Handmade biscotti is a great treat for holiday parties (try dunking them in dessert wine!) and an impressive gift to bring when visiting friends. No matter what the occasion, these treats serve as elegant companions for espresso, cappuccino, latte or tea. Traditional biscotti in Italy are firm, toast-like biscuits flavored with anise or almond, but there are many other, more decadent varieties. This double-chocolate recipe has a rich flavor and always gets rave reviews.

These goodies are also fresher, healthier (no pesticides, preservatives or trans fats) and more affordable than what you'll probably find in a café. Prices of some store-bought biscotti range from 40 cents to more than $1 per cookie, and you won't get a break for buying a bunch. We found some online that cost even more, up to $1.50 per cookie.

By comparison, the cost of the ingredients in our homemade biscotti, made from USDA organic and fair trade certified products, came to 45 cents per cookie. The recipe yields about 30 biscotti, and the whole prep and baking time takes less than an hour. You can make them ahead of time and freeze them for weeks, or just keep them in an airtight container for several days. For a lovely gift, show off the biscotti in recyclable containers or other packaging that's eco-friendly. We've included some suggestions.

What you'll need:

Tools

• Large baking sheet

• Parchment paper

• Large mixing bowl (preferably glass or non-reactive material)

• Small mixing bowl

• Cutting board

• Electric mixer (smaller hand mixer is fine, or you can also stir by hand)

• Good cutting knife with serrated edges

• Measuring cups and spoons

Ingredients

• 2 cups all-purpose certified organic flour

• 1/2 cup unsweetened organic, fair trade cocoa powder

• 1 teaspoon baking soda

• 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

• 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted organic butter (preferably from a local dairy)

• 1 cup organic cane sugar

• 2 large organic eggs

• 1 tablespoon organic brewed coffee (or instant coffee mixed with water)

• 3/4 cup organic semisweet chocolate chips

• 4 tablespoons organic confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

Step 1 illustrationMix butter, sugar and eggs

1) In a large bowl, beat softened butter and granulated sugar until the butter lightens in color and is fluffy. Add two eggs — one at a time — and beat until thoroughly mixed together.

Step 2 illustrationMix and form the dough

1) Mix flour, cocoa powder, coffee, salt and baking soda in small bowl. Do NOT add the powdered sugar.

2) Gradually add flour mixture to contents of large bowl while stirring; it will form a stiff dough.

3) Stir in chocolate chips.

Step 3 illustrationForm the dough and bake

1) With floured hands, take the large ball of dough and divide it into two balls of equal size.

2) On a parchment paper-covered (or lightly greased and floured) baking sheet, shape each ball into a long, flattened log. Each log should be about 10-12 inches long, and about 2 inches wide.

3) Dust each log with confectioners' sugar and place in 350-degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch.

Step 4 illustrationCut into individual servings

1) Cool the biscotti on baking sheet for a few minutes and then cut each log diagonally into slices, each about 3/4 of an inch wide.

Step 5 illustrationFlip and bake again

1) Turn each piece cut side down on the baking sheet and bake again for about 10 minutes until crisper.

Step 6 illustrationLet it cool and embellish for gifting

1) Let biscotti cool. When completely cool, dust again with confectioners' sugar and package in an airtight tin or glass container. If you would like to freeze the biscotti, wrap in waxed paper and foil to fully protect the cookies, and use an airtight freezer container.

For a lovely gift, show off the biscotti in a recyclable container or other packaging that's eco-friendly.

More information:

Resources

Whether you shop for ingredients at a conventional market or natural foods store, make sure the product is certified USDA organic or fair trade (for the cocoa, coffee and chocolate chips), and bears these third-party seals rather than unverifiable claims. Here are some product brands that we used, which can be found at Whole Foods or regional green supermarkets such as Mrs. Green's.

Equal Exchange organic and fair trade-certified baking cocoa.
Florida Crystals organic cane powdered and granulated sugar. This company's granulated sugar is slightly finer and less refined than traditional sugar, but it is a cup-for-cup replacement for white granulated sugar. It's certified kosher, too!
King Arthur or Arrowhead Mills unbleached, all-purpose, organic white flour (also available at Stop & Shop). Do not use whole wheat or spelt flour for this recipe. Organic powdered sugar — Florida Crystals brand, 16 oz. for $3.19 at Mrs. Green's — ultra fine 10X confectioner's sugar made from organic sugarcane. Non-GMO and also certified kosher!
Organic Valley or Horizon organic, no-salt butter.
Trader Joe's medium roast organic, fair trade coffee (or peruse store shelves for the many companies that bear both seals, like Dean's Beans and Pura Vida (which is also certified shade-grown).
SunSpire or • Eggs that are organic and/or certified humane, from happier, healthier hens (both kinds of eggs are widely available in conventional as well as natural foods stores).

Gift tips

• Try filling an oversized, reusable coffee mug with biscotti — a gift within a gift.
• Use recycled paper gift bags. It looks great if you stand up each cookie on end in a reusable bag. Add a festive touch with "ribbon" made from raffia or hemp twine from the local crafts store.
• Use recycled but still shiny aluminum foil to wrap individual pieces. Greenfeet.com sells recycled shiny foil. A 50 square-foot roll costs $5.95.
• Use 100 percent recycled gift wrap. Green Field Paper Company provides a variety of paper designs printed using soy-based inks instead of conventional petroleum-based inks. Two large sheets in a roll measuring 22-inch x 33.75-inch cost $7.95.
• Other sources of recycled gift wrapping paper include Papermojo.com and Savitris.com.

Text and illustrations by Lindsay Kurz. This article originally appeared in Plenty in December 2008.

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