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LAist Cookie Exchange: Pistachio-Orange Biscotti

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Biscotti have been my passion and my specialty for over 10 years. It all started in high school with one side of my family being Molto Italiano and everyone had their own specialty. I wanted something of my own so I took stock of what was missing. We already had an amazing cook in the family, my step-dad. His greatest pleasure in life might just be cooking, taking an entire Sunday to create a multi-course meal. But dessert was another story. He would always say there was a big difference between cooking and baking. To cook, you can estimate, a little of this a little of that. But to bake. Well, to bake you had to put everything together and know how the flavors would turn out if put in the oven together. There is not as much "course correction" in baking and so I set out to find my niche. I would be the baker in the family. I have a few specialties, but one of my favorites for the holiday season is something decidedly Italian and something that looked fancier and harder than it really is.

Biscotti hit the spot. Biscotti is an Italian word roughly meaning "twice baked." The magic of biscotti is that they are baked twice, once in a loaf and once in individual slices. I have chosen to highlight a Pistachio-Orange Biscotti, though I've made dozens of different kinds through the years. But this one takes a real life of its own with the flavors and I have made it my own with a few personal touches such as substituting vanilla extract for anise and adding a touch of honey and cinnamon to give it more depth.

Pistachio-Orange Biscotti

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1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature* (if you want to make a lower-fat version you can play around with using apple sauce or plain yogurt!)
1 cup granulated sugar (I'm playing around now with how to use an alternative form of sugar such as splenda but this is the holidays so I'm keeping it real with the real thing, ya heard.)
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups unsalted and shelled pistachio nuts

Start by sifting together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a bowl and set aside.

Place butter, sugar, orange zest, honey and vanilla in a larger bowl and mix until light and fluffy.

Then mix in the eggs, one at a time, keeping the mix as consistent as you can.

Put the mixer at low speed or simply fold in the pistachios. Add the flour mixture until mixed in thoroughly and cover. Refrigerate for about 1 hour or until well chilled.

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Preheat the oven to 350F and then butter and flour a large baking sheet.

Lightly flour your working space and divide the dough in half. Flour your hands and then work each log into two equally shaped logs about 1- 1 1/2 inches in width. Arrange the logs side by side on the baking sheet.

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Bake until light brown, about 30 minutes. You'll notice the logs spread while they bake, and this is normal. It can take a few tries for the logs not to mush too much together. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet. Leave the oven set at 350F.

Using a spatula, transfer the logs to your work surface and cut on an angle with a serrated blade about 3/4 inches thick (more or less depending on their width and your personal preference).

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Arrange the slices cut-side down on the baking sheet (something this take a second sheet depending on he size of the batch) and then bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes minutes.

There you have it! They're done!

There are so many variations, but some of my other favorites are the simple anise, chocolate-chocolate chip, lavender essence and pine nut and honey. Enjoy!

*In baking, butter is usually best at room temperature to absorb the flavors. At least that's what I was always told.

Photos courtesy of rathernot and ilmungo via flickr.