Recipe below: Christmas Biscotti with Pistachios and Cardamom
My grandmother didn’t bake, and neither does my mother. We never had homemade desserts, except when I decided to try making something annoyingly complicated, like cannoli. And I’m not much of a baker, so my early attempts were disastrous. We were definitely a savory Italian household. Lots of cooking went on all the time, but not much sweet stuff came out of our kitchen. That is still true for me. I’m not a dessert person. I get all my empty calories from wine. But I do love biscotti, probably because they’re best dipped in wine. Over the years I’ve come up with a really easy, excellent biscotti-making technique that turns out a crisply shattering, but not tooth cracking, texture. It requires little more than putting all the ingredients in a food processor and giving it a few pulses.
I play with flavorings all the time. This year I made a batch with pistachios and cardamom to bring to a friend’s Christmas party. The combination is a knockout. Cardamom is an amazing spice. For me it’s soapy, foreign, and magical. It awakens the sweetness center in my brain without having even a touch of sweetness. When it’s freshly ground, it smells like floor cleaner from my public schooled childhood, but in a good way. And I do like grinding it myself. The aroma that wafts from my little spice grinder is transporting. I’m not sure where I’m transported to, exactly, maybe to a far cleaner household, but it certainly alters my mood for the better.
Merry Christmas to all my cook friends.
Christmas Biscotti with Pistachios and Cardamom
1¾ cups unbleached white flour, plus a little more for the counter
1 cup sugar, plus a little more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon baking powder
A big pinch of salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
A few grindings of black pepper
3/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small dice, plus a little more for greasing the pan
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dry white wine
1½ cups shelled unsalted pistachios
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly grease a sheet pan with butter.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and a touch of black pepper. Give it all a few pulses to blend everything.
Add the butter, and pulse until it’s in tiny pieces.
Mix the eggs, vanilla, and white wine together in a small bowl, and pour the mix over the dough. Add the pistachios, and pulse a few more times, until you have a moist, crumbly dough. Don’t let it form a ball. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and press it into a ball.
Cut the dough in half, and roll out two long logs. Place the logs on the sheet pan, making sure they’re about 3 inches apart. Flatten the tops slightly, and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake until lightly golden, about 30 minutes. Take the pan from the oven, and let the logs cool for about 10 minutes. Now take them off the pan, and cut them into approximately ½-inch slices, on an angle. Do this with a big chef’s knife, using a quick chop (a serrated knife would cause them to crumble).
Put the biscotti back on the sheet pan, cut side up, and bake them for another 10 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned. Let them cool on the pan.