Quaresimali Biscotti: Almond Lenten Biscotti


Quaresimali are almond cookies that were traditionally made during Lent (Quaresima).  There are many variations of this recipe but they are usually hard cookies that contain no fat and no egg yolks.  Quaresimali in parts of Northern Italy are alphabet shaped chocolate cookies without nuts.  I make these cookies year-round and add just a little shortening to make them less crumbly.  Biscotti in Italian means twice-baked.  These are baked a second time after cutting.  They are hard, crunchy cookies, great for dipping in coffee.  These flavorful almond biscotti are scented with cinnamon, vanilla, and citrus flavors.  It’s like experiencing all the flavors of Sicily in one bite.

Quaresimali Biscotti:  Almond Lenten Biscotti

Difficulty Rating:  Easy
Makes approximately 2 dozen biscotti.

For the Biscotti:
2 1/2 cups whole almonds
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
3 tablespoons minced candied orange peel (optional)

For the Egg Wash (Optional):
1 large egg

1. TOAST THE ALMONDS:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the almonds on a baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes, until lightly toasted.

2. MAKE THE QUARESIMALI DOUGH:  Place 3/4 cup of the almonds, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a food processor, and process until almonds are finely ground.

Add both sugars, shortening, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and both zests, and pulse for 1 minute, until shortening is incorporated.  Transfer mixture to a large bowl.

Stir in the remaining almonds, eggs, honey, extracts, and orange peel until combined.  It’s easier to mix the dough with your hands.

Divide dough in half and shape each half into a log approximately 1 1/2-inches in diameter.  Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

3. BAKE THE QUARESIMALI:  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon water.  Place logs on the cookie sheet about 4-inches apart.  Slightly flatten the top of each log.  Brush the top of the logs with egg wash.  Place in the oven and bake 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown.  Transfer to a cooking rack and let cool completely before cutting.

4. CUT AND BAKE QUARESIMALI SECOND TIME:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the cookies into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick slices using a sawing motion while holding the log firmly with the other hand.  Do not slice the cookies in a straight downward motion or they will fall apart.  The cookies are crumbly and some may break during cutting.  Lay the biscotti flat on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Carefully turn the cookies over and bake 8 minutes longer.  Let cool on baking sheet.

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