Caesar’s Food for the Road – Lemon Ginger Biscotti
Making Lemon Ginger Biscotti
From Caesar’s Rome to the Lemon Ginger Biscotti of Linda’s Italian Table, Biscotti have come a long way. This discussion is truly one for the ages. Biscotti has really been around THAT long. For those not familiar with the extreme commercialization of the café industry which sells a form of these Italian treats resembling dog biscuits or for those who have been attending an extended seminar on Mars – let’s address what Biscotti is and why the fuss. In Italian, Biscotti is the plural form of Biscotto which means Twice Baked or Twice Cooked. OK – sounds like a real process – but it’s not. Let’s explore.
What are Biscotti?
Biscotti are really cookies. First, you prepare your dough – easy. Second, you bake them – easy. Third, you bake them again at a reduced temperature which dries them – also easy. Not nuclear physics! Are we really gonna bake ‘em twice? You betcha! You’ll be so glad you did when the aroma fills your kitchen, and then again, when you take your first bite of my luscious Lemon Ginger dunkers.
A little history
If the ancient Romans got the hang of it – you can too. The reason the Romans – specifically the military - liked them so much is that they could be kept for long periods of time without spoiling. This was “power food” for Caesar’s legions during their extended forced marches and long campaigns on the move – perfect “Food for the Road”. Sometimes their “maneuvers” went on for years, invading foreign lands and defending their own. “O tempora, O mores” (O the times, O the customs) for those who remember their Cicero. These soldier types clearly got around and couldn’t stop at the local 7-11 to re-stock. They needed long term food options, and Biscotti filled the bill. Pliny the Elder even spoke of them in Latin writings as having the ability to last forever. Maybe forever was a slight exaggeration – but centuries anyway.
Later, during the Renaissance, they were found in the Tuscany region. Even way back then, they were dipping their Biscotti in Vin Santo or “holy wine” which was sweet, as well as in coffee. Some folks say they began in Prato, Italy, in the Tuscany region. You’ll hear the native Tuscans refer to them as Cantucci. Cantucci were originally almond flavored or made with almonds.
Now, all the regions of Italy have their favorite and traditional recipes. Most families have theirs as well. The Lemon Ginger Biscotti are a favorite of mine. With their mild lemon essence and mellow ginger flavor, they have a soothing quality about them for me which suggests balance and calm. The ginger is, of course, a stomach settler, while the lemon is – well – I just love lemon!
A great thing about Biscotti is that they keep for so long. Don’t worry about whether you can freeze these things for the long haul. They have the shelf life of uranium. Your Biscotti will probably outlive you and me- another good reason to make a lot of them to keep around for your next 200 espressos.
Now I am going to share with you one of my very favorite flavor combos in this recipe – Lemon Ginger Biscotti. If you follow my lead, your coffee will be mighty happy tomorrow morning – not to mention all of the coffee drinkers in your household.
LEMON GINGER BISCOTTI
Prep: 20-25 minutes
Bake: 50 minutes
Makes: around 30
2 1/2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp ginger
1 stick butter – cut into pieces
Zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp lemon extract
1/2 c. crystallized ginger – chopped
1 c. coarsely chopped walnuts
Mix together in food processor (it’s faster, easier) or in bowl by hand: flour, sugar, salt, baking powder & powdered ginger.
Add butter pieces and process or mix until “mealy” or crumbly.
Whisk together: eggs, zest, lemon juice, extract.
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture in the processor or bowl.
After a couple of turns – add crystallized ginger and walnuts and process until dough just pulls together.
Knead dough on floured surface a little until smooth. (Add flour if sticky)
Divide the dough into 2 pieces.
Roll each piece of dough into long logs about 10 x 2.
Place logs on baking sheet covered with sheet of parchment paper or wax paper. Flatten logs a little.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and take the logs carefully off the sheet to cool on a rack or board for 15-20 minutes.(2 large spatulas work well here)
Then cut the logs into diagonal slices about 1/2 “ thick.
I like to use a sharpened chef’s knife to cut these. A serrated knife does not work as well for me.
Return slices to baking sheet which has been covered with parchment paper or wax paper.
Reduce oven temp. to 325 and bake 20 minutes more. This second baking step is important as it will dry the biscotti.
When finished, remove the biscotti from oven and cool completely.
Optional Glaze takes a few extra minutes: if you want to glaze them, mix 1 cup powdered sugar with the Juice of 1 lemon and drizzle your biscotti.
You can pop them in the freezer for 5 minutes in a single layer to harden the glaze quickly. Then store at room temp in a securely covered container.
Whether you have them for breakfast with coffee, a mid afternoon snack with espresso, or an after dinner sweet with some Vin Santo or Moscato – you will have a hard time just eating one. I dare you to try!
PARLA COME MANGI!
Also: See the RECIPE OF THE MONTH on
Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography