Preparation / Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Mix sugar with butter, brandy, vanilla, almond extract, nuts and eggs. Mix well. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Form into a long loaf (or loaves), place on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes or until firm and softly cakelike. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, slice into 1/2 inch diagonal slices and return to cookie sheet. Bake for 15-25 miutes, turning once, until both sides are brown-flecked and toasted. Cool thoroughly and store in an airtight jar.
Variation 1 (Mandlebrot): increase sugar to 1-1/4 cups. Diced dried apricots may by added.
Variation 2: for a clasic anise-flavored biscotto, substitute Pernod, Ouzo or Anisette for the brandy and omit the almond extract. Several tablespoons of anise seeds may be added for additional oomph.
Variation 3 (Hazelnut biscotti): use hazelnuts in place of almonds. A hazelnut liqueur may be used instead of brandy. Omit the almond extract.
Variation 4 (Mediterranean biscotti): use rosewater instead of brandy. Substitute unsalted pistachio nuts for the almonds, and add 1/4 - 1/2 cup diced figs to the dough.
Variation 5 (Ginger-flavored biscotti): to the basic dough, add 1 Tbsp powdered ginger, a generous dash of cloves and cinnamon, 1 or 2 Tbsp of candied ginger and 1/4 cup raisins, if desired. Omit the almond extract.
Variation 6 (Paximatha): this Greek rusk dates back to the 5th century, virtually unchanged. Substiture 1/2 to 3/4 cup toasted sesame seeds for the almonds. Omit the almond extact and flavor the dough with 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp cloves.
Variation 7 (Fekkas): a Moroccon twice-baked cookie. Substitute orange flower water for the brandy.
Variation 8; Pine nuts may be used instead of almonds, though the richness may be less desirable than the crunch of the toasted almonds. Candied fruits, too, may be added, 1/4 to 1/2 cup assorted fruits blended into the dough before baking.
Variation 9 (Chocolate Dipped): melt 1/2 pound semi-sweet chocolate in the top of a double boiler over just simmering water. If it "seizes" or "tightens", add 2 Tbsp of unsalted buter and it should smooth out again. Dip only one side of each cookie (the chocolate won't seal in the moisture that way).