While summer has just begun, the warm weather is begging for seasonal delights. The pistachio harvest won’t start until August or September, but pistachios, lemon and chocolate are a fun, fair weather combination.
While these cookies are well-known outside of Italy with the name biscotti, meaning ‘twice cooked,’ in Italy they are more commonly called Cantucci or Cantuccini. They originate from the Tuscan city of Prato. The cookies are very dry so that they can be stored for long periods of time, especially for long journeys.
A dry, crisp cookie, naturally needs a beverage for dunking. Another fact about biscotti misinterpreted abroad is pairing them with coffee. While no doubt a delicious pairing, biscotti are traditionally served with Vin Santo instead of coffee. Vin Santo is a dessert wine from Tuscany made from white grapes, such as Trebbiano or Malvasia. In the traditional method for making Vin Santo, the grapes are left on straw mats to dry and concentrate the sugars before fermenting. Not all of the sugar is metabolized by the yeast, leaving residual sugar in the wine.
The most famous Cantuccini are the Biscottoficio Antonio Mattei Biscotti di Prato. The original recipe is simple: just flour, sugar, eggs and either almonds or pine nuts, with no fat or yeast added to the dough. The dough is baked twice; once in a slab, then sliced and baked again. You will notice, the recipe below follows the traditional recipe, with some non-traditional flavorings added in.
Pistachio Chocolate Chip Biscotti
Yields about 30 cookies
330g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
115g whole shelled pistachios
75g chopped chocolate
Preheat the oven:
Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).
Mix the dry ingredients:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Mix the wet ingredients:
In a small bowl rub the lemon zest into the sugar. This serves a dual purpose: the essential oils from the zest will infuse the sugar with flavor, and it will also prevent clumps of zest in the cookies.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs. While whisking, slowly add in the sugar and lemon zest. Mix in the vanilla extract.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and gently fold to combine using a rubber spatula. Add the pistachios and chocolate chunks and mix just to combine, being careful not to overmix.
Divide into two logs:
Divide the dough in half and shape each into a log on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Wet your hands so the dough does not stick to you. Each log should be about 2 – 3 inches (5 – 8 cm) wide.
Bake the logs until they are golden around the edges and the middle is cooked through, about 25 – 30 minutes. Let them cool for 30 minutes until easily handled.
Using a serrated knife, cut the logs crosswise into 1/2-inch (1.5cm) thick slices.
Lay the sliced biscotti flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake again until evenly golden and crisp, about 15 – 20 minutes. Flip the biscotti half way through the bake time so they bake evenly.
I kept them in the oven with the oven turned off for a while to let them dry out more.
The biscotti can be kept for about 2 weeks in an airtight container.