Amaretto Biscotti! Bursting with sweet almond flavor, these classic Italian cookies make a beautiful treat to package and give to friends and neighbors throughout the holidays season.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Plugrá and Publix. The opinions and text are all mine.
Do you have any holiday baking traditions? Do you bake dozens of Christmas cookies, decorate gingerbread houses or have a signature dessert that your family and friends eagerly await all year?
When I first met my husband and his family and took part in their Italian Christmas traditions almost 2 decades ago, I decided that I would learn how to bake biscotti to bring to their holiday gatherings.
Soon after, it became a tradition, and every December my kitchen counters would disappear under hundreds of biscotti of all flavors that I would package up and give as gifts to family and friends.
This Amaretto Biscotti is one of the classics! Plugrá® Butter, available at your local Publix, makes takes these special occasion cookies to the next level, because Better Butter Matters! Sweet and crisp with a fragrant almond essence, finished with an amaretto liqueur icing drizzle, they are a treat that everyone will look forward to, year after year!
This recipe can be altered to be gluten-free. (See substitutions section below.)
What is Biscotti?
Biscotti, are twice-baked Italian cookies. They are also known as cantucci or cantucci di Prato signifying their connection to the Tuscan city of Prato.
These crunchy cookies are made by first shaping dough into a log, which gets baked, then sliced into its signature oblong pieces, before being returned to the oven for a final drying and crisping. (Hence, "twice-baked.)
While many associate biscotti with Tuscany, they actually originated during the days of Roman soldiers as a practical, long-lasting food to carry rather than as the sweet treats they are known as today.
These days, there are dozens of varieties of biscotti! Their crunchy nature makes them perfect for dunking into hot coffee, cocoa or even Vin Santo, an Italian dessert wine.
Pear butter is made with just a handful of easy-to-find ingredients. There are variations and different ways to flavor it; see below in the "Substitutions and Variations" section. Here's what's in mine:
- Flour. All purpose flour is used in this recipe, but can be substituted with cup-for-cup gluten free blend if needed.
- Baking powder. This leavening gives the dough a little lift so that the biscotti aren't quite so dense.
- Vanilla & almond extracts. I like using the blend of both extracts to give the biscotti a great flavor and scent! Almond is the primary flavor in "amaretto".
- Butter. It's so important to use a quality butter like Plugrá® Butter in baked goods, because it can make a big difference in the end result! Plugrá was crafted by chefs using a specially selected cream to achieve the perfect balance of butterfat and moisture, allowing for more crisp, flavorful biscotti. You can find Plugrá at your local Publix!
- Sugar. A cookie isn't a cookie without a little sweetness! Most biscotti isn't overly sweet.
- Eggs. When it comes to baking, eggs generally help with binding & leavening.
- Sliced almonds. Adding almonds to the dough gives both extra almond flavor and a nice texture. I like adding sliced almond, but you can also add slivered, whole, or even chocolate-coated if you prefer!
Though amaretto biscotti do have several preparation steps, there is no need to be intimidated by the process. They're actually quite easy to make!
Start out as you would with most cookie dough: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a baking pan by lining it with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer) beat together the softened butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy, or what is known in baking as "creamed".
Add the eggs, Amaretto liqueur (if using), almond extract and vanilla extract. Continue to beat at medium speed until fully combined.
With the mixer turned to low (so that you don't cover your kitchen in flour), add the dry mixture and mix until it is fully incorporated -- there should be no pockets of flour remaining, but make sure not to overmix or that can create tough biscotti.
Add the sliced almonds and either fold or gently mix until they're distributed throughout mixture..
Now comes the fun (and slightly messy) part: Shaping the dough! Divide the dough in half with a spatula. Sprinkle a little bit of flour over the top of the dough. Flour your hands and grab half of the dough, placing it on the prepared baking pan. Shape the dough into a 3x12 inch log. Do the same with the other half of the dough, making sure to leave about 4-5 inches between each log as they do spread a little during baking.
Bake the logs until they're puffed up and lightly golden on top, about 25 minutes. Remove the baking pan from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes before moving the two logs to a cutting board.
Using a sharp, serrated knife, slice the logs into about 1 inch thick pieces, crosswise. Arrange the pieces on the parchment-lined baking pan, cut-side down.
Now, it's time for the second bake. (This is why biscotti are known as "twice baked".) Turn down the oven temperature to 250 degrees; this bake will be more about drying out the biscotti, so we don't want to over-toast them.
Bake the biscotti for about 35-40 minutes, turning them over half way through the baking time. They should be dry and lightly golden when they're done.
While the biscotti are baking, make the amaretto glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, Amaretto liqueur and milk until smooth. Set it aside until you're ready to
Remove them from them oven and allow them to cool completely.
Once the biscotti are fully cooled, drizzled them with the amaretto glaze if desired. You may also dunk them in white or dark chocolate, or simply dust them with a little powdered sugar if desired.
Biscotti are supposed to be quite crisp. After the first bake, the "logs" will have some give, which will allow you to slice them. Once they are baked a second time (at a lower temperature), they should be crunchy, but not super dry. If you prefer softer biscotti, reduce the length of time of the second bake.
Using a sharp, serrated knife will result in the cleanest cut for biscotti. Let the logs cool just enough to handle before slicing, but don't let them cool completely or they will harden and become crumbly when slicing.
It is normal for the dough to be quite sticky. The easiest way to handle the dough is to either dust hands and dough with a little extra flour and work quickly. Do not add extra flour to the dough or you may end up with tough or flavorless biscotti.
Alternatively, try wetting your hands before handling the dough (do not sprinkle dough with flour if you go this route). It may seem counterintuitive to wet your hands when the dough is so wet, but it actually helps to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers while you shape it.
These biscotti only contain 2 tablespoons of liqueur for the whole batch if you omit the amaretto from the glaze. If you don't feel comfortable using liqueur, you can simply add an extra ¼ teaspoon of almond extract to the dough for a strong almond flavor without the amaretto.
Yes! For long-term storage, you can freeze baked biscotti. Simply place them in an air-tight, freezer-safe container and place in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Biscotti can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature. For dipped or drizzled biscotti, place a sheet of parchment or waxed paper between each layer. Biscotti will stay fresh up to 2 weeks stored in this way.
Variations and Substitutions
There are so many fabulous ways to enjoy these Amaretto Biscotti! Here are a few variations you might want to try:
- Try adding holiday spices such as cardamom, cinnamon or ground ginger.
- Add grated lemon zest or orange zest to the dough for a harmonious flavor combination.
- Cherries and almonds go great together! Try adding ½ cup of dried cherries or drained Amarena cherries to the biscotti.
- Add a chopped, good quality white, dark, or milk chocolate bar to the mix for extra sweetness.
Need to make these gluten-free? This recipe should work just as well with a one-to-one gluten free flour substitute.
Prefer not to use liqueur? Omit the amaretto and increase the amount of almond extract to ½ a teaspoon.
Other Holiday Cookie Recipes
Ready to fire up the oven and start the holiday cookie stockpile? Try some of these festive and delicious recipes:
- Raspberry Cheesecake Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies
- Hazelnut Bow Tie Cookies
- Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 2¼ cups + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur *
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup toasted sliced almonds
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon Amaretto liqueur
- 1 teaspoon milk or enough to make smooth glaze that isn't runny
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and sea salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer), beat together softened butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
- Add Amaretto liqueur, vanilla extract and almond extract to the mixture. Mix until well-incorporated.
- With the mixer on medium-low, slowly add in the flour. Mix until the flour is just incorporated.
- Add the sliced almonds and fold in by hand or mix gently with the mixer as to not break the pieces up too much.
- Sprinkle a little bit of flour over the top of the dough and dust hands with flour. Grab about half the dough and carefully (and quickly) place it on the lined baking pan and form into a log that is about 12 inches long and 3 inches wide. Do the same with the other half of the dough, leaving about 4-5 inches between them as they will spread a bit during baking.
- Bake for about 25 minutes or until they are puffed and light golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5-10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 250°F.
- Using a serrated knife, carefully slice about 1 inch biscotti from each log. Place the biscotti, cut side down, back onto the baking pan. (I remove the parchment at this point, but you can leave it on if you prefer.)
- Bake for 25 minutes, then flip and bake for another 20 minutes or until the biscotti have dried out and are crisp and golden.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
- In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, amaretto liqueur and milk until smooth.
Drizzle with Glaze
- Drizzle the cooled biscotti with the amaretto glaze and allow to set before packaging or serving.
- Add spices such as cardamom, cinnamon or ground ginger.
- Add 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or orange zest to the dough.
- Add ½ cup of dried cherries or drained Amarena cherries to dough.
- Add a chopped, good quality white, dark, or milk chocolate bar to the mix for extra sweetness.
- Finish biscotti by dunking in melted white, milk or dark chocolate or by dusting with powdered sugar.