Though Italy is celebrated as the birthplace of biscotti, Southerners deserve a bit of credit for our enthusiastic consumption of this twice-baked treat during the holidays. After all, part of Southern charm is our knack for giving just the right hostess gift. Since the flavors and iterations of these cookies are limited only by the baker’s imagination, they are easily customized to their recipient’s tastes, and are thus the ideal edible offering. The crunchy texture makes them a dunker’s dream—what better excuse to sit and savor with an espresso or hot chocolate? As for making biscotti, the process is fairly simple. The dough is formed into a log, baked, sliced into half-inch slices, then baked again. This second pass in the oven results in the signature crisp texture, which extends shelf life and increases dunking appeal. Biscotti, being less sugary than most cookies, are nicely accompanied by sweeter dessert wines—Vin Santo is a traditional complement in Italy. Flavors such as almond or anise are rightfully popular, but we encourage adding your own twist, like we do here with figs. Try seasonal variations by adding rosemary, white chocolate chunks, dried cherries, pecans, or orange zest. Maybe dip or drizzle in melted dark chocolate for added decadence. As you experiment, don’t get so wrapped up that you accidentally overbake. No one likes overly dry biscotti, not even an over-worked midnight visitor. What? Don’t tell us you forgot about Santa.
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