On New Year's eve during one of the years my husband and I lived in Maryland, we went up to southern New Jersey to visit my his aunt and uncle. Of course, a good housewife never visits without bringing a treat, so I chose to make my first ever batch of biscotti using a recipe from the cookbook that my mother-in-law had gotten me for Christmas that year. When we arrived, everyone was ooh-ing and aah-ing about how brave I was to make biscotti. I was baffled, but I soon found out what I had been missing. I had wrongly thought that they were just Italian a few generations back and were into their heritage; I had no idea that they were actual, for-real, children of immigrants, Italian! I heard nothing about the biscotti in the weeks to follow and I soon forgot about having ever made them.
Fast forward a year and a half to the night before my wedding... I was sitting in the hotel lobby chatting with family when my husband's aunt came up to introduce me to someone I'd never met. "This is Michele. She makes the best biscotti. It was so good, I sent it to my Italian* daughter-in-law in California!" I should have been pleased, but all I could wonder was What on Earth have I gotten myself into?
*the "actually from Italy" kind
2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp orange oil**
4 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, plus extra for dipping
Line two large, heavy baking sheets with parchment or a nonstick baking mat. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat 2 sticks butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Beat in 4 eggs one at a time, then add 1/2 teaspoon orange oil. Add 4 1/4 cups flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt, then mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl, then mix in 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips.
Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Wrap dough balls in plastic wrap then freeze for 20 minutes to allow to firm up.
With rack in center of oven, preheat to 350 F.
Working on one ball at a time, roll the dough into 14-inch-long, 3-inch-wide log; flatten bottom of log on your work surface, but don't squish the top; repeat on remaining dough balls. Transfer logs to prepared baking sheets--two per quarter sheet pan, three inches apart.
Bake until light golden, about 30 minutes, then transfer parchment and logs to cooling rack for 20 minutes. In the meantime, reduce oven to 300 F.
Working one log at a time, place log on cutting board. Using serrated knife, cut log on diagonal into 3/4" slices. Stand slices upright on baking sheet. Repeat until all logs have been sliced.
Bake biscotti until dry to the touch and pale golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on rack.
If you intend to dip the biscotti in chocolate: melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Dip the top of the baked and cooled biscotti into the chocolate, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet so allow the chocolate to harden. Repeat with remaining biscotti.
**Orange oil (I use LorAnn brand) is available in the candy making section of your local craft store or online here. Be sure that you use food grade oil, not orange essential oil!
Adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts.