Bake your own delicious, dunkable biscotti

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After a childhood spent chowing down on brownies and blondies, my first order of classic biscotti — eaten in my late teens while on a summer study program in Italy — was a revelation. The sophisticated simplicity of the not-too-sweet, oblong delicacies — composed of nothing but flour, sugar, eggs and almonds — was stunning.

The tasty treats were ubiquitous in Florence that summer, but to be on the safe side, I stockpiled several very full tins in the corner of my tiny bedroom and crunched away morning, noon and night.

I was told that the word "biscotti" originated from a medieval Latin word meaning "twice-cooked." As double baking eliminates all moisture — just like it did with their ancient antecedents, the twice-baked breads Greece and Rome — these rusk-like cookies keep virtually forever.

Unfortunately, once back in the U.S., I found that outside Italy, biscotti were few and far between; to guarantee a stash always at the ready, I needed to make my own. Recipes explained that the dough for these cookies is rolled into logs, baked, sliced and then returned to the oven to dry out. After the easy process produced delicious results, gluttony spurred me on to experiment with regional varieties containing baking powder, eggs and a variety of spices, extracts and/or nuts.

Now, decades later, biscotti are common in gourmet shops across the country, but I still love to make my own for tucking away in the pantry, where, stored in lidded containers, they stay fresh for months. An added perk: Well-wrapped in foil, the raw or baked logs of dough can be frozen for even longer and the cookies handily baked off to order.

Biscotti provide an always-welcome, crunchy pick-me-up snack, and as they're bone dry, they're also ideal for dunking — traditionally in an after-dinner vin santo or a mid-morning cappuccino, but moistening in tea or even milk works just fine as well.

My family's favorite biscotti recipe is still this chocolate-ginger version that I developed for Dean and DeLuca more than 20 years ago.

Gail Monaghan is the author of five cookbooks, including her newly released "It's All in the Timing." She writes regular features for the Wall Street Journal and teaches cooking.

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