Play Me a Recipe

Amanda Hesser makes Almond Biscotti

Episode Summary

Food52 co-founder Amanda Hesser shares a recipe that she and her family have been making since the 90s: Corby Kummer's Almond Biscotti.

Episode Notes

On Play Me a Recipe, your favorite cooks will walk you through their most treasured recipes, offering all the insider tips, stories, and tricks you won't get from a written recipe—and you'll be right alongside them, every step of the way. Feel free to pause, jump back, or navigate the steps via the podcast chapters.

If you're cooking along, here's the recipe we're making today. Go ahead and grab the ingredients below (Amanda starts listing them at 0:43) before  starting the episode.

Almond Biscotti

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until they are toasted and beginning to release their oil. A good indication that they are done is when you can smell them. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely. Lower your oven temperature to 300°F (150°C).
  3. Butter and flour a large baking sheet. Mix the 2 cups flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Scoop out 1/3 cup (43g) and set aside. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork and stir in the vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. Gradually draw in the dry ingredients, mixing the dough until it begins to clump together in a shaggy mess. Do this as quickly and lightly as possible. You do *not* want to work the flour, you just want the dough to hold together. A pastry scraper helps to gather the unwieldy dough. Dust a work surface with the reserved dry ingredients. Turn out the dough onto the work surface. Gather it into a disk using the pastry scraper, and knead it lightly to help it cohere. Let it rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Pat out the dough into a rough 7 x 5-inch (17 x 13-cm) rectangle and press in the almonds. Adding the reserved flour mixture when needed, fold the dough like a business letter, and cut in half lengthwise with a pastry scraper. Flour your hands and gently roll each half into a long rope about 2 inches (5 cm) thick. Transfer one rope to the baking sheet and pat it lightly to flatten to 1/2 inch (1.2 cm) thick. Repeat with the other half, making sure that the halves are at least 3 inches (7.5 cm) apart on the baking sheet. (Otherwise they will grow together in the oven.) Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through. It should feel almost bready when pressed with a finger.
  5. Immediately after removing from the oven, use a spatula to transfer each half to a cutting board. Using a large chef's knife and working in firm downward motions, cut each half diagonally into 1/2-inch (1.2-cm) slices. Lay the slices, cut-sides down, on the baking sheet and return to the oven to dry and toast, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on baking racks. These cookies improve with age, and if stored in a cookie jar or tin, they will keep for several weeks.

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Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Episode Transcription

Amanda (teaser): 1, 2, 3…


Amanda: Hey there, this is Play Me a Recipe and I'm Amanda Hesser coming to you from my kitchen in Brooklyn. Today, I'm going to make Almond Biscotti, which is a recipe that my family has been making since the 1990s. And it lasts forever. [Laughs] My mom almost always has some in her cookie jar, and it produces a really crisp, sweet, salty, nutty biscotti that I think is better than any I've ever had.

Ingredients & equipment

Amanda: For this simple biscotti, all you're going to need are: whole almonds, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, eggs and vanilla extract. You'll also need parchment paper and a baking sheet.

Steps 1 & 2: Heat the oven to 350°F and toast the almonds

Amanda: Okay, let's start by turning on your oven to 350°F. This is so that you can first toast the almonds. A quarter-sheet pan is just fine, but if you have a regular half sheet, that works too. You're gonna take a cup of whole unblanched almonds and spread them on the baking sheet. You know, if you can't get whole almonds—or if you just detest almonds—and you want to use a different nut, go ahead. You can also use slivered almonds, but these really are best with almonds with their skin on. I think the backup nut that I would use would be pistachios over, say, pecans. You want a nut that has, like, a pretty robust flavor, but it isn't too buttery.

Okay, so I’ve got my almonds spread out, and now we're just gonna wait a sec till the oven fully heats. So I'm gonna go check email, and you can do whatever you want.

(Musical interlude)

Amanda: Now it's time to put the almonds in the oven. So if you got your almonds spread on a baking sheet, let's put them in the oven. That's fully heated. So I'm going to set a timer because I always forget about nuts and then burn them. So start at five minutes—I’m doing this on my microwave.

Step 3: Line a baking sheet & make the dough

In the meantime, there's a bunch of other things that we can start getting ready. So we can line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper. So you're gonna need a half sheet pan—and you can use a cookie sheet, you can use a rimmed baking sheet, it doesn't really matter. You just want one that is not [laughs] entirely warped. And even if it's warped, it'll be fine! If you have a baking mat that will work as well; and if you don’t have either, what I recommend doing—and this is what we used to do this in the old days of making this recipe—we would butter and flour the baking sheet just like you would do a cake pan.

So I'm gonna set the baking sheet aside and I'm gonna get out a bowl that is big enough to hold two cups of flour as well as a cup of sugar. So a medium bowl should do it. So I'm gonna mix two cups of flour, one cup of sugar. I am a big dip and sweeper when I measure flour. I like to give my flour in my flour bin a little swish before I go in with the scoop, so it kind of aerates it a little bit. Okay, so I've got two cups of flour measured out and now you want to move on to the sugar. It calls for conventional white sugar. And then I'm going to add the baking soda and salt. It calls for one teaspoon of baking soda. A half teaspoon of fine sea salt. I'm actually gonna use kosher salt, because that's what I've got. I do a rounded teaspoon, or half teaspoon—whatever the measurement is for any recipe—just to add a little bit of extra salt.

Okay, so now I've got these ingredients and I'm just just gently stirring together the dry ingredients. And then you do this funny thing: you scoop out one third of a cup and you're going to set that aside. And that's gonna come in handy when you're shaping the dough.

Alright, so then in a separate bowl, we're gonna lightly beat the eggs, which, ideally, have now come to room temperature. Ok. [Timer beeps] Oops. Time to check on the nuts first.

[Opens oven]

Amanda: Okay, mine do not ye smell super almond-y, so I’m gonna add another two minutes and continue with the cracking of the eggs.

I grew up in a biscotti-for-breakfast family. [Laughs] It's a dunker. It's great for dunking. Okay, so I have cracked the eggs and I'm going to stir the vanilla in, and that is a teaspoon, so we want a full teaspoon of vanilla, and that really perfumes these cookies really nicely. It's such a simple cookie. It doesn't have a lot of other things in it. And I know that a lot of people are tempted with biscotti to add chocolate and, you know, or dip them in chocolate or put them with caramel, and you can totally do that! I just tend to like them just really plain. What I'm getting at is that, basically, you can eat these cookies all day long. From breakfast to bedtime.

I am whisking, lightly whisking, the eggs and vanilla. Now, before I forget, I just took the almonds out and now this a key detail: you wanna lower the oven temperature to 300°F. Okay, so we're gonna take a quick break, probably 10 or 15 minutes and let the almonds cool on the pan.


Amanda: Now that the almonds are cool—mine are cool, hopefully yours are cool too—I've got them on my countertop near this flour mixture, and we're about to move quite quickly, so I want you to go get a pastry scraper and a fork. So I've got my bowl of dry ingredients. And I'm gonna make a little well in the center with my hands. And I'm gonna pour the egg mixture right into that. I'm gonna use the fork to slowly draw the dry ingredients from around the sides of the bowl towards the wet mixture in the middle. So you're just gonna keep going around in a circle, drawing the dry flour in until you get a very shaggy dough and that's good. You want a shaggy dough that is just going to hold together. Okay, this is looking very nice. It kind of looks a little damp, but not wet. And it has little bits of dry flour on the outside. Okay, so now I'm gonna take that—remember that third of a cup of the dry ingredients that we set aside? Use that to dust, very generously, the surface of your work surface. Your countertop. I happen to use a wood countertop; if you have, like, a pastry board—whatever you like to use. And then I'm gonna scrape the fork off with my pastry scraper so we get every last bit of dough. I don't wanna lose any. And then I'm gonna use a pastry scraper to scrape the dough out of the bowl. You should kind of press it together as you're going, there will be a little bit of dry flour at the bottom of your bowl. It's okay. And there'll be like, little shards that are kind of sprinkling around the countertop. That's totally all right.

Amanda: So then flour your hands using the work surface, just dip it on the work surface, pat the dough into kind of like an oval shape about an inch high or so. Okay, it'll look a little cracked, but it's okay. And then I'm gonna let it rest for, like, 3 to 5 minutes.

Step 4: Divide & form the biscotti dough into 2 “loaves”

Amanda: All right! So our biscotti dough has rested enough, and I'm going to sprinkle a little bit of flour on top, so that I can pat it out to a five-by-seven rectangle. It doesn't have to be a perfect rectangle. You just want enough surface area that you can take all the almonds and press them into the surface.

I just want them to cover the surface. There's gonna be a little doubling up as you're pressing them in. Of course, the dough is going to spread. That's okay. And use the fact that the almonds are on top to pat out the sticky dough. I like to sprinkle a little bit of the dry ingredients around the edges of the—what now for me is a kind of a—big oval. Then what I'm gonna do is, using a pastry scraper to make sure it's loosened underneath, I'm gonna fold this like a letter, which I know is going to sound impossible, but just go from the, you know, the furthest side from you.

Pull a third of that over the top and then take the bottom, put it over the middle as well. And so you have should now have a rectangle that's about three or four inches wide and about I would say eight or so inches long. And we’re going to take this rectangle and cut it in half lengthwise using the pastry scraper, which is not gonna be easy because they're big, whole almonds on it, and you’ll have two basically squared off logs. Working one at a time, and it's a very loose dough, you're kind of just barely holding on to it. You're gonna roll it, and again you use any of the extra dry mixture that you want to help. Keep it from sticking to your hands. You're just gonna roll it until it's about two inches—it's like a long rope—it's about two inches thick. So you're gonna have this rope. It's about, you know, a foot long, maybe a little bit longer. And you're going to lift it up on both ends. And what I like to do is I grab the ends and then kind of squeez them together towards the center, and you're gonna very quickly transfer it to your parchment covered pan. Hopefully, that's nearby. If not, pause and then get it nearby.

Okay, one, two, three...whoop! There we go. Okay, so I've just plopped it right onto one side, one of the long sides of the baking sheet. And then I'm gonna take my second piece of dough and do the same thing. I'm just going to try to shape it as best I can into a nice log and it's going to quasi-cooperate. And I've been making this recipe for many, many years. So if yours is looking funny, don't worry. Mine is too. It sort of works out in the oven. Okay, I'm gonna lift the second one and get it onto the baking sheet. Here we go.

Now we're gonna take these. We're gonna put in the oven. We're gonna bake them for 45 to 50 minutes until they're lightly browned, just cooked through.

(Musical interlude)

Step 5: Slice & bake again

Amanda: I just checked on the biscotti, and we're just at 40 minutes and mine is done, so I'm gonna take it out of the oven. It looks kind of crusty, in a nice, appealing way. And it's still a little bready and springy. So what you wanna do is you’re gonna bring it over your cutting board, and then, using a spatula, immediately lift the haves onto your cutting board. Okay, while it's nice and hot and soft, you want to cut it into half-inch wide diagonal slices. I recommend not going too thick because these biscotti are really nice when they're kind of spear-like

[While slicing] The reason I like making these cookies is that actually my family doesn't really love them. [Laughs] They like the kind of soft, chewy cookies, and I do, too! But I like a variety of cookies and they don't love these. So this is like, one batch of cookies I know I could make that aren’t going to get instantly, you know, devoured.

Amanda: So now I've cut all the biscotti, and I'm going to lift each piece and lay them on their cut sides on the baking sheet. And what I like to do is put the end pieces, the smaller pieces, in the center of the baking sheet and then the thicker middle pieces on the outer edges because they can withstand more toasting. So, you have to move quickly because the biscotti is very hot. And, uh, it's about 15 pieces per loaf. I call them loaves. [Laughs]

We’ll toast for 15 to 20 minutes longer. I have found that I kind of like 10 to 15 minutes. You're just basically drying and toasting them. You can go for a long as you like. If you want them really toasted, you can let them go for 25 minutes. I am going to do 10 and check on them then. So here we go. And then we'll take them out and let them cool and be done.

(Musical interlude)

Amanda: Okay, alright, now they're still gonna feel a tiny bit soft. But don't worry. They will harden up as they cool. Now. I'm just gonna transfer them to a cooling rack. If you don't have a cooling rack, you can just cool them on the sheetpan. That is not gonna be like the worst thing. They might dry out a little bit more. But your biscotti will survive. It's sort of an indestructible cookie. It’s, you know, it's kind of like a rusk. A sturdy cookie, just what I like.


Amanda: Thanks so much for baking Corby Kummer’s Almond Biscotti with me, Amanda Hesser. You can find the recipe on There will be new episodes weekly, And if you have a favorite Food52 recipe that you'd like to hear us make, email it to us at Thanks so much for listening!