A family recipe for crisp and light Italian Anise Biscotti. Delicate and super dunkable long cookies with the aromatic flavourings of aniseed. These are a staple in Italian households and the perfect treat to accompany your coffee or tea!
A Bit of Family History for Lena's 'Biscott'
This is an easy family recipe for anise biscotti - a perfect cookie for the holidays or for any day with some coffee! The particular recipe comes down to me from my Great-Aunt Lena, who refers to these as 'biscotts'. She would normally serve them up with pizzelles for any visitor. In our family, we don't usually bake the biscotti the second time. I still have a preferance to eat them when they're on the softer side. In the recipe below, I've noted the option for the second bake if you're keen on the crunchier classic.
- Butter - unsalted butter, softened at room temperature. I've made this both with softened butter and also melted butter (when I've been desperate and forgotten to soften it first!). The recipe will work with melted butter, but the dough will be considerably softer. You may find it harder to form into a log for baking and it will spread a bit more.
- Sugar - caster sugar or superfine granulated sugar will work here.
- Eggs - large eggs, ideally at room temperature for baking.
- Flour - I've called for a mix of plain flour and strong flour. This can also be made with 3 cups of plain flour or 3 cups of all-purpose flour. In Britain the plain flour has a lower gluten content than the American all-purpose counterpart. I find that substituting some strong flour into the mix gives a better quality to the finished product. It isn't necessary though for these to still turn out perfectly tasty!
- Baking powder
- Anise extract (or other flavouring)
If you're not familiar with aniseed, it is a flavour similar to fennel or liquorice. It is frequently used as a flavouring in Italian baking. My Italian family uses it mainly for these biscotti and pizzelles.
In this recipe the anise is quite subtle. I'd highly recommend trying it, even if you're not a major fan of liquorice/fennel flavours. I personally can't stand liquorice most of the time, but still love these.
In Britain, it is difficult to find anise extract, so my stockpile comes direct in care packages from my parents. It can be sourced online, but might require some pre-planning as it is not readily available in stores.
As these are otherwise plain biscotti, without any nuts or fruits, you can also safely substitute pretty much any flavour into these. I've made them with both vanilla and almond extracts previously with success.
How to Make Traditional Anise Biscotti
This is an incredibly easy family recipe. There's no specialist equipment and you can make this with the most basic of utensils - your hands! My recipe will give details for making this quick, easy and with as little mess as possible.
- First preheat your oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.
- In a large bowl or in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar. Beat these together until light and creamy.
- Add the anise extract and eggs, beating to incorporate.
- In a separate bowl, mix the flours and baking powder together.
- Add the dry ingredients slowly to the sugar mixture.
- Once your dough is combined, split this into two roughly equal balls. Form these into logs and place on the prepared baking sheets.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before slicing at a diagonal slant. It is important to slice while the biscotti is still warm to avoid too much crumbling.
- Return the slices to the oven for a second time for about 10 minutes. This will essentially toast up the slices to bring extra crunch.
- Serve with coffee or after dinner with Marsala.
- If using a stand mixer, be sure to add your dry ingredients slowly while beating on a low setting. This will avoid covering your kitchen in an explosion of flour!
- Once your flour has been mostly incorporated, it is best to knead the dough together by hand a couple of times. This is a relatively dry cookie dough and will come together best working by hand. You don't want to overmix or work the dough!
- The dough will be quite stiff and dry. Once you form the log to bake, you may want to pat it down a bit. The dough does rise and expand while baking. If the log begins very thick, it will take longer to bake and the centre may stay doughy.
- To get extra crispness, flip the slices partway through the second bake. This will allow both sides of the cookies to toast up a bit providing a more even biscotti crunch.
- In my family we don't often bake these the second time. The biscotti will be perfectly edible after their first bake, so the second round is really an option as opposed to being required. The cookies after just one bake are softer and less crisp.
- Different flavourings - you can easily substitute vanilla extract, almond extract or other flavours (like lemon, or coconut) in this recipe.
- Dip in chocolate - who doesn't love a bit of chocolate? These Italian Anise Biscotti work well being dipped in a bit of melted chocolate.
- Add nuts or dried fruit - you can add some rough chopped almonds, pistachios or pecans to this recipe or try some dried fruits.
My family's anise biscotti will keep well for several days (up to a week) if stored in an airtight container. If they begin to lose their crispness, you can return them to the oven to toast up a bit.
Yes! Biscotti freezes fairly well. Allow the baked biscotti to cool completely on a wire rack before placing in freezer bags and freezing for up to three months. Remove from the freezer and allow to defrost at room temperature before consuming.
The traditional biscotti flavour is widely considered to be almond. However, anise is a very common flavor use in Italian sweets and has remained a staple in my family's bakes.
These Biscotti and my Anise Pizzelle are vintage Italian recipes passed down for generations.
Looking for more family recipes? Try:
- Old Fashioned Carrot Cake with Pineapple
- Thrifty Pound Cake
- Orange Cookies
- Seven Layer Chocolate Cake
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened at room temperature
- ¾ cup superfine granulated sugar or caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 teaspoon anise extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour or plain flour
- 1 cup strong white bread flour this can be substituted for more all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175C/155C Fan) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and sugar, beating together until light and fluffy. Add the anise extract and eggs, beating to incorporate.
- In a medium bowl, mix flours and baking powder together. Add this slowly to the sugar mixture.
- Once combined, tip out onto a clean counter and split into two equal balls. Roll these into logs and place on prepared baking sheets. Pat these down a bit as they will raise in the oven.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before slicing. It is important to slice while the biscotti is still warm to avoid too much crumbling. Cut on a slight diagonal slant.
- Place the slices back onto the baking sheet on their sides and bake for a further 10 minutes each side (flipping the cookies over halfway through) to give them the twice baked crunch of the Italian classic. (see note)