MAKES 2 1/2 DOZEN BISCOTTI
What do Tuscans have for dessert after a meal? Biscotti di Prato dunked in vin santo. The city of Prato has special meaning for me since it was the home of one of Tuscany's most influential citizens, Francesco di Marco Datini, whose palazzo I visited, and whose life I read about in the book The Merchant of Prato by Iris Origo. Datini was a wealthy textile merchant who had great influence in political circles. In his daily diary, he talked about the deals he made and the debts he owed. He also made many notations about the foods he enjoyed and those that were forbidden to him by his doctor.
It is a fascinating look at life in Renaissance Tuscany. Not far from Datini's palazzo is the shop of Antonio Mattei, in via Ricasoli; this old establishment has been making and selling biscotti di Prato since 1858.
1/2 cup blanched and slivered almonds
2 cups King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes, or just until they begin to brown at the edges. Transfer the almonds to a bowl and allow them to cool.
In another bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In another bowl mix together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add the sugar and egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix with your hands to form a dough. Fold in the almonds. The dough will be stiff.
With floured hands transfer the dough to a sheet of wax paper and shape it into a 10Ã—5 1/2-inch-long loaf. Wrap the dough in the wax paper and refrigerate it for several hours or overnight.
With a sharp knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise and place each half, cut side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart. Reshape the loaves slightly.
Bake the loaves for about 18 minutes, or until they are firm to the touch but still pale looking. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the loaves to cool for 10 minutes.
With a sharp knife cut diagonal 1/2-inch thick slices from each loaf. Lay the slices on their sides and return the baking sheet to the oven. Toast the biscotti on each side for about 5 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Remove the baking sheet from the oven.
Transfer the biscotti to a cooling rack. These cookies should be hard in texture. Serve them with vin santo or other dessert wine or with coffee and tea.
Note: These are "long keepers" if stored in an airtight tin. The can be frozen successfully for several months.
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