I love biscotti. There’s nothing like starting the morning with a piping hot cup of coffee alongside a crunchy slice of almond biscotti. The two seem to go hand in hand. As much as this is a habitual duo for me in the morning, I was surprised to find out that coffee is not the original beverage of choice to sip while enjoying these dry, crunchy cookie treats.
Originally from Italy’s wine country, the oblong shape of the biscotti cookie was designed to be dipped into a glass of red wine. In Italian, biscotti translates to “twice baked,” so the cookies are baked twice as long to acquire the crunchy brittle texture that is perfect for dipping. Traditionally almond flavored to complement the tannins in red wine, the popularity of coffee drinks around the world has brought about many new flavors of Biscotti. For example, walnuts, cashews, pistachios and hazelnuts are now common ingredients. Dried cranberries, chocolate chips and cherries are used to enhance the cookies that have spices added, such as cinnamon, anise or ginger. Some biscotti is dipped in dark or white chocolate to add a sweetness that is extremely palate-pleasing with coffee or hot cocoa. To find out more about this beloved savory treat I decided to locate Eugene’s well-known true Italian biscotti baker, Stanley Politi, owner of Pietra’s Artisan Bakery.
As Politi and I each sat down with a cup of coffee and a gourmet Italian almond biscotti handcrafted by Politi himself, I knew at first bite why he had acquired the nickname, “Stan the Biscotti Man.” This almond biscotti definitely stood out from others I’d had. It was a combination of sweet and salty perfection wrapped up in a delightfully crunchy cookie which exploded with the nutty flavors of roasted almonds, truly outstanding. When dipped in hot coffee, the cookie became slightly softened, and the pair was a match made in biscotti-coffee heaven.
When I asked Politi about his talent for handcrafting and baking these authentic Italian cookies, I was surprised to find out that his passion for biscotti came later in life.
“After years of writing missile technical manuals for the government, I decided to publish my own magazine named Computer Currents,” said Politi. Knowing that computers were widely becoming a staple in businesses and homes, Politi thought computer users would benefit from a magazine that focused on computers. Although he wasn’t a computer expert, his magazine was quickly a hit around the country, and he soon had over 75 employees and was distributing about 750,000 copies of Computer Currents a month to major metropolitan cities throughout the United States. Eventually, other publishers caught on, and computer magazines began to be published by numerous companies. In 1999, he sold his magazine business and decided to move to Hawaii’s Big Island.
This is when Politi tried authentic Italian biscotti for the first time, and he immediately thought, “this is amazing, I could take over the world with this!” His love for the unique taste of an authentic biscotti prompted him to start making batches of it from an on-line recipe for his family, friends and neighbors. The demand and accolades received from fans of his biscotti urged Politi to find a professional chef to teach him how to create a true, authentic Italian biscotti. Using the internet to guide him in his search for a biscotti cooking teacher, Politi discovered the International School of Baking located in Bend, Oregon where he received one on one training from a woman who had spent nine years acquiring a recipe from an Italian baker she met while visiting Italy. After learning special baking techniques and perfecting the Italian recipe for authentic biscotti, Politi headed back to Hawaii and again spoiled neighbors, friends and family with his specialty biscotti.
Years later, Politi headed back for the main land and Eugene was his destination, which brought him closer to his children and grandchildren. At age 74, Politi created Pietra’s Artisan Bakery so coffee loving Oregonian’s could enjoy the crunch and taste of an authentic Italian cookie with their beloved cappuccino’s and espresso’s.
In addition to Politi’s delicious almond biscotti, you’ll find his pistachio, pecan, flbert and almond chocolate biscotti to be equally savory. He makes chocolate dipped, chocolate covered and cocoa infused biscotti cookies which are round instead of oblong shaped, and all of his products are made with organic, all-natural and non GMO ingredients. When customers and friends suggested he make a gluten-free biscotti, Politi spent hours perfecting a recipe that’s not only gluten-free, but is as tasty and palatable as his original recipe. He also offers bags of what he calls, Krispy Krumbles, which is crumbled biscotti that can be used as toppings for ice cream, cereal, yogurt and salads. One of his products that I’m looking forward to trying is the Savory Dipper. Savory Dippers contain blue, goat and parmesan cheeses blended with ten different herbs and spices. They are perfect for dipping in tomato, vegetable or minestrone soup. You can also simply dip them into your choice of salad dressing or enjoy them with your favorite glass of wine.
Instead of having traditional retail space to bake and sell his products, Politi has developed a relationship with the owners of Wild Plum Pies off of River Road in Eugene, and he uses their commercial kitchen to create his delectable goodies. Handcrafting his products from scratch, Politi cuts each cookie by hand, bags them, and delivers them to different locations around town. A few of the retailers include Marché Provisions, Wild Plum Pies and The Kiva. Politi also participates in the Springfield Friday Farmers Market and you’ll find him at the Lane County Fairgrounds Holiday Market. This Saturday, November 12, Politi will be showcasing all of his Pietra’s Artisan Bakery specialties at the Bliss event in Crescent Village from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm, and he will have plenty of free bites for visitors to sample.
If you’re like me and habitually have a slice of biscotti in one hand while a steaming mug of coffee is in the other, you will want to experience the exquisite flavors in the authentic biscotti personally handcrafted by ‘Stan the Biscotti Man.’ My next purchase from Pietra’s Artisan Bakery will be the Savory Dippers: Savory Dipper in one hand, King Estate Pinot Noir in the other.