Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

By Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When I was in Italy in 2005 as a student with the Nocciano Institute for Arts and Culture, there were a lot of things that surprised me about Italian food and culture (on top of being thrown into a traditional village with 500 people who don’t speak a syllable of English).

Nocciano, Italy 2005

First of all, I immediately noticed how dry many things are: their bread, pastas, breakfasts, etc. They never had butter around, and even though I have been led to believe they have bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, I didn’t see much of that either.

They also (and by “they” I mean my house family that I lived with) drank white wine with most meals out of tumblers or scotch glasses. I don’t think they ever served red wine, and definitely didn’t use our version of wine glasses. They also served sliced tomatoes and mozzarella drizzled with olive oil and herbs with almost every meal, and prosciutto.

Anyway, I learned a lot about Italian food by living in somewhat of an old-fashioned Italian town. But something else I saw was biscotti, a classic Italian bread/cake/cookie (whatever you think it is… it’s actually more accurately a biscuit), often served with teas and coffees. Frankly, I’d never eat it without a cup of tea, because it’s so dry and I liked to dunk it (it’s baked twice to dry it out), but I know Italians enjoy it even with a type of dessert wine called vin santo. That just seems weird to me, but so did a lot of things I experienced in Italy.

My biscotti

So one day I was feeling adventurous and wanted to try something new and interesting. I often find myself running out of the house in the morning with a mug of tea in hand, not having eaten breakfast. Biscotti is the perfect solution! Grab it and go!

So off I went to find the perfect biscotti recipe. I hunted through my cookbooks, and there were some great recipes, but they seemed difficult and had ingredients I didn’t have. I eventually found one that seemed straightforward!

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti


  • 2/3 cup (135 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups (230 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (75 grams) dried cranberries or cherries


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the sugar and eggs on high speed until thick, pale, and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes). At this point beat in the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the egg mixture and beat until combined. Fold in the chopped pistachios and cranberries.Transfer the dough to a well floured counter and roll into a log shape, about 12 inches (30 cm) long and 3 1/2 inches (9 cm) wide. You may have to flour your hands to form the log as the dough is quite sticky. Place the log on the baking sheet and bake forabout 25 minutesor until firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Transfer the log to a cutting board and cut into about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) slices, on the diagonal. Place the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, turn slices over, and bake for another 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Can be stored in an airtight container for several weeks.
  2. Adapted from Joy of Baking

As I read through the recipe, I figured I could make some substitutions. It calls for ½ C cranberries and ½ C pistachios, but I figured any nut would do. I had some almonds and sunflower seeds kicking around, so I threw those in instead.

After the first baking

This was very educational. The dough is different than any I have ever worked with before, and I have never had to form a “log” on a baking sheet with dough. And baking it twice sounds like a lot of work, but it wasn’t at all… I actually found it rewarding and interesting to stop the process halfway through and cut the dough. I liked seeing the progress and was relieved the biscotti had turned out. I was nervous – I always saw biscotti as a gourmet thing, so I was certain I’d mess something up.

Anyway, I made a lot of it and since I was so pleased, I decided to bring a box of it into the NAC marketing department to share with my team. It was gone pretty quickly, so I’d say it was a hit!

Biscotti, complete!

This is a fantastic recipe from the Joy of Cooking website, and I think you could put whatever you wanted to substitute the cranberries and nuts. Almonds are common in biscotti, but you can mix and match… never be scared of altering recipes, I say! And if you mess it up… well, that’s how you learn.

Benissimo, as they say in Italy. Salute!


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