My husband and I are vastly different cooks. I’m a by-the-seat-of-your-pants gal. If something calls for a teaspoon of salt I’ll toss in a couple of pinches (and throw a touch over my shoulder for good luck). Now my husband ... if something calls for a teaspoon of salt he uses exactly a teaspoon -- not one grain more or one grain less. He should’ve been a chemist.
So when we were looking over the recipe for Biscotti di Prato (Almond Biscotti) he became concerned. The recipe calls for vanilla sugar. What is vanilla sugar? Well it seems it is sugar infused with a vanilla bean. We actually had a vanilla bean and we had sugar but we didn’t have a week to wait for this infusion to happen. My suggestion? Leave it out and just use regular sugar. Or add a touch of vanilla extract. The husband? No way, no how. We would not could not bake without the proper ingredients. And so he went to the store and bought vanilla sugar to the tune of $20.00 for 8.5 ounces!
Now the biscottis are good but I can’t honestly say - wow that vanilla sugar really makes a difference. Then again I’ve not made the recipe without it. Perhaps you can make your own vanilla sugar (which will still cost a pretty penny as vanilla beans themselves aren’t cheap). Or, and don’t tell the husband I said this, leave it out.
The recipe also calls for butter - some to spread on the pan and an additional teaspoon. I used a silpat mat instead of buttering the pan. And for the life of me I couldn’t figure out when or where the additional teaspoon of butter was supposed to be added so I left it out as well (shhhh!).
After the wet and dry ingredients were combined the dough is supposed to be kneaded until smooth. My dough was crumbly (perhaps the butter would have helped?). I used my hands to knead it into a semi-solid shape then formed the recommended biscotti "sausages" by mushing everything together. It held well enough.
They baked perfectly, sliced nicely while still warm and hardened into perfect little cookies. The yield was quite large - we had enough to eat and give away and still have some remaining (though to be honest I didn’t count the exact number of biscotti made).
These cookies taste decent when eaten on their own (if you like crunchy) but are best dipped in coffee. Then they soften perfectly but don’t fall apart and that delectable coffee flavor melds perfectly with the slightly sweet almond from the biscotti.
The recipe overall was quite simple and this is something I’ll definitely make again.
Note: I found Vanilla Sugar for sale at Amazon.com. It's less expensive than what my husband found and may be worth it if you don't want to make your own.