Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Chocolate Anise Biscotti
Chocolate Anise Biscotti with Pine Nuts. [Click to embiggen.]

From back in the days of my Snot-Nositude, I recall with affection a certain biscuitlike affair with a pleasant eggy sweetness.  It was brittle and crunchy, a characteristic that made it an ideal snack for my baby brother, the Other Elisson, who would gnaw happily upon it while in the throes of teething.

This was zwieback, a German word for “twice-baked.”  That would make it four times better than anything that was half-baked.

I loved the rock-hard texture of those hunks of zwieback I would pilfer from my brother’s supply.  I loved their faint taste of spice... was that cinnamon?  Sure, it was baby food, but it was sophisticated baby food.

Eastern European Jews have been making a more grown-up version of this twice-baked treat for some centuries now: Mandelbrot.  Mandelbrot literally is “almond bread,” and the typical mandelbrot combines the brittle nature of zwieback with hint of marzipan-like richness.  Raisins, nuts, and cinnamon are common components.  Like zwieback, it’s prepared by forming a slab of dough, baking it, slicing the resulting loaf, and then baking the slices until dry and crisp.  She Who Must Be Obeyed makes a killer mandelbrot on those rare occasions when she permits herself to do a little baking.

Biscotti are the Italian cousins of mandelbrot.  Like mandelbrot, biscotti often contain almonds or other nuts and are made using a similar double-baking technique.  Depending on their hardness rating on the Mohs scale, biscotti may be eaten by themselves or dunked into coffee or (in true Italian style) vin santo, a sweet Italian dessert wine.

Last week our friend Jackie made a batch of chocolate anise biscotti, and she later compounded her Evil Deed by passing the recipe along to the rest of us.  Of course I had to give them a try... and I jacked them up a tad by throwing in some toasted pignolia nuts.  The results are pictured above.

Tell you what: The baking technique may be like that of zwieback, but this stuff is not baby food, oh, no.  It is, decidedly, a Grown Up Dessert.

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