Homemade biscotti is twice as nice

December 1, 2023

As we exit the buying frenzy of Black Friday and the charity-focused Giving Tuesday, Lewes is ready to continue celebrating the holiday season. Yesterday was the merchants Hospitality Night on Second Street and this afternoon marks First Friday at the Lewes Historical Society. Not only can you sip a Colonial-era cocktail, but a dozen vendors will be offering their wares. Saturday is the Holiday House Tour followed by the parade at 5 p.m.

One of the key offerings at various locations will be holiday cookies. The Daughters of the American Revolution will open the Maull House on Pilottown Road for tours and a bake sale Saturday. Each year, there are a few neighbors who have already seen the house, but stop by to stock up on their favorite baked goods, especially homemade cookies they can freeze until it’s time to share with friends and family.

We learned from a repeat visitor just how useful these bake sale delights can be with practiced storage plans to keep the cookies as good as they were when just out of the oven. From scones to gingerbread, chocolate chip to snowball cookies, you can easily create a platter of sweet treats to savor later this month. The key is all in the freezing and storage techniques. If you’re starting with cookies fresh from the oven, you’ll need to allow them to completely cool to room temperature. If you’re using packaged cookies from a bake sale, you’re ready to freeze them right away.

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper and arrange the cookies in a single layer. Place the pan in the freezer for at least 30 minutes (or up to an hour) to flash freeze the cookies. Next, layer them between sheets of wax paper or parchment either in a lidded plastic container or zip top bags. This precaution will keep them from sticking together and potentially losing their crispness. Seal the bag tightly, after squeezing out all the air, or tightly snap on the lid. After making sure to label what’s inside, store the bag or bin in the freezer for up to four weeks.

When you're ready to thaw your baked cookies, there are two schools of thought. One is to simply let them sit at room temperature until they have lost their chill. Another option is to heat them in a moderate oven for a couple of minutes. The latter approach will definitely not work if the cookies are iced or rolled in sugar, those will need some time on the kitchen counter.

One of my favorite kinds of cookies are biscotti, whose name comes from the Latin words for the technique to make them - “twice baked” (bis and coctum.) These were originally designed to feed the members of the Roman Legion. The unleavened batter was baked once to cook them and a second time for them to dry out completely. These continued to serve as portable, stable food for travelers and Christopher Columbus is reported to have left Italy with a supply on board when he sailed for North America.

Today, you’ll find biscotti in bakeries, coffee shops and supermarkets in an array of flavor combinations. Typically, the mixtures feature some type of nut and chunks of dried fruit or chocolate. For a completely decadent version, some are dipped in chocolate and topped with sprinkles or other decorative touches. For the biscotti in the photo, we used a combination of chopped dates and dried apricots, but you can stir in some toasted hazelnuts for more crunch. The second recipe captures the holiday flavors of gingerbread in a crunchy treat.

Date & Apricot Biscotti
2 C flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 C sugar
4 T butter
2 eggs
1/2 t vanilla
1 t almond extract
1/4 t nutmeg
1/3 C chopped dried apricots
1/3 C chopped dates
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt until evenly mixed; set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, butter, eggs, extracts, and nutmeg until the mixture is light and creamy. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until a soft dough forms. Add chopped apricots and dates to the dough; stir until combined. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, then shape each into a flattened log, about 3 inches wide and 12 inches long. Place the logs a few inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake  just until the edges turn golden and the top has a few cracks, about 35 minutes. Remove baked dough from the oven, leaving the temperature at 350 F. Cool for about five minutes, then carefully transfer the pieces to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut the biscotti into 3/4-inch wide slices. Place the slices on the baking sheet, cut sides up. Bake for about five more minutes, then flip and bake for five minutes on the second side.
Allow the biscotti to cool completely before serving or packing in an air-tight container. Yield: 2 dozen biscotti.
Gingerbread Biscotti*
1 egg
1 egg white
2/3 C brown sugar, packed
1/3 C sugar
1 T ginger
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t ground cloves
1/4 t cardamom
1 whole star anise, finely ground
1 t instant espresso powder
1 t almond extract
2 C flour
1 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 C diced crystallized ginger
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Place egg, egg white, sugars and spices in the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium just to combine, scrape down the bowl and beater, then increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture is pale and thick, about 90 seconds. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and candied ginger. Beat on low speed until barely combined, stopping just before all the flour is incorporated so you don’t overmix. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate any remaining dry bits into the dough. Gather the dough with your hands, kneading lightly in the bowl just to bring everything together. Place the dough on the center of the prepared  baking sheet, then dampen your hands with water and mold the dough into a 9-by-4-inch log about 1 inch tall. Bake until the log puffs and spreads a little, turns golden brown at the edges and is firm to the touch, about 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the loaf from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the loaf to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut at a slight diagonal into 12 slices, 3/4-inch wide. Place the slices on their sides on the baking sheet and return to the oven. Bake, flipping the slices halfway through, until slightly browned and dry in the centers, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool the biscotti on the sheet before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Yield: 1 dozen. *Adapted from the new York Times.

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