – he got them at what he calls a salvage store. Bruce is the King of Tuesday Mornings and my bargain shopping hero.

We ended up buying lemon biscotti at Costco. But I couldn’t get the pistachio/cranberry biscotti out of my mind.

So I made some when we got home. And they are even better than those we devoured at Wilma’s. In fact, they are absolutely scrumptious.

Biscotti get their hardness from being baked twice – once in a loaf, and once sliced. There is absolutely nothing difficult about making biscotti, but it takes a bit of time. Time that is so well worth spending….

You first bake the loaf of biscotti.....

You first bake the loaf of biscotti…..

You slice them and bake them individually.

You slice them and bake them individually.


Here is the recipe…. Bon appetito!

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Adapted from Giada DeLaurentis and Food Network

2 c. all-purpose flour
1-1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1 t. grated lemon zest
1/4 t. salt
2 eggs
3/4 c. pistachios, coarsely chopped
2/3 c. dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour and baking powder together. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in the pistachios and cranberries.

Form the dough into a 13-in long, 3-in wide log on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until light golden, about 40 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.

Place the log on the cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake the biscotti until they are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely.

Nana’s Notes: You can dip the cookies in a white chocolate or dark chocolate frosting, but I prefer mine plain. Keep in mind that the cookies don’t rise at all during the second baking, so you can set the biscotti right next to one another on the baking sheet.