- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Just when I am bored with my own cooking, apathetic about the ingredients in the market and my ability to do something wonderful with them, there is this wonderful change of season. The weather turns a bit warmer, new ingredients appear and, once again, I feel excited about cooking. I want to cook for myself and for others.

This time of year it’s nice to have a gift of food on hand, not the box of chocolates, mind you, but something like orange and chocolate biscotti to take to others. It might be a hostess gift, or a get-well token, or a contribution to a morning book club meeting.

Something baked in your springtime kitchen is always welcome.

This biscotti recipe is sure to enliven your cooking repertoire, no matter how sluggish it has seemed all winter. You just need some freshly grated orange zest, a box of chocolate cake mix, almonds and a few ingredients from the pantry.

It might be a surprise to see biscotti made with cake mix, but once you see how easy they are to make, you’ll understand why they are so popular. The orange is a natural partner for the chocolate, a refreshing change of season.

Orange-chocolate biscotti with almonds

The preparation time is 15 minutes, the baking time is 30 to 35 minutes for first baking, 10 minutes for second, and the resting time in oven is 30 to 40 minutes.

1 package (18.25 ounces) plain devil’s-food cake mix

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted

2 large eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup finely chopped almonds

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1/4 teaspoon orange oil or extract, if desired

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parch ment paper and set it aside.

Place the cake mix, melted butter, eggs, flour, almonds, orange zest and orange oil, if desired, in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until well blended, 3 to 4 minutes. The dough will be thick and come together into a ball. Transfer it to the prepared baking sheet.

With floured hands, shape the dough into a rectangle about 14 inches long by 4 inches wide by ½-inch thick. Mound the dough so it is slightly higher in the center. Place the baking sheet in the oven.

Bake the biscotti rectangle until it feels firm when lightly pressed with your finger and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the biscotti cool for 10 minutes. Leave the oven on.

Cutting on the baking sheet, use a sharp, serrated knife to slice the rectangle on the diagonal into 1-inch-thick slices. Carefully turn these slices onto their sides, using the slicing knife to arrange them on the same baking sheet. Return the baking sheet to the oven.

Bake the biscotti for 10 minutes. Turn the oven off, and let the biscotti remain in the oven until they are crisp, 30 to 40 minutes more. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, transfer the biscotti to a rack, and allow them to cool completely, 2 hours. Store the biscotti in an airtight container at room temperature for up to several weeks. Makes 18 biscotti.

To share favorite cooking tips, ask questions and access Anne Byrn’s free online newsletter, go to www.cakemixdoctor.com.

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