Biscotti al Latte Credit: Sandy Oliver / BDN

Baking season is coming right up. Since many of us, I suspect, will be sticking close to home this holiday season, baking a few batches of cookies for presents this year might be just the ticket for those of us who are feeling a little shy about spending time in stores. Even if you like baking cookies for yourself, it is lots of fun to sample other peoples’ recipes.

These little Italian cookies are just the ticket with a cup of tea, which is how I first ate them a decade or more ago when I visited in Rockland with Kristina King right around Christmas. Nothing in particular about them says “Christmas Cookie,” so really you could make a batch almost any time. While I am a fan of drop cookies, I am kind of lazy and haven’t much patience with rolling, cutting shapes and then decorating, so a semi-fussy cookie like this one appeals to me a lot.

I used grated zest of lemon and orange, but the recipe Kristina gave me allowed for extract instead. The almonds are either coarsely ground or finely chopped: it seemed just as easy to me to chop them on a cutting board.

If you form the rods on a piece of lightly floured waxed or parchment paper, you could measure off six inches and make little tick marks in pencil against which you can measure the rod of cookie dough. Or you can measure your hand to find the six inch mark. From years of knitting, I have learned that the space between the base of the palm of my hand and the second knuckle of my middle finger is six inches, convenient in case I can’t find my little ruler.

I turned all my dough into balls, then rolled them out to form rings. I find doing an action repetitively gives me a tad more consistent result from cookie to cookie.

Use a mixer, keep the dough cool and by all means line the cookie sheet with parchment paper. If you make them now and still want them for the holidays, put them in a container with a tightly fitting lid; then you don’t have to freeze them. I happen to think cookies are never improved by a trip through the freezer, so I always use tins. They don’t spoil.

It’s comforting to make cookies, even when we don’t know exactly what the world will be like when we eat them in another couple weeks.

Biscotti al Latte

Yields 7 dozen cookies

11 tablespoons butter at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon honey

3 eggs at room temperature

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Zest of ½ orange or ½ teaspoon orange extract

Zest of 1 lemon or ½ teaspoon lemon extract

3¾ cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

1½ tablespoons ground or finely chopped raw almonds

Heat the oven to 325 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Beat the remaining egg in a bowl and set aside, and put the almonds in a small bowl.

Cream together the butter, sugar and honey until light and fluffy.

Add two eggs, one at a time, and beat thoroughly.

Mix in zest or extracts, plus vanilla and milk until incorporated.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt over the batter and mix in.

On a lightly floured surface, break off pieces the size of a large cherry and roll into a six inch rod which you form into a ring with overlapping ends and lay on the baking sheet.

Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with almonds.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...