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The holiday season is just around the corner. It is the time of year when even the most reluctant home cook begins to think about creating something special. For most cooks, that means baking. Here is an idea that's perfect for the holidays, an easy-to-make cookie that is traditional and yet is now very much in fashion again -- Italian biscotti.

Biscotti, famous for their distinctive crunch, are twice-baked cookies. They are fun to make, even for the once-a-year baker. There are many variations on biscotti.

Dried apricot-pistachio biscotti are perfect for kids with a tall glass of milk when they arrive home from school. Or biscotti easily can be packaged as a deliciously charming home-baked gift.

One great convenience of biscotti for the busy cook is that they can be baked ahead of time. Dried apricot-pistachio biscotti can be stored in an air-tight container, in a cool, dry place for up to a week.

1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
5 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 c. roughly chopped dried apricot halves
1 c. shelled natural pistachios
1 tsp. granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly butter a large baking sheet. In food processor, combine first 5 ingredients. Pulse to blend. Add butter and vanilla; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add eggs and pulse 3 times to blend. Add apricots and pistachios; pulse just until mixture is evenly moistened.

Transfer mixture to large bowl; with hands form into dough. Divide dough in half. On lightly greased baking sheet, shape dough into 2 (12 inch) logs. With hands flatten each log to a width of 2 inches. Sprinkle each with remaining sugar. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove logs to cooling rack for 10 minutes. With a serrated knife, carefully cut logs on the diagonal into 1/2 inch slices. Place on baking sheet cut side up; return to oven and bake 7 minutes or until very lightly browned. Transfer to rack; cool completely.

Makes 2 dozen biscotti.

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