Desserts · North African · Uncategorized

Coffee Break Nomnoms – Arshella (Almond-Anise Biscotti)

Lattes, cappucinos and tea are essential parts of my life. I need at least one of these each day and it has nothing to do with a caffeine fix. Unfortunately, caffeine does absolutely nothing for me. However, the act of holding and leisurely sipping a warm cup of something is so comforting that I need the experience daily. It’s even more lovely when there is a friend to chat with over that warm cup of goodness. But when a friend isn’t available, a delicious piece of arshella (almond-anise biscotti) is nice too. My mother always keeps a container of arshella in her pantry, so I have some nostalgia involved as well!

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I’m not sure what the origin of this specific recipe is or even where the name arshella originates. All I know is that this version that my mother makes is Middle Eastern in origin. (I should just ask her where she got the recipe, lol.) What is important to know is that arshella is just another name for biscotti. And as we learned from Shakespeare, a “rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” the same goes for arshella and tasting just as delicious. Biscotti, as most of you already know, is Italian and originates in the city of Prato. Biscotto for singular and biscotti for plural. Just to confuse you, biscotti is actually called cantuccino/cantuccini in some regions of Italy! Apparently, the leading manufacturer in Prato from way back when was called “Biscottificio Antonio Mattei,” and the sign had their name printed in large font and below it was written “manufacturers of cantuccino.” So the name biscotti was taken from this sign!

Arshella

 

These beauties are so easy to make and require two trips into the oven. The first trip is to bake it, the second is to dry it in order to give it a nice crunch and allow it to hold up when dipped in your tea or coffee. Nothing is worse than having your arshella crumble and fall apart into your warm beverage, giving each sip a sopping mess of crumbs. So that second baking step to dry it is well worth the extra effort! And when these are ready, they are beautiful and guests always ask me where I buy them because they look like something you pick up in a bakery or coffee shop. The first time I served them to my husband was when he had a friend over for tea and his friend asked him if his wife (aka me) made them. My husband, having no idea what I was up to that morning while he was at work, told him that I bought them at a bakery! After his friend left, my husband asked me which bakery sells them because his friend wants to buy some and has never seen them in any bakery in Germany. I was so furious that he gave credit to a bakery and not me! My husband tried to soothe my ego by explaining that they looked so “professional,” he didn’t think they were homemade. This statement didn’t help the situation, lol. I made him text his friend with a correction.

Full disclosure: I halved my mother’s original recipe because many people find 5 cups of flour daunting in a recipe and I did not want to discourage anyone from trying this. If you love biscotti, double this recipe! It keeps well in an airtight container for well over a month or so.

Ingredients (24-30 pieces):

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 4 eggs (3 whole eggs and 1 egg separated)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon anise seeds
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Sesame seeds or sliced almonds 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, mix the oil, sugar, 3 whole eggs and 1 egg white (keep that yolk for later in this recipe!). Since we don’t believe in using unnecessary dishes in our household,  add the flour, ground almonds, anise seeds and baking powder to the same bowl with the oil/sugar/egg mixture.

 

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Mix well. Since this is a very thick dough, I initially start mixing the dough with a dinner fork. Once it starts getting hard to mix, I wash my hands and then use one hand to mix the dough until it is mixed well. When the dough is ready, it will be quite thick and sticky.IMG_4120.JPG

Next, grease a baking sheet with some oil. Wet your hands with cold water and scoop up half the dough and form a loaf about 3 inches wide and place on one side of your greased cookie sheet, feel free to shape it further once on the baking sheet. Re-wet your hands and form a second loaf, then place on the other side of the baking sheet. Do your best to leave at least 3 inches between the two loaves on your baking sheet. Keep in mind, the dough will spread about 1 inch on each side while it bakes. Note: In the pictures below, my baking sheets are tiny because I have a tiny European oven (it’s just shy of 2/3rds of an American oven!), so my loaves are closer to 4 inches wide. It doesn’t really matter, you’ll just have bigger arshella pieces!

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Using a pastry brush, or your hand if that’s your style, gently coat the entire surface of the loaves with egg yolk. Sprinkle your choice of either the sliced almonds or the sesame seeds over the loaves. I prefer the sliced almonds as they look so lovely once the arshella is baked and it adds a toasted almond flavor as well!

Bake for 30 minutes, or until gold brown, in the center of the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from the oven, leave the oven set to 350F and after allowing the arshella to cool for 5-10 minutes, carefully slice the arshella into 1-inch slices. I like to use a serrated knife for this step; it’s easier to cut the arshella with a serrated knife than with a straight-edged knife, which could actually crumble the surface of the arshella.

Gently slide a thin, metal spatula under the sides of each loaf to loosen the arshella to ensure it won’t stick to the baking sheet when you remove the pieces one by one. Once the bottom has been loosened from the baking sheet, carefully remove the first piece on the edge of the loaf. And be careful, the baking sheet and the arshella are still hot! It’s okay if this first pieces crumbles, it does half the time for me. Place the piece on an empty baking sheet. Next, take your spatula and place it between the next two pieces of arshella. Gently push the piece of arshella away from the loaf and carefully lift it and place on the other baking sheet. Repeat until you have removed all pieces of arshella and placed them on a baking sheet. You will probably need two baking sheets in order to lay them out flat.

Now, it is time to dry these beauties! Place the baking sheets back into the oven for 15 minutes at 350F. Then remove them from the oven and using a spatula and a fork or some small tongs, gently flip over each piece.  The arshella is very hot, so I do not recommend you use your fingers to flip them…although I know many people who do! Place the baking sheets back in the oven for another 15 minutes. Then turn off your oven and remove the arshella and allow it to cool. Once it has cooled, store the arshella in an airtight container. Don’t forget to set aside a piece or two to enjoy with your tea or coffee!

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Arshella (Almond-Anise Biscotti

  • Servings: 24-30 pieces
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

A delicious twice-baked cookie with a delicate almond flavor and subtle hints of licorice from the anise seeds. Perfect for dipping in a cup of tea or coffee.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 4 eggs (3 whole eggs and 1 egg separated)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon anise seeds
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Sesame seeds or sliced almonds (for the topping)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a large baking sheet with oil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the oil, sugar, 3 whole eggs and 1 egg white (keep that yolk for later in this recipe!). Add the flour, ground almonds, anise seeds and baking powder to the same bowl with the oil/sugar/egg mixture. Mix well.
  3. Wet your hands with cold water and scoop up half the dough from the bowl. Quickly, form a loaf about 3 inches wide and place on one side of your greased cookie sheet, feel free to shape it further once on the baking sheet. Re-wet your hands and form a second loaf, then place on the other side of the baking sheet. Do your best to leave at least 3 inches between the two loaves on your baking sheet. Keep in mind, the dough will spread about 1 inch on each side while it bakes.
  4. Gently coat the entire surface of the loaves with egg yolk. Sprinkle your choice of either the sliced almonds or the sesame seeds over the loaves.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until gold brown, in the center of the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from the oven, leave the oven set to 350F and after allowing the arshella to cool for 5-10 minutes, carefully slice the arshella into 1-inch slices using a serrated knife.
  6. Gently slide a thin, metal spatula under the sides of each loaf to loosen the arshella to ensure it won’t stick to the baking sheet when you remove the pieces one by one. Once the bottom has been loosened from the baking sheet, carefully remove the first piece on the edge of the loaf. And be careful, the baking sheet and the arshella are still hot! It’s okay if this first pieces crumbles, it does half the time for me. Place the piece on an empty baking sheet. Next, take your spatula and place it between the next two pieces of arshella. Gently push the piece of arshella away from the loaf and carefully lift it and place on the other baking sheet. Repeat until you have removed all pieces of arshella and placed them on a baking sheet. You will probably need two baking sheets in order to lay them out flat.
  7. Place the baking sheets back into the oven for 15 minutes. Then remove them from the oven and using a spatula and a fork or some small tongs, gently flip over each piece.  Be careful, the pans and the arshella are very hot.Place the baking sheets back in the oven for another 15 minutes. Then turn off your oven and remove the arshella and allow it to cool. Once it has cooled, place the arshella in an airtight container.

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