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almond biscotti alla Molisana
Mary's Almond Biscotti alla Molisana (twice-baked biscotti, soft-style, using vegetable oil and roasted amonds)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise
Occasion: Special times
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (her mother's recipe, adapted)

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Ingredients

Mary's Almond Biscotti alla Molisana (Version I, 2009)
3 extra large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour, preferably "Red Rose"
1 tablespoon "Magic" baking powder
1 1/8 cups roasted almonds with skin, cut in half
1 teaspoon sweet almond extract (optional)

Micheline's Almond Biscottialla Molisana* (Version II, 2014)
2 1/2 cups flour
6 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup roasted almonds with skin, cut in half
1 tablespoon "Magic" baking powder

Equipment needed for Version I and Version II:
o for TRADITIONAL METHOD: One well-greased light-colored aluminum baking pan about 12 inches wide, 14 inches long and 1 1/2 inches deep
OR
o for EASY METHOD: Three or four long well-greased rectangular pans about 6 1/2 inches wide, 9 inches long and 2 inches deep
o A very sharp knife
o Baking sheets lined with parchment paper (for re-baking)

YIELD: about 28 biscotti

** Version II is Micheline Di Gerolomo's recipe (A very good one!)



Directions

Almond Biscotti alla Molisana (Version I & Version II)

o Preheat oven 350 F. degrees.

o Grease one large rectangular light-colored aluminum pan (or 3 or 4 small ones).

o Roast whole almonds (with skins); after the almonds have been roasted in a slow oven, cut each almond in half.

o Using an electric beater, beat eggs.

o Add oil and beat till the mixture is yellowish (Not creamy) -- about 2 minutes.

o Add 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional).

o Add sugar and beat another 2 to 3 minutes (until frothy, not creamy).

o Add about 1 cup flour and mix well.

o Add salt (optional).

o Add 1/2 cup flour and beat till smooth.

o Add baking powder. Mix well.

o Add the remaining flour and mix well (The resulting batter should be thicker than a pancake batter, but not as thick as one would use to make Tuscan-style biscotti logs).

o Turn electric beater off.

o Add almonds and blend well using a fork or a wooden spoon.

o TRADITIONAL METHOD: Pour about half of the very thick batter on one side of the well-greased large rectangular baking pan, shaping the batter so that it resembles a biscotti log -- about 4 inches wide, 1 inch high and as long as possible (preferably as long as the pan). Because it is a thick batter, and not a dough, the log will not retain its shape all that well, this is to be expected.... Pour the other half of the batter on the other side of the pan and make another log of the same size (There should be ample space between the two logs). P.S. The batter will increase in volume while baking. It will also spread in the pan; sometimes the logs join together in the oven; if this happens the logs can be cut in the center after they have baked.

o EASY METHOD: Alternatively, if one is using small rectangular pans, simply pour the batter into each well-greased pan, making sure that the height of the batter is not more 3/4 of an inch high as it will double in volume in the oven.

o Place the baking pan (or pans) on the upper middle oven rack and bake at 350 F. degrees for about 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 325 F. degrees and cook until the biscotti logs are golden and nicely cooked, another 10 minutes or so. In between check to see if the biscotti logs are cooking well, as the bottom can easily get burnt.

o Remove from the oven and cool for about 4 minutes.

o Using a very sharp long knife (not serrated) cut 1/2 inch slices.

o Place the biscotti slices, flat side down, on a baking sheet which has been lined with parchment paper.

o Bake at 350 F. degrees for about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 F. degrees and bake until the slices are crisp and golden on both sides -- another 10 minutes or so. If the bottoms of the biscotti are cooking faster than the top, flip the sides.

o Remove the biscotti from the oven and let cool for at least half an hour before removing them from the baking pan. Cooling them prevents them from breaking (The biscotti might feel soft right out of the oven, but later, after they are cooled, they will have a harder texture.).

o Place the biscotti in cellophane bags, or place them in a tin container that is lined with kitchen paper towels. One can also store them in clear plastic bags (This will make them a touch softer.).

o Store them in a cool room, or in the fridge until needed.

o Serve at room temperature.




Notes

As my mother never measured her ingredients when she made her biscotti and in fact, changed the measurements each time she did them, it was difficult for me to make her recipe (For her recipe see, "Nonna Giovanna's Biscotti con Mennole"). I came up with my own version -- not to improve on my mother's recipe, but simply to make it a little easier to do. Recently, I tried out my friend's (Micheline Di Gerolomo) mother's recipe for this style of Molisani biscotti and I have to admit I liked it a lot (Her recipe is Version II). I liked it so much, I included it in this entry.... Making biscotti, whether Tuscan style or Molisani style, is challenging to say the least. So many things can go wrong (And do go wrong!) -- the biscotti can burn or under-cook, or break up while slicing. Still, most of the time, with a little patience and tender-loving care, most biscotti come out tasting O.K.. Whether they come out looking picture-perfect, well that's another story. If one is not successful, often the problem is unrelated to one's baking skills (or lack of skills) but rather the problem lies with the equipment one is using. For example, some type of baking pans (Take the "non-stick" dark colored ones) don't do their job properly -- they inevitably make stuff burn. Glass ovenware is much better, but it's hard to find the right size to make biscotti in. Also, some ovens are better suited for baking than others. Most home cooks figure out what works, and stick with it.... Biscotti Molisana are supposed to be long and thick -- ideally about 6 1/2 inches long, 1 1/4 inch high and 1/2 inch thick. Tuscan style biscotti are half the size. Biscotti Molisana, unlike Tuscan biscotti, are expected to be on the soft side -- crispy, yes, but not hard (Definitely not jawbreakers as are Tuscan biscotti!). Molisani biscotti should be good on their own -- they don't have to be dunked in coffee or tea, though they are very good when they are dunked. If one grew up with this style of biscotti and liked them as a child, one can't help but love them as an adult. If one is new to this style of biscotti, well, one simply has to try out a recipe and judge for oneself. Comments and photo: Mary Melfi.

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