As we all head back from vacation to our computer screens for school or work, an ever-important question arises anew: What to snack on during all those laborious Zoom meetings and webinars?

I think I have a strong contender for the job: the simple, delicious and timeless Italian biscotti.

I was lucky enough to visit Italy a few years ago. When I wasn’t stuffing myself with glorious pastas, cheeses and breads of the region, I was searching out the myriad biscotti options on display in pasticceria windows.

Biscotti was invented in 14th-century Tuscany, and each Italian district has created its own version from locally sourced ingredients. This has produced a dazzling array of biscotti, each with their own flavor and add-ins (think pistachios, sesame seeds and the traditional almonds).

Invented in 14th-century Tuscany, the cookies are extremely easy to make: First, we cook the dough in log shapes, then cut them into slices and bake them again. They end up being very crispy, delicious and can be stored for long periods of time, which is why they were a favorite of ancient travelers, sailors on long voyages and armies on the march way back when.

For us modern folks, biscotti’s versatility makes it a tasty and delightful treat to reach for anytime — with a glass of milk for breakfast, as a midafternoon snack or late-night “turn off the computer already and get to bed” nightcap that really satisfies. I hope you like them as much as I do.

Biscotti, Italian twice-baked cookies, make great snacks. (Rebecca Davis-Suskind)
Biscotti, Italian twice-baked cookies, make great snacks. (Rebecca Davis-Suskind)

Biscotti

Equipment:
Mixing bowls
Electric mixer (or very strong arms)
Baking sheet
Serrated knife

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup pine nuts

Instructions:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, combine your sugar and butter and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Whip in your vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in the cranberries and the pine nuts.
  3. Pour out your dough onto a work surface and divide it in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and freeze for 35 minutes.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Lightly flour your hands to prevent sticking and form each piece of dough into a log shape that is about 14 inches long and 2 ½ inches wide. Gently place these logs on your baking sheet. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. The logs should be puffed up and dry. Remove from the oven and let your logs cool on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.
  6. Turn your oven down to 225 degrees. Place your cooled logs on a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, slice them across into half-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are dry and crisp at the edges.
  7. Allow biscotti to cool, overnight if possible. The drier and crispier the cookies, the tastier they become!