A traditional recipe for double baked olive oil cookies with almonds. These biscotti are tender, crunchy, delicious, and naturally vegan!
Cretan almond biscotti!!! These are my favorite cookies, and I’ve been waiting for some time now to share this recipe with you! Did you think that biscotti (or cantuccini) are only made in Italy? Of course not! Cretan people have their own recipe for double baked olive oil cookies which, I dare to say, is even tastier than the classic recipe you may know. And as most Cretan traditional recipes, it is unbelievably easy, since it doesn’t require a mixer or other kind of fancy equipment, not to mention a whole lot healthier because it’s made with olive oil instead of butter. All you’ll need to make them is just a bowl and a whisk. And maybe not even a whisk. My grandma used to mix everything with her hand! Additionally, these biscotti are naturally vegan since they contain no eggs or any other animal products. In a way, they are a lot like this olive oil & tahini chocolate cake, but without the chocolate and the tahini 🙂
In Crete, these cookies are called “Kalorizika” which means “fortune cookies” or more accurately “good fortune cookies”. They are made as a treat for special occasions like engagements and weddings to signify the couple’s good fortune and longevity – as I’ve written in a previous post (I think this chicken soup risotto, which is also served at weddings), nuts and grains symbolize prosperity and fertility in Cretan tradition. That’s why almonds, walnuts, and rice play a major role in these kinds of celebrations.
I have to admit that it took me some time to get the recipe just right. I mean, I had my mother’s recipe, which is really delicious, but it wasn’t exactly like the awesome kalorizika you find in some traditional bakeries! But now I am able to tell you that this is the real thing! The recipe contains Raki (also known as tsikoudia or tsipouro), a spirit which comes from byproducts created from the wine making process. After the grapes are pressed, all the pulp, skins and twigs are stored so that they can begin fermenting (as you see, we don’t let anything go to waste!). This pomace, as it’s called, is stored for about six weeks and when ready, it is distilled into Raki. If you’re interested, a few weeks ago I made an olive oil and oregano whole wheat bread with a sourdough starter made from fermented raisins, a procedure similar to the fermentation of pomace but on a much smaller scale!
These cookies, like most biscotti, get double baked so that they dry out and become extra crunchy. This is something that helps them keep for a long time. And I mean a LONG time! In the recipe box, I tell you that they keep well for at least 15 days, but my mother keeps them even for over a month without any problems! The double baking process is very simple. First, you form loaves, cut them up vertically without separating the pieces (just like the pictures show) and bake them as you normally would. When done, you wait for them to cool, separate the cookies into individual biscotti, lay them the one next to the other in the baking pan and bake them for a second time at a lower temperature. The second baking dries them out, making them extra crunchy! If you’d like, you can reserve some and eat them soft without baking them for a second time, but keep in mind that they will become stale after two or three days.
You can use half olive oil and half vegetable oil instead of all olive oil, for a lighter olive oil taste.
Don’t use too much flour! The more you use, the tougher they’ll get!
These biscotti keep really well! Store them at room temperature inside an airtight container for up to 15 days or more!
If you can’t find raki use grappa. If you can’t find grappa, use kirsch or vodka.
Some people like to use grounded mastic (about 2 tears) and almond extract (2-3 drops) as additional flavorings, but I usually don’t.
Super important: They are delicious dunked in hot coffee!
- 1 cup (240 grams) olive oil (or half olive and half other vegetable oil)
- 1 cup (220 grams) sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- ½ cup (125 grams) orange juice
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) Raki or Grappa (use Kirsch, or even vodka if you can’t find any)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- The zest from 1 orange
- 4 – 4½ cups (600 - 675 grams) all purpose flour, unsifted
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- About ½ cup (100-120 grams) roasted almonds, chopped or roughly processed in the food processor (measure them chopped)
- In a bowl mix together the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, and salt.
- Add the olive and mix with a whisk (or with your hand) until sugar is almost dissolved.
- Add the orange juice, raki, vanilla, orange zest, and mix to combine.
- In another bowl mix 4 cups of the flour with the baking powder and the almonds and add them to the olive oil mixture.
- Mix gently until just combined and set aside for 15 minutes to rest. Preheat oven to 356°F (180°C) and line a baking pan with baking sheet.
- After 15 minutes, you should have a soft but pliable dough that doesn’t stick to your hands. If it is sticky, add the extra flour, ¼ cup at a time, until pliable.
- Divide mixture into 4 equal parts and shape 4 cylinders, approximately 1.5 inches (4 cm) in diameter.
- Place cylinders on the pan, leaving some space between them because they will spread out a bit.
- Using a knife or another sharp object, cut each cylinder vertically (like the picture) into slices (about 0.5 inch thick) but don’t separate the pieces.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden.
- Let them cool.
- Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
- Using a sharp knife cut and separate the biscotti and lay them flat, the one next to the other, on your baking pan.
- Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until browned.
- Let on a rack to cool.
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