Every year, my mom’s side of the family gathers at Nonnie’s house to celebrate Christmas Eve. Though we have adopted many American traditions, our family’s roots are Italian, so the night before Christmas is a much bigger deal to us than Christmas Day. Everyone arrives in the early afternoon and sits down to “lunch” – usually antipasto, salads, bread, sometimes sandwiches. This is just to keep our motors running while we get dinner ready.
Dinner itself is an hours-long affair that is interrupted for presents. Dessert follows, and before you know it, it’s time to leave for midnight Mass and you’ve been sitting at the table since three. I love everything about Christmas Eve – the festive atmosphere, all the delicious food, and of course, the anticipation that lingers in the air. After all, it is the most magical night of the year.
One of my favorite Christmas cookies is biscotti. I never understood why people dislike them until I ate a store-bought biscotti and nearly broke my teeth! My family seriously underbakes these cookies so that you end up with a soft and chewy cookie that you can enjoy without booking a visit to your dentist. I’m sharing my mom’s recipe with you – complete with extra nuts (I like walnuts, personally, though Mom prefers almonds) and reduced cooking time. I usually double this recipe since they are so popular.
- 1-3/4 c. flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- pinch salt
- 1-1/2 c. chopped almonds, pecans, or walnuts
- 1/2 c. unsalted butter
- 1 c. sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 tsp. almond extract
- 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift dry ingredients together (except nuts).
Cream together butter, sugar, eggs, and extracts.
Incorporate dry ingredients in thirds. Add nuts and mix until just combined. (Do not overmix!)
Cover dough and chill well.
Divide dough into thirds and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
Form the dough into three logs. If you are impatient and haven’t chilled it long enough, you may need a bit of flour to keep it from sticking to your hands. The logs will spread a lot, so give them plenty of room.
Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow logs to cool for several minutes. Move to a cutting board and slice as you would a loaf of bread. Each log should yield 12-15 cookies.
Turn the biscotti cut side down and return to the oven. Bake 5 minutes, or until just cooked through.