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Italian Biscotti

 

This is my favorite version of a beloved Italian cookie. This is a soft Italian Biscotti that often shows up during the holidays and at weddings or other family gatherings. It’s a favorite Christmas cookie in my house and I think it’s the best of the best! 

Soft Italian Biscotti on a plate with a glass of milk from themerchantbaker.com

This is the other biscotti…

I say “other” as though I might have made reference to it in the past, but I haven’t. This is Italian Biscotti, a name that simply means “Italian cookie*,” but in our house, it only means this Italian cookie.

It’s the “other” biscotti because it’s the only biscotti I make that is not a crispy, crunchy, waiting to be dunked biscotti  like Chocolate Toffee Biscotti This biscotti is soft and tender and has a light, pillowy texture.  You won’t need to dunk it.  It’s a perfect little cookie all on its own.

*Biscotti specifically means “twice baked,” but in modern Italian, can also refer to any cookie or cracker.

Soft Italian Biscotti on a plate from themerchantbaker.com

 

I may also be so bold as to say that it’s the best soft Italian Biscotti that I’ve ever made or eaten.  Sometimes they are too dense, or too dry and crumbly, or they don’t have enough flavor… but this one…ahhh, this one…is perfect.

I’ve been making them since high school, after I discovered them at a friend’s house.  During the holidays, she would open up tins and tins of homemade Christmas cookies and send me home with a plateful for my family; this one stood out to me.

I think the recipe came from her grandmother and she was generous enough to share it with me.  It’s like an Italian version of the best frosted vanilla sugar cookie, but with a fluffier texture.

Close up photograph of Soft Italian Biscotti on a plate from themerchantbaker.com

I had planned to make a double batch this year because the few cookies that end up as part of a cookie tray never seem to be enough, no matter how many other cookies are on the tray.

Everyone always asks if I could put just a few more of this one on their plate next time.  A double batch would be certain to satisfy everyone’s need for a “just a few more.”

Soft Italian Biscotti on a plate surrounded by candy from themerchantbaker.com

And then I started a blog (!) and found out how much longer it takes to make a recipe when you’re shooting or videotaping every step and then moving food and trays to where the best lighting is and then moving them back so you can finish making it and, and…well, the double batch never happened.

In fact, the 1400 cookies and candies I usually make for the season didn’t happen either.  I made as many different kinds as usual, sixteen to be exact,  just no doubles, triples or quadruple batches.

But, maybe this will be the right amount.  Perhaps I won’t end up with hundreds of other cookies still in my freezer in January when almost no one wants “just a few more” anything because they’ve just made their New Year’s resolutions.

Then, we’re kind of stuck with a lot of leftover cookies #crymeariver.  This year is different.  I’m here with a prized recipe, colorful pictures and more video (yay!) but no extra cookies (boo!)

This recipe mixes up easily in one bowl.  Cream your butter and sugars, add eggs and vanilla then flour and baking powder.  Done!

If I weren’t writing this post, I would be mixing up a batch right now.  No refrigeration necessary, just move directly to the shaping step.

 

Unbaked Soft Italian Biscotti on a baking sheet from themerchantbaker.com

You may have seen this cookie shaped into little mounds or knots, but I prefer to make little twists with it.  I think that’s how my friend used to make it and I think it’s very pretty that way.  For years, I would scoop out a spoonful of dough and roll it into a log for each individual cookie.

Then I decided there must be a better way, so now I take bigger scoops of dough and roll them into longer logs and cut them into many lengths; this makes the process much faster.

Each log is rolled until it’s about the thickness of your pinky finger, about a 1/2 inch. then cut into about 5″ lengths. Pick each section up, bring the two ends together, then twist twice and place on your ungreased baking sheet.

Once you get going, it doesn’t take that long and your effort will be well rewarded.  I’m going slowly in the video and it still doesn’t take that long.

You’ll bake them until they’re set but before the edges brown.  When you turn them over, they’ll just have the slightest hint of brown on the bottom.

The underside of Soft Italian Biscotti after baking from themerchantbaker.com

After they’re cool, I dip them in a bowl of vanilla icing then decorate with rainbow sprinkles.

I recorded my dip and scrape process with the icing, and while I’m sure you don’t need a visual of the sprinkle process, I included it anyway, because it’s the fun part, the part my kids love to do.  (And they got their chance once we finished recording.)

 

Now they are beautiful, festive, iced and sprinkled twists, ready to brighten up your cookie trays.

Soft Italian Biscotti on a baking sheet with icing and nonpareils from themerchantbaker.com

If you love a good iced vanilla cookie, this recipe is for you.  Once you try this soft, tender cookie,

Soft Italian Biscotti broken in half showing the inside on a plate with a glass of milk from themerchantbaker.com

you’ll agree that it’s definitely different than all the “others.”

 

Italian Biscotti on a plate with nonpareils from themerchantbaker.com
4.12 from 9 votes
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Italian Biscotti

Italian Biscotti. The very best recipe for this traditionally soft and tender iced vanilla cookie.

Servings 4 -5 dozen

Ingredients

For the cookie:

  • 3/4 cup salted butter 1 1/2 sticks
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the icing and decoration:

  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons or more of water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • rainbow sprinkles

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat butter for 30 seconds or until softened.
  3. Add sugars and beat until combined.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until incorporated.
  5. Add flour and baking powder and mix on low until combined.
  6. On a lightly floured surface, take a scoop of dough and roll out into a long log about 1/2" thick (about the size of your pinky finger.) You want just enough flour so that the dough doesn't stick to your surface, but you want it to hug it a little so you can roll it out. Too much flour will make the surface too slick and your dough will just slide instead of roll.
  7. Cut long roll into 5" lengths. If you have an extra bit of dough at the end that isn't long enough, just put it aside and roll with the next scoop.
  8. Take one 5" section, bring ends together and twist twice (see video.) Place on your cookie sheet about an inch and a half to two inches apart.
  9. Bake for 6-10 minutes until cookie is set and firm but not browning around the edges. Mine took about 8 minutes.
  10. Cool for a couple of minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  11. Make your icing. Mix confectioner's sugar, vanilla and enough water to get a good drizzling consistency.
  12. Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper (for easier clean up later.)
  13. Dip the top of each cooled cookie into the icing, scraping the excess off on the side of the bowl before placing onto the prepared cookie sheet.
  14. After you've dipped a few cookies, stop to add your sprinkles before the icing hardens, then continue dipping and sprinkling until all cookies are decorated.
  15. Allow icing to set.

Recipe Notes

*If you'll be packing them up to store, let icing set for a few hours until firm. Then layer between sheets of wax paper and store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or you can freeze for up to 3 months.

*Yes, I freeze them iced. I've tried freezing them without icing, but icing small plates of cookies every time I need them is too inefficient for me. You may experience some running of colors from the sprinkles into the icing, but this could happen even if you don't freeze them.

Recipe from a friend's grandmother

The Merchant Baker Copyright © 2014

 

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Andrea’

Tuesday 29th of June 2021

We make the same cookies. Sometimes …we add a little lemon juice or almond extract otherwise real authentic Italian cookies… you nail it!!! 💕 The Genna family

Ramona

Tuesday 29th of June 2021

Awww thanks, Andrea! You are so sweet! :) I posted another version of this recipe, Iced Lemon Pillow Cookies that adds that lemony flavor. We love them!

Lucia

Sunday 20th of December 2020

I followed this recipe for the Italian Biscotti exact. In fact, I checked it twice to make sure. I ended up throwing them in the trash. I noticed while making them the dough seemed very dry (and I used exactly the amount of flour it called for) but I kept kneading the dough, although it was difficult to form the rolls. When I removed them from the oven, they had no taste and whatsoever. I'm sorry but that's what happened.

Ramona

Sunday 20th of December 2020

Lucia, it's hard to know what went wrong. I've made these cookies for decades and have never had that issue. Perhaps you didn't measure the butter correctly. 3/4 of a cup is 1 and half sticks. You can see clearly in the video that the dough is not dry. 3 cups of flour with three eggs forms a moist dough. I measure my flour with a spoon and sweep method with gives me about 4.25 ounces of flour per cup. I'm so sorry it didn't work out for you. It's been one of my most requested cookies for years.

Hannah

Sunday 22nd of December 2019

I have a question. Would you be able to substitute milk instead of the water in the icing? Wouldn’t that make it creamier? I don’t want to mess the icing up so I figured I’d ask first and see if anyone has tried that before?

Ramona

Sunday 22nd of December 2019

Hi Hannah, you can absolutely use milk instead of water for the icing. I just generally use water because I feel better about leaving them out for days. I have made the icing with milk too, so use whatever you prefer.

Terry Bernstein

Tuesday 26th of February 2019

Hi my cousin gave me a similar recipe but every time I made them they were very dry. I think I may have copy the recipe incorrectly. I am looking forward to trying these. I love these cookies! Will also try using different flavors lemon, anise and almond flavorings

Ramona

Wednesday 27th of February 2019

These cookies are not the dry type. I've had plenty of those. Just insure you don't overbake them. Based on some readers comments, I did make a lemon version and they were delicious!!! I definitely want to try an anise version too.

Marie

Wednesday 19th of December 2018

These are the biscotti of my childhood. The twice cooked Biscotti are cantucci. I also have a different icing that you might like to try. This icing is also the one from my childhood. Icing 100g sugar 11/2 tablespoons water Heat the sugar and water together in a saucepan until it reaches boiling point. Pour over the biscuits. With a spatula or with your hands, gently turn the biscuits over and over until the syrup stars to cool and turn white., Be patient as this takes about 8-10 minutes.

Ramona

Wednesday 19th of December 2018

Marie, thank you for your lovely comment. I'd love to try your icing recipe. It sounds wonderful! Thank you for sharing :)

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