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Biscotti bring elegant touch to summertime table

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Whether an afternoon tea or pre-wedding meal is in the offing, baking biscotti for the occasion lends a bit of old-world elegance to the event. Biscotti are crisp sweet cookies that resemble miniature slices of Italian bread. They are normally flavored with traditional Mediterranean flavors, such as lemon, almond and cappucino. Biscotti are so crisp, they can easily be used to scoop the last trickle from a dish of gelato or ice cream without losing their shape.

The secret to biscotti is that they are baked twice: once to make the dough firm enough to slice, and the second time to create a crisp, slightly browned cookie. The final bake needs to be watched carefully, so that the biscotti don't become too dry or over browned. Because the baking process tends to be exacting, it's best to use parchment paper to line the baking pans so that the cookies can slide easily from pan to cooling rack.

The following recipe is very simple and will make around 4 dozen biscotti. After baking, the cookies can be drizzled with melted chocolate or confectioner's glaze, but frankly, that runs toward gilding the lily.

Almond Biscotti
3 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
4 eggs
1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. unsalted butter, melted (no substitutes)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 c. whole unsalted almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add granulated sugar and beat until sugar is dissolved and well blended, about 2 minutes. Add melted butter gradually, beating until blended. Beat in extracts and then scrape down bowl.

On low speed, fold in flour mixture, adding in 1/3 at a time and mixing well after each addition. Fold in almonds by hand.

Spoon batter onto prepared baking sheet into a log that is 12" long by 3" wide. Separate logs by 4" on the baking sheet (batter will spread during baking).

Bake 25 to 30 minutes in preheated oven; batter should be firm to the touch and lightly browned.

Immediately slide parchment off hot baking sheet and onto countertop. Allow logs to cool 10 minutes. Then, using a sharp knife, slice logs into 1/2" slices and return, cut side down, to prepared baking sheets.

Bake slices in oven 5 minutes; turn slices and return to oven for an additional 5 minutes. Once fully baked, slide parchment off baking sheet and onto cooling racks. Allow to cool completely.

TIP:
Biscotti can be kept in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks. Unglazed biscotti can be wrapped tightly in foil or freezer bags and frozen for up to 2 months.

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