Italians are well known for a variety of sweets and I’ve tried my fair share. But I grew up on a strict diet of pizzelles. Just before the holidays my grandpa would make his annual pilgrimage to the drugstore where he bought tiny bottles of flavored oils and the pizzelle making would commence. Since he could only churn out one at a time it took a while, but he made hundreds of flavored pizzelles, including cherry, orange, lemon, and chocolate, among others. While I was always encouraged to help in my grandparent’s kitchen, it was hands off the pizzelle maker. That was grandpa’s thing. Plus, hot pizzelle griddles probably fall into the same category as knifes when it come to children.
The flavor traditionally used in pizzelles and the one my grandpa made the most of was anise. Anise tastes similar to licorice or fennel. As a kid it was never my favorite. I would try one every year but I never really liked them. Years later I can say that I’ve grown to appreciate the flavor. Every time I taste anise, it reminds me of grandpa in his tank top, sitting at the dining room table which was covered with brown paper bags to sop up the extra oil and to serve as a resting place for the steaming pizzelles to cool. On those cold winter days the windows were all steamed up from the heat of the pizzelle maker and you could tell what flavor pizzelles he was making as soon as you opened the door. The stacks and stacks of pizzelles were always wrapped in cellophane and carefully placed in boxes around the dining room, waiting to be delivered to family and friends.
Pignoli or pine nuts are traditionally used in a variety of Italian desserts and dishes, and seemed an appropriate complement to the strong anise flavor. Served with a strong cup of coffee these Anise and Pignoli Biscotti strike the perfect balance of sweet and savory. No need to wait for the holidays to enjoy these.
Anise and Pignoli Biscotti
YIELD: approximately two dozen
2 ¾ cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 star of anise, ground into a fine powder (we used a mortar and pestle)
½ tablespoon anise extract
½ cup toasted pignoli
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.
2. In a large flat-bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and star of anise.
3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and anise extract.
4. With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together. Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.
5. Add the pignoli, kneading the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.
6. Separate the dough in thirds. Form three logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet. Leave several inches between the logs. The dough will spread as it bakes.
7. Firmly press the tops with sugar.
8. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split. Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
9. Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board. Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
What to do with the ends #31: Pass the ends around the table as a talking stick. Only the person holding the ends gets to talk.