Easter Break: Savory Cheese Biscotti

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It is time to come to grips with the fact that I will never run my household the way my mother ran hers. How do I know? Because when I was growing up, by this time Easter week my mom would have:

* Made and frozen her pizza rustica, a classic savory Easter torte, so that it would be ready to be reheated in the oven to serve as an antipasto on Easter Sunday
* Made and frozen her pastiera—a rustic ricotta torte made with wheat berries, and our traditional Easter dessert
* Baked two beautiful golden braids of sweet Easter bread, ready for slicing and toasting on Easter morning
* Baked and decorated her giant sugar cookie bunnies (shaped not from a store-bought cookie cutter, but from a simple wax paper pattern that she cut herself)
* Decided on and shopped for most of the ingredients on her Easter Sunday dinner menu
* Shopped for Easter basket goodies
* Bought her children new Easter outfits

By contrast, I have done none of those things. In fact, I haven’t even been around. I’ve been up in New York this last week at a conference for culinary professionals, cavorting with friends and colleagues, attending panels, workshops, and meetings, shaking hands, swapping cards, signing books, and eating out. As is often the case for me at such jam-packed events, I came away feeling highly inspired and motivated, and highly overwhelmed.

And with a May 1 book deadline staring me in the face, I can tell you if any of those things on that Easter list do happen it certainly won’t be because of me. What will happen is these cheese biscotti, because they are easy to make, will feed a lot of people, and make an excellent Easter Sunday stuzzichino (snack) while you wait for the lamb to roast. They are by no means traditional; instead they are a riff on the traditional sweet almond biscotti of Tuscany. Still, there is something appealingly familiar about the way they taste—the peppery bite, the warm, pronounced cheese notes, the delicate crunch of the almonds. All the better if you serve them with a sharp goat’s or sheep’s milk cheese, a bowl of olives, and, if you have it, a dollop of tomato marmalade.

Buona Pasqua a tutti. Happy Easter! And, if you happen to have more ambition in the kitchen than I do at the moment, I am happy to point you to the recipe for my mother’s outrageously rich (and awesome) pizza rustica, originally published in my book Big Night In.

Makes Makes about 45 biscotti

Savory Cheese Biscotti

(from Big Night In: More Than 100 Wonderful Recipes for Feeding Family and Friends Italian-Style)

Once you get the hang of this recipe (it won't take long) you can experiment with different nuts, such as walnuts to replace the almonds; different cheeses, such as cheddar or dry Jack; and a variety of herbs and spices, such as rosemary, cayenne, or crushed fennel.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (coarse grind)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup grated aged Asiago cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds (with skins)
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk

Instructions

Put the flour, pepper, baking powder, salt, cheeses, and almonds in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter and pulse briefly. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the beaten eggs. Combine the remaining eggs with the milk and pour the mixture into the food processor. Process just until the mixture begins to form a ball of dough.

Turn the dough out onto a large piece of waxed paper and pat it into a disk. Wrap the disk in the waxed paper and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Divide into 2 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a log about 11 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Place the logs on a rimmed baking sheet. With a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops of the logs with the remaining beaten egg. Bake the logs for 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 15 minutes. The logs should be golden on top and springy to the touch. Remove them from the oven and transfer them to a rack to cool for 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F. Place a log on a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut it on the bias into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Transfer the slices to a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake the biscotti for 35 to 40 minutes, turning them once halfway through, until they are golden and crisp. Remove the biscotti to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining log.

Serve as an appetizer with cheese, salami, olives, and tomato marmalade.

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26 Responses to Easter Break: Savory Cheese Biscotti

  1. Elisa April 5, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    I made these biscotti after buying you “Big night in” book. They were deliziosi!!!
    After reading about your mother’s Easter preparations, I am ready to be adopted.
    By the way the saffron I purchased is named…ready?….L’Aquila (by Ariosto).

    Grazie per le buonissime ricette!

    • Domenica April 5, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

      Grazie, Elisa. Yes, my mother was definitely more together than I am when it comes to being organized. Actually, she still is! Thank you for the info on the saffron from L’Aquila. Going to check it out right now.

  2. Kathy April 5, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    I have never baked a savory biscotti before….they sound wonderfully delicious!!

    • Domenica April 6, 2012 at 9:48 am #

      Thank you, Kathy. I hope you’ll give it a try.

  3. Gian Banchero April 5, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    Domenica;
    I’ve never been disappointed with your recipes hence the moment I found out about the Big Night In cookbook I had to immediately order it. I’m very very anxious about that. Meanwhile I shall make your Savory Cheese Biscotti, how can I say no to the ingredients being there’s such a wonderful combination of flavors for sure? Thank you and please keep the recipes coming!!

    • Domenica April 6, 2012 at 9:53 am #

      How nice of you to say that. Thank you, Gian!

  4. Judy@Savoring Today April 5, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    As soon as I saw your post I began thinking of soups or stews I could dip those in, soaking up every last drop of broth–oh yes, this is a fabulous idea.

    • Domenica April 6, 2012 at 9:55 am #

      Judy ~ dipping in soup is an excellent idea. How about a good, creamy tomato soup, with the cheese biscotti taking the place of the traditional grilled cheese sandwich? Yum!

  5. Chef Chuck April 6, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    The cheeses, the pepper, I love it all! Thank you for sharing…

    • Domenica April 6, 2012 at 9:56 am #

      Thank you, Chuck. Happy Easter!

  6. janie April 6, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    Happy Easter! I am off to the kitchen to make my grandmother’s version of Pizza Rustica. Good luck with your book deadline-I’m sure you’ll do fine!

    • Domenica April 6, 2012 at 9:58 am #

      Happy Easter to you, too, Janie. My sister is making the pizza rustica this year. I read your post about the giant chocolate eggs this morning ~ coincidentally, I just bought several yesterday to give to all the kids in the family. They beat the traditional Easter basket any day in our house!

  7. Frank April 7, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    Wow, your mother must have been incredible to churn out all those treats. The mind boggles. But then, as you say, we’re living in another world these days. Torn in a million different directions, there just never seems to be enough time for anything.

    Anyway, enough belly-aching. Have a wonderful Easter!

    • Domenica April 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

      You said it, Frank. My daughter rolls her eyes at me every day when I say “There are not enough hours in the day!” That has become my refrain. I hope you had the chance to take a break and enjoy Easter. Cheers, D

  8. Food Lover Kathy April 8, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    Ha ha, today I’ve been thinking the same thing as you. I’ve been in the kitchen all day trying to catch up and wishing my mom was here to help me with my kitchen duties today. Can we blame our state of “disorganization” on the internet? 😉 I’d say your time was well spent as IACP, though. Happy Easter & hope you get Monday off, if not tomorrow!

    • Domenica April 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

      Thanks, Kathy. I’m in good company, then. I hope you managed to carve out a little relaxation time. And now, we move on to the next thing, right? 😉

  9. Gian Banchero April 10, 2012 at 2:40 am #

    Cara Domenica; Your stellar cookbook BIG NIGHT IN arrived today, what a winner of a cookbook!!!! Kudos to you and your culinary expertise, I really recommend the book to all, as of now I’m set on making your BITTERSWEET MOCHA GRAPPA TORTE WITH WALNUTS, I know that it will one of those recipes that will show up constantly on my holiday or celebratory table. It’s obviously you put in a lot of devotion, hard work and love into this book, thank you very much. Grazie, grazie…

    • Domenica April 10, 2012 at 9:45 am #

      Gian, your kind words make my day. Thank you. I hope you have lots of fun cooking from Big Night In ~ I had lots of fun working on it! You’ve picked a good recipe. I love that mocha grappa torte, and come to think of it, I haven’t made it in awhile. It is extravagant and rustic at the same time–the top kind of sinks and crackles once it comes out of the oven. Dusted with confectioners’ sugar, it is truly something to behold. Enjoy, and please keep me posted on what you make. Cheers, D

  10. Amy April 11, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    Domenica cara,
    I am a native of Abruzzo myself (Castel di Sangro, not too far from Chieti), and reading about your mother’s Easter preparations just about made me cry. I lost my mother last March, and this Easter I baked her Easter Bread (Pigna di Pasqua) for the first time. Her recipe is redolent with anise and golden raisins, producing a round loaf that is light as a feather and delicious plain or toasted. When I took the loaves out of the oven, the smell of my mother’s house at Easter permeated my kitchen and brought back a flood of happy memories.

    Please keep writing about your mother’s recipes and traditions, otherwise these treasures from the little known parts of Italy will be lost forever. Grazie per questi belli ricordi.

    • Domenica April 11, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

      Grazie di cuore, Amy. Thank you for writing and sharing your memories. I know exactly where Castel di Sangro is! Your mother’s bread sounds similar to my mother’s, which also contains anise and golden raisins. How wonderful to be able to remember your mom through the traditions and recipes she shared with you. The food of Abruzzo is something I will keep writing about for sure. Grazie!

  11. Elizabeth Wright July 19, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    I was in need of a savory biscotti and your biscotti recipe came up in my search. I am so thrilled that it did, Domenica!! It is a wonderful recipe, full of flavor. It smelled heavenly as it baked. I also ended up ordering “Big Night In’ for me and a copy for a friend. In addition, I discovered your blog and love it! Thank you, thank you!!

    • Domenica Marchetti November 23, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

      Elizabeth, I don’t know if you’ll read this reply. I was in Italy when you posted your comment and I’m sorry I missed it. I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe. And I hope you’re enjoying Big Night In. It was a fun book to write!

  12. Dens November 23, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    My kitchen smells divine and these biscotti are delicious. As I looked back over the recipe I realized that I accidentally left out the almonds! Can’t believe it but they are still wonderful. I’ll definitely be making again and will add the nuts. And I also ordered you Big Night In Cookbook. Can’t wait to chose what will be at my Christmas party. Thanks!

    • Domenica Marchetti November 23, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

      Dens, thanks for your comment. Good to know that they work without the nuts too. BTW, I have just turned in a manuscript for a book on biscotti (a small book) that includes a whole chapter on savory biscotti. So, lots more to come! Cheers, D

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