Makes about 4 dozen
These crunchy, low-fat, rusk-type cookies are fashioned after the Tuscan Biscotti di Prato, but they have an unusual added ingredient: basil. I make two versions, one with the traditional anise flavor and the other inspired by the sweet, strong flavor of lemon basil. Try a batch of each.
• About 3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• Large pinch salt
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 3 extra-large eggs
• 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1 tablespoon lemon zest or 1 teaspoon aniseed, bruised
• Generous 1/2 cup chopped lemon basil or anise basil leaves
• 2/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted and ground
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter and flour two baking sheets.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together 3 cups of the flour, the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the center and add the eggs; beat them with a fork in the well. Add the vanilla and the lemon zest and lemon basil or aniseed and anise basil, and stir with a fork; begin incorporating the flour mixture. After you’ve mixed in most of the flour, add the ground almonds and blend well.
3. With the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, flour a flat surface and your hands and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead the dough (it will be sticky), working in the remaining flour and a little more if you must. Divide the dough into two pieces. Roll each into a cylinder 2 to 21/2 inches wide. Place the cylinders on one of the prepared baking sheets and bake for 25 minutes.
4. Remove the sheet from the oven and reduce the temperature to 300°F. Cut the rolls diagonally into slices 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Arrange these on two baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes. Turn over the biscotti and bake for 15 minutes longer.
5. Cool the biscotti on baking racks. Pack them into tins with tight-fitting lids. They are better the second day after baking, and they keep well for several weeks.