Coffee is, for some people, as necessary a part of their day as brushing their teeth or checking their e-mail. The joys a piping hot cup of coffee can bring are often overshadowed by the sheer habit of incorporating the beverage into a morning routine. Most of the time, It serves as a kick-start for those of us who have a little trouble getting out of bed. Admittedly, I am so used to having at least 20 ounces of coffee before 10:30 AM that, if I fail to consume it before then, I will get a massive, pounding headache that cannot be undone.
I remember my first cup of coffee like it was yesterday, which is funny because it was a very, very long time ago. It had the overpoweringly sweet and creamy flavor that a standard Dunkin’ Donuts coffee offers, so it’s no surprise I became hooked at that very moment. My Aunt Colleen (who also was responsible for taking me to get my ears pierced, I might add) is partly to blame for my knowledge of coffee’s necessity at such a young age. I was often her shadow during frequent Italian Market or Reading Terminal trips, and the reward for a few hours of browsing, sampling, and shopping was a cup of quality coffee.
Another treat that occasionally coincided with the hot caffeinated beverage was one of the varieties of Italian biscotti displayed in jumbo glass jars located on the countertop of most of the coffee shops we visited. My first encounter with the cookie-like confection was also a memorable one, as I bit into mine not knowing the crunchy texture was extreme. My aunt then introduced me to my now favorite way of enjoying biscotti; dunk it in your hot coffee, then bite. Your teeth will thank you.
Traditional Italian Biscotti
3 cups unsalted roasted almonds
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing tops of loaves
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 large orange
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, hand mix toasted almonds, sugars, cinnamon, baking powder and flour. In a small bowl, whisk eggs. Add the vanilla and orange zest and whisk until well blended. Add to the flour mixture and stir a few times. Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be extremely sticky, but keep adding more flour as needed. Continue mixing with your hands until a dough starts to form. Roll it into a ball and separate into 4 equal pieces.
On a lightly floured surface with 1 piece of dough, and using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long, 2 inches wide and just under an inch high. Keep using flour if the dough is sticky. Repeat with remaining 3 pieces of dough. Place 2 logs per baking sheet. Brush loaves all over with lightly beaten egg. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. The tops of the loaves will be shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing. Place a loaf on a cutting board. Cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices, either straight or on the diagonal. Each loaf should produce 9 to 11 cookies. (If the cookie is crumbling, then let it cool a few more minutes)
Place sliced biscotti back onto the baking sheets, on their sides. Place in the still warm oven with the temperature off and the door closed for 30 to 60 minutes. The longer they stay in the oven, the harder they will become. Remove from oven and cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
When you first starting reading this article, I can bet you thought the recipe resulted in a hot or iced coffee beverage. As much as I bow to the coffee alter daily, my goal is to remind us all how delicious and tasty it is in its not-so-scheduled form. We forget to enjoy the flavors and notes in a hot (or iced) cup during our get-ready routine for work, or our rush to get through the local café line as we approach our desks. Biscotti is the perfect addition to your daily cup to force you to sit back, relax and enjoy the two together as your own adult “time out.”
Despite having a decent amount of two different sugars, the cooked biscotti isn’t sweet enough to be put in the same category as breakfast Danish or donuts. The orange zest brightens up the other ingredients; the original recipe this one was adapted from used 2 teaspoons of the grated orange skin, but I was feeling adventurous. It was definitely a delicious decision. The roasted almonds add an additional texture to the already crunchy biscotti and break up the flavors from the other ingredients in the Italian biscuit. The twice-baked process that biscotti is known for produced the perfect crispness without being hard enough to hurt yourself, and it still retains its shape with a quick dunk in a hot morning beverage. They are certainly delicious enough to become part of my daily routine on a more frequent basis.