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“There is no beating grief. There is no getting over it. Yet, the beauty of grief is that it stretches your emotional bandwidth. Joy, happiness, love, compassion: The degree to which you can feel them is directly proportional to the amount of pain, grief, sadness, and devastation you have felt.” This is a quote from Beautiful Grief, a book I read recently. It came into my life at a time when I was experiencing more than my fair share of grief. I’m trying to focus on this idea of letting my grief expand my capacity for joy. Baking is where I often find joy.

One of the reasons I am grieving is the loss of my dear friend Susan Russo. I met her in the early days of blogging. She was a terrific writer and recipe developer but mostly just a wonderful person. I am trying to hold on to my happy memories of her and celebrate her with one of her recipes, Traditional Italian Almond Biscotti.

The cookies are chock full of toasted almonds, scented with vanilla and orange. The recipe makes a big batch, so there are plenty to keep and to share.

I associate many recipes with Susan—Italian American dishes of course, and ingredients like fennel and olives. Her two blog posts, one on Kitchen Window and another on her blog about biscotti capture so much of what I loved about her—the way she shared her heritage, humor, and warmth, all while caring for others. I hope these cookies bring you, and anyone you share them with, some joy.

Traditional Italian Almond Biscotti

The recipe is from Susan Russo’s mother, I’ve adapted the instructions.

Makes 36 (3/4 inch-wide cookies)

3 cups whole raw almonds
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 jumbo eggs (if you don’t have jumbo eggs, use 4 medium eggs)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 large orange (about 1 -2 teaspoons)
1 egg, lightly beaten for brushing the tops of loaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper.

Place almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.

In a large bowl, stir together the toasted almonds, sugars, cinnamon, baking powder, and flour.

In a small mixing bowl, combine 3 jumbo eggs, vanilla and orange zest and whisk until well blended. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture. Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be very sticky. Squeeze the dough and once it comes together, form a ball. Divide the ball into four equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface place one piece of dough, and roll into a log approximately 8 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 3/4 of an inch high. Repeat with the remaining three pieces of dough. Place two logs on each baking sheet. Brush the tops of the dough with the beaten egg.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing. Place a loaf on a cutting board, and using a large serrated knife, slice cookies 3/4 of an inch thick on the diagonal. If the slices crumble, then let cool a few more minutes before slicing. Place slices on their sides back on to the baking sheets; place in the still warm oven with the temperature off and the door closed for 30-60 minutes. The longer they stay in the oven,the harder they will become. Remove from oven and cool completely before storing up to one month in a tin or another air tight container.

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