I’ll never forget the first (and last) time I made biscotti. I was a budding young bakestress of 16, eager to whip up some of those exotic-looking cookies I’d seen at the new Starbucks in my town. I slaved all afternoon, digging out the anise seeds from the pantry depths and laboriously stirring the thick dough, toasting almonds, baking, slicing, and baking again.
They were a disaster: dense, rock-hard, anise-heavy, floury, and altogether not very good. At first, I thought it was me, but the store-bought variety were equally disappointing. What exactly about this stuff was supposed to be appealing?
I’d given up on enjoying toasted treats with my tea until recently. My colleague Elena brought in sukhariki, or “Russian Biscotti.” I didn’t expect much, but hey, I’d skipped breakfast and couldn’t afford to be picky.
What a revelation! Light and crisp, the sukhariki were closer to super-toasted raisin bread than their doughy Italian cousins. Elena explained that the name simply means “dried bread” in Russian, but these were something special. Thin-sliced and toasted to an appealing dark amber, studded with raisins, and dusted with sugar, sukhariki were the perfect crunchy complement to breakfast tea.
In short, delicious! Maybe I’ll manage to recreate them with one of the following online recipes. Just pray I have better luck than with biscotti!
Recipe #1 is from Cookies In Motion:
-1/4 c. rum or Cognac
-1/2 c. raisins
-2 c. all-purpose, unbleached flour
-2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
-1/2 tsp. baking soda
-1/2 tsp. salt
-4 tsp. unsalted butter
-1/2 c. sugar
-2 eggs at room temperature
-2 egg whites at room temperature
-2 tsp. vanilla extract
-3/4 c. chopped walnuts
1. Soak half of the raisins in either Cognac or rum for at least one hour. Preheat oven to 325F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Coarsely chopped the remaining raisins, and mix them together with flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. Cream softened butter and sugar in another bowl until light and fluffy. After adding eggs, egg whites, and vanilla extract, continue beating to blend them well.
4. Stir in the soaked raisins. Then gradually add the flour mixture. Fold in chopped walnuts.
5. Turn dough out onto a lightly flour surface. If it is too sticky, add some flour for easy handling.
6. Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a log about 12 inches long and 2 inches wide. Then place them at least 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet.
7. Bake for about 30 minutes until logs are light golden in color and firm to touch. Cool them slightly on wire racks for about 5 minutes.
8. Reduce oven to 250 degrees F., then slice each log diagonally into ½-inch slices. Arrange rusks, cut side down, on a cool cookie sheet.
9. Bake again for about 30 minutes, turn them over, and continue baking for another 30 minutes. Note: all baking time is approximate and depend on individual oven.
10. Cool sukhariki on wire racks before storing them in an airtight container. They will keep for a month at room temperature.
Recipe #2 comes from Recipes and More and is much simpler:
-3/4 c. sugar
-1 c. flour
-1 1/4 c. coarsely chopped hazelnuts
1. Beat the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix the nuts and flour together, and then mix into the egg mixture.
2. Grease an 8-inch loaf pan. Pour in batter and bake in a preheated oven at 300F for 50 minutes. Turn the loaf out of the pan, wrap in a moist dish towel, and let stand for 4 hours.
3. Cut into 1/3 inch slices. Place on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 250F until lightly browned and crisp, about 3 hours.
Makes 2 dozen.