parmesan black pepper biscotti

Short and sweet today, like me after my morning latte — bah! If you are feeling positively sugared out but you still have days of office baked goods and well-intentioned gift bags to go, I offer up this antidote: parmesan black-pepper biscotti. Oh, it’s indulgent but in a way that is precisely 180-degrees from the half of the coconut lemon bar I did not just scarf down. (It was homemade! From scratch! I have principles, you know.) Bright and sharp, accented with mini ka-pows of black pepper, it pairs so well with red wine, eating it without may leave you with a distinct Chianti-tinged longing. Or it would if you’re a wino like me.

Please, take us both to a cocktail party, stat!

parmesan black pepper biscotti

Other sugar-free, therapeutic and refreshing crumbs:

  • Sick With Excess of Sweetness: In early 19th Century London, sugar became the world’s first consumer boycott. [Via Megnut]
  • “Long ago I learned that if I wanted to find recipes that fit a healthy lifestyle I did not need to turn to cookbooks so designated. They are often boring. They frequently include a formula that doesn’t interest me. Sometimes they are too rigid.” Marian Burros speaks my mind.

parmesan black pepper biscotti

Parmesan Black Pepper Biscotti
Adapted from Gourmet, December 2006

Makes 5 to 6 dozen biscotti.

1 1/2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
4 cups (520 grams) all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 1/2 ounces (130 grams) Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated (2 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup, 6 ounces, or 170 grams — now corrected) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup (235 ml) whole milk

Special equipment: an electric coffee/spice grinder

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Pulse peppercorns in grinder until coarsely ground.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, 2 cups cheese, and 1 tablespoon ground black pepper in a large bowl. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk 3 eggs with milk and add to flour mixture, stirring with a fork until a soft dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and quarter dough. Using well-floured hands, form each piece into a slightly flattened 12-inch-long log (about 2 inches wide and 3/4 inch high). Transfer logs to 2 ungreased large baking sheets, arranging logs about 3 inches apart.

Whisk remaining egg and brush some over logs, then sprinkle tops of logs evenly with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and 1/2 tablespoon ground pepper. Bake, rotating sheets 180 degrees and switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until logs are pale golden and firm, about 30 minutes total. Cool logs to warm on sheets on a rack, about 10 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

Carefully transfer 1 warm log to a cutting board and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices with a serrated knife. Arrange slices, cut sides down, in 1 layer on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining logs, transferring slices to sheets. Bake, turning over once, until golden and crisp, 35 to 45 minutes total. Cool biscotti on baking sheets on racks, about 15 minutes.

Do ahead: Biscotti keep in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks.

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99 comments on parmesan black pepper biscotti

  1. Verity

    Wow- these look delicious! Even though some of my hordes of guests may scoff at the thought of drinking red wine in the heat of the Australian summer, I’m pretty sure these will be gobbled up! And to ensure the integrity of the recipie – I’ll have a glass of red to fortify me through the cooking process.

    Thanks for inspiring me.

  2. Deb, those look awesome. Oh, today someone gave me a Rachael Ray casserole dish for Christmas. Now, I can and can not stand RR but this pot looks awesome. It’s heavy with deep sides and looks like it will be great for small batches of soup and stews. I’m excited to try out my new kitchen equip but I probably won’t open the box until after I move.

  3. Laura

    Deb – What a terrific blog you have! I confess that I, too (despite my cynical leanings), have become seriously addicted to Smitten Kitchen, checking in with you every morning as I sip my first cup of coffee. Beautiful photos, great prosey style, links to places I’d never have found myself. You’re what makes the internet the greatest damn thing to happen to humanity since the printing press.

  4. Truly lovely, Deb. And very Italian and easy, just the perfect combination. Plus, I can think of 100 different things to add to the basic dough… this would be lovely with chopped confit tomatoes. I´m gonna give them a try soon.

  5. ohh and bravo to that quote by Marian Burros, it´s as if diets and formulas are designed for people who don´t like food, don´t like to cook and can´t tell between something natural and something plastic without any flavor.

  6. I made these last night, and my generally picky boyfriend, Wine Guy, said, “Wow! These smell great! These taste exactly how they are suppposed to taste!,” which, coming from him, is high praise. So, thank you for the recipe :)!

  7. Jo

    Yum! Those look delicious. My mom makes a similar dish, but with oregano instead of black pepper. They are the perfect companion for a simple soup. I’ll have to try this recipe and see how it compares. thanks!

  8. sue

    Hey, Deb

    Congratulation on getting into 9rules.
    You really deserve to get in to the community. I am so jealous. :)
    You’re one of my favorite food bloggers.
    Merry Christmas.

  9. Jackie

    Excellent recipe, this will go into my cookbook. I’ll be serving these with marinara sauce for Christmas Eve, and I’ll give you the credit you deserve! Merry Christmas!

  10. Okay, I just have to say, that when these come out of the oven still in “breadstick” form, before they’re sliced and made into the lovely biscotti, they are almost dead-on for consistency for those amazing garlic-paremsan biscuits they serve at Red Lobster. I’m going to experiment a bit with different cheese and maybe a bit of garlic, but this recipe is quite multi-purpose!

  11. Yummy, that’s my kind of biscuits, I love savoury bits! allthough I sell mostly sweet specialities. Recipe, posted to me this morning, from a very dear German friend of mine, I’ll be making them……….. TONITE!!
    Thank you
    P.S. Fab web site, I’ll be back for more

  12. Jenna

    Oh these look deeelish. Going to make them tonight to go with my homemade creamy tomato soup. Great site, love the recipes and fabulous photos.

  13. Micha

    Most delicious! I am doing them right now and will take them with hummus as a small “Mitbringsel” for the birthday party of a good friend. Thanks for the recipe! I am sure it’s going to be a huge hit this evening.

  14. Allie

    I made these biscotti yesterday afternoon so my boyfriend and I will have an easy breakfast to grab before running out the door this week. I decided to amp up the flavor a bit and add garlic. They seemed to take longer to cook than the recipe suggested, but perhaps my over is a bit slower. They are delicious and addictive!

  15. Susan

    I made these today and am sipping some Pinot and nibbling on one of these as I review them here. I love these. You were so right about them being perfect with a glass of wine. The pepper leaves just a nice warmth in the aftermath making them perfect to accompany alone with a good hearty red wine. They were simple (a big biscuit, really), easy to slice and have outstanding flavor and texture. Thanks will be great to have available over the holidays.

  16. misswendy

    these are delish. i made them to accompany the pumpkin black bean soup. my kids really liked them. absolutely wonderful.

  17. budgetfoodie

    Just made these– must say they were a HIT. And, I definitely accidentally put too much Parm (is there such a thing??) but wow were they amazing. My roommates, who generally only eat Lean Cuisine and Light Soup, have eaten so many of these I’m afraid I won’t have any for the week.

    Paired with my Nonny’s simple but delish lentil/sausage soup and wow. Yum.

    I <3 this blog!

  18. Sarah

    I made these as a pre-dinner nibble when the in-laws came for Easter and they were a hit – my sister-in-law couldn’t believe they weren’t shop bought! I’ll definitely be making them again.

  19. Oooh boy, this looks delicious! I made the classic almond cantucci just a couple of days ago, and am totally in love. (Of course, it also helps that I basically threw together my own recipe despite never having made them before and it worked perfectly – I’m ridiculously proud ;) )
    One question remains, though… my almond biscotti are hard as rocks, and in my opinion they should be, as you’re supposed to dunk them. These ones, though… the recipe sounds as if they’d turn out just the same, but I can’t see myself dunking cheese cookies in a nice glass of Chianti! Help, please? Deb, anyone? How are they supposed to be eaten? Or do they turn out completely different? I’d love to make them for our Christmas dinner (my family, including me, is starting to get tired of all those sweet cookies…)!

  20. Linda Roe

    My house smells heavenly of Parmesan and Pepper!!

    I used Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese rather than regular parmesan…Not quite as sharp a flavour. Love the afterburn of the pepper…. Absolutely would not hesitate to dunk into a glass of red wine.

    Want to use Whole Wheat flour for my next batch…and perhaps even more cheese in the dough. I nearly doubled the amount of cheese called for in the recipe….but I’m a cheese freak, so more and different flavours would be fun to play with.

    Thanks, Deb, for your great ideas here!

    Next on my list is your Big Crumb Coffee Cake. : )

  21. These biscotti are great when served with cocktails or sparkling white or rosé wine, vegetable antipasti or Mediterranean-flavored soups or salad.

  22. Kelly

    Hi Deb!
    I;m excited to make these and am planning on serving them for a Thanksgiving appetizer but I was wondering about the rack spacing in the oven…do you rotate the trays between the upper and lower third?

  23. Tig

    Hi Deb…I know many ask you about freezer or no freezer. I’d like to make these for a cocktail party that is in 2 weeks. Would you recommend baking them and freezing to preserve the freshness or do you think that they will be OK in a sealed container rather than in the freezer. I know that the recipe says they keep for two weeks but I am wondering how much of their freshness they lose. If you – or anyone that has made these – has any thoughts on this I’d really appreciate it. Thanks!

  24. Sue

    I have been all over the internet looking for something tasty to make as an appetizer for a dinner party I am having soon. These will be perfect! Thank you, I can’t wait to try them.

  25. Dina

    Hii Deb, I wanted to ask you about the cheese, is it fresh Parmigiano or the one that is already grated you know like kraft or something?
    thank you

    1. deb

      I usually grate my own; I think it has better flavor. If you can find real grated Parmesan with no other ingredients in it, no reason not to use it instead.

  26. Heather

    Quibble- These are delicious, but took an additonal HOUR of oven time over what was recommended in the recipe. My oven may be old and slow, but its not that slow and I think the initial cooking time should be closer to 45 minutes, instead of 30. Other than the baking frustration they are wonderful! I am going to spread a little home made pesto on them and bake for about 10 minutes tonight for a “fancy” hors d’oeuvres this evening. Thank you for the recipe.

  27. Tamaraleah

    For months I’ve been following this website – the content is great and the comments from other users are very helpful.

    Given the rave reviews of these biscotti I just had to try them for a Christmas Eve party.

    They are amazing and such a nice treat with a glass of wine! But the one issue that I have is that they don’t remain dry biscotti (like sweet biscotti) – they get soft even when I store them for a couple of days in an air tight container. I let them cool completely before putting them in. I also tried to dry them out before serving them by putting them in the oven for 10 minutes.

    What happened? Or is this the way they are supposed to be?

    1. deb

      Tamaraleah — I’m not sure, huh. Mine stayed crisp but I had them in a tin so it was not fully airtight. However, most things soften a bit at room temperature in airtight containers, especially cookies, which these are closest to in formula.

  28. Cathy

    I made these for appetizers for our big Italian Christmas. (We’re not Italian, we do a different cuisine every year). They were terrific! We had homemade Lemoncello and the pepper bite was perfect with it. As it was the red wine. This goes into the permanent file. Thanx!

  29. Sarah M

    Hi Deb– Just a heads up, I think that the link regarding Jocelyn’s favorite food is dead… just playing a round of my favorite game– “Surprise Me!” on SmittenKitchen :)

    1. deb

      Hi Sarah — Thanks. There are a lot links like that throughout the site because most blogs don’t seem to last that long and eventually get taken down! Their loss! Blogging is fun. ;)

  30. Priyanka

    Hi Deb! These look fantastic! I currently do not own a spice/coffee grinder (on my Christmas list!). Can I just use fresh ground pepper?

  31. Rebekah

    Hi Deb!

    This is a strange question, but I don’t have access to whole milk where I am. I have access to that distilled, demi-creme milk. A lot of the baked recipes I want to try on your site call for whole milk-I’ve been skipping these recipes mainly, but do you recommend any alternatives? So many of them (such as this one) seem delicious-I don’t know what’s best to substitute-soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk…? the former don’t have a comparable fat content to whole milk, and the latter has a distinct coconut flavor that I don’t want to compromise the taste too much with.

    Should I just stick to the tried and true recipes that don’t call for milk?… or is it worth experimenting?


    1. deb

      Hi Rebekah — I am unfamiliar with distilled, demi-creme milk. Can you tell me more about it? There isn’t a hard and fast rule for substituting other things for milk; it’s best to go on a recipe-by-recipe basis. In many cases, using authentic milk isn’t as important as it seems. In others, such as a custard, things that are not real milk can be trickier. I suspect that almond milk might work here. It might even be fun to play with using a portion of wine instead of the milk; I think here it’s more about using a tasty liquid than the aspects that milk proteins provide.

  32. Grace Bender

    Deb, I have a question regarding the gruyere, rosemary sea salt crisps. Dough was too dry and didn’t hold together to roll out. What do you suggest? I followed recipe. Looked like someone else mentioned adding an egg, I am not sure this is right, water? Pled advise. They are great but need your help!

    1. deb

      Grace — I’m sorry they didn’t come together for you. Two tricks: make sure you’re very lightly packing your flour measurements (spoon and sweep). Also, the instructions would be better off if they said “Run the machine until the dough comes together.” This could be another 30 seconds, but it will. (Promise.) If you’re still having trouble, use a tablespoon less flour next time. I wouldn’t add an egg, personally.

  33. Anna Wisner

    oh-my-heavens, made a 1/2 batch of these and they are so good. Now I know why ancient Rome went bankrupt buying all that black pepper from India!!!

  34. Emma G


    Thank you.

    I made these to go with my homed chutneys and chilli jellies as Christmas presents, and don’t want to give them away now I’ve tasted them.

    I had an extra egg in, as I didn’t read the recipe properly, and used pecorino instead of parmesan – still great.

    Fab blog Deb, I could lose hours in your recipes.

    Your work is beautiful, your obsession admirable!


  35. Yeah, I found it, knew you would have a savory biscotti recipe. The author of Aftertaste ( great novel by the way), served us a savory biscotti and had a cheese spread on top with a drizzle of fig jam( pairing sweet and savory). Could you suggest a recipe for this? She said you could use any jams or as Emma mentioned jellies or chutneys too.

    Looking forward to hearing from you. Claire

  36. “Pulse peppercorns in grinder until coarsely ground.” What, serously? Now who doesn’t have a pepper grinder lol?! These look great. I’m going to be attempting a gluten-free version with soy milk. Will let you know how they come out.

    1. Sarah

      it’s because its a very large quantity of pepper and you want it ground coarser than a pepper mill will give you. Grinding it too fine will make the flavor much stronger, so if you use a pepper mill, use less pepper.

  37. Cair

    Wondering what would happen if I substituted whole wheat pastry flour for the all purpose? I’m on a 3-week no white flour challenge and these are speaking to me.

  38. Charlotte in Toronto

    I made these this past weekend. Fantastic. Washed down with a light summer red. I keep checking your Instagram looking for news of the new arrival. I hope all goes well.

  39. barbara c

    Making these — and very excited to be doing so because they sound terrific — but I bought already-grated parm (just parm, no other ingredients) and 4 1/2 oz. measures about 1 1/4 cups. Yikes! Now what? When you grate the cheese, Deb, how finely are you grating it? It is powdery?

  40. Bill

    Very Nice!
    I made this wonderful biscotti recipe for a Christmas Eve gathering. I grouped them with, cheese, cheese spreads and fresh fruit. I did add extra cheese and fresh basil between the baking.
    They were amazing! Thanks.

  41. Gail Johnson

    These are delicious and easy to make. I make these for our annual Christmas party, they’re a hit. To make them slightly more bite size I cut them straight across rather than diagonally. Wonderful with a glass of red wine! Thanks for this great recipe.

  42. Tammi Van Volkinburgh

    Deb, any chance you would convert these measurements into weights instead of volume, like many of your other recipes? It is so much easier to have a successful bake that way!

  43. Mark

    I made these and baked according to the directions, but they didn’t get as crisp as I was hoping. My oven heats regularly, could it be the milk that made this soft? Thanks for the recipe!

  44. Beth

    Hi Deb, I love your food guidance and recipes!
    I made these today and my husband loves them! I prefer the ginger biscotti recipe but I have a major sweet tooth.
    I believe you have the weights incorrect for the butter. I was using my scale and 340 grams or 12 ounces is 3 sticks of butter, not a stick and a half. Just wanted to let you know.
    I really appreciate you site!

    1. Sammy

      I hope this gets clarified soon as I hope to make them using the correct amount of butter. I don’t usually weigh things so would have not caught this. Did all the reviewers use 1 1/2 sticks successfully?

    2. TriciaPDX

      The 340 grams is 1 1/2 *cups*, which is clearly a typo. The recipe also says 1 1/2 sticks, 3/4 cup and 12 ounces, all of which are the same amount. I’m going with 3 out of 4 measurements and using 1 1/2 sticks!

      1. deb

        Whoops! 1.5 sticks of butter = 3/4 cup (most American “sticks” of butter are 1/2 cup or 4 ounces), or 6 ounces (by weight), 170 grams. Now fixed — and thanks for bringing it to my attention.

        1. Sammy

          Thank you – I didn’t want to seem rude and contradict another who was just trying to help but had the ounces wrong all the same. I’m now going to try this.

  45. Katrina

    Wow! Just wow! I am more inclined to eat savory snacks than sweet but have a love of baking…it’s the closest I get to meditation! Typically I make a batch of cookies or bars which I have no interest in eating and my husband, after eating half of them, insists that I take them to work.
    As you can imagine, these biscotti will not be going to the office! I followed the recipe exactly (as I do first time out) and they were perfect. The dough was VERY soft when I dumped it onto the counter and I was a little concerned that it would be unmanageable, but, with a little flour, it was fine. Despite changing shelves in the oven, one tray was a little less crisp than the other, but my husband preferred that batch. Yum!

  46. Lindsay

    Hi – has anyone tried freezing these – either as dough or as finished biscotti? It would be wonderful to have these available to cut and bake or thaw and serve as needed.

    1. deb

      I haven’t. I do think they’d freeze well but I wonder if it might be nice to freeze them before the second bake, so you can still have them warm when you serve them.

  47. Lindsay

    Hi – Thanks Deb for fixing the butter weight issue, but I have another ingredient weight measurement question. I weighed out 4 1/2 ounces (130g) of parm, finely grated it, and it is exactly 1 1/4 cups – not 2 1/2. Trying to figure out which amount I should go with – the weight or the measure. Has anyone else run into this?? I’m making them now so will judge by the dough, but am I the only one who’s run into this??

  48. Lindsay

    Hi – Thanks Deb for answering my “what about freezing them” question. I’ve just completed the first bake and am going to give refrigerating some to bake fresh for a dinner party tomorrow night and freezing the rest to bake next week. Will post when I know how they come out.
    I do have another ingredient weight measurement question. I weighed out 4 1/2 ounces (130g) of parm, finely grated it, and it is exactly 1 1/4 cups – not 2 1/4. Has anyone else run into this?? I usually work with ingredient weight, but went ahead and used the 2 1/4 cups here. The dough seemed to be the right consistency, so I’m thinking that was the right decision. Hope so!

    1. deb

      I find it almost impossible to get the same weight on a cup of parmesan twice — it’s about the size of the box grater holes or if you’re using a Microplane rasp (don’t, please) etc. That said, 2 ounces is on the low side but I presume a Microplane rasp was involved. It’s usually more like 4 ounces on the small holes of a box grater.

      1. Lindsay

        I did exactly that – froze them on a cookie sheet after the first bake then popped them into a ziplock bag. I take them out as needed and do the second bake, adding a few minutes to each side and they come out perfectly! A new freezer staple!!

  49. CHR

    My dough seemed dry &, when I formed the logs, they showed some cracks. I had to press the dough together quite a bit, to minimize the cracks. Should the dough be moister? If so, next time I’ll add a couple of extra tablespoons of milk or water. Also, my biscotti (which did end up looking like Deb’s with regard to thickness) took closer to 55 minutes to dry & crisp. I upped the temp to 325 for the last 5+ minutes, which helped. Wonder if reducing the oven temp to 325 instead of 300 would be okay for future tries on this recipe. All that said, in the end, the biscotti did turn out well and are very good. Thanks, in advance, for any opinions/answers.

  50. CHR

    One additional question. Are these biscotti meant to be quite crisp? Mine were not particularly so, and I’m wondering what the end result should have been expected. Deb, if you update this recipe, a few additional photos of the process would be very helpful.

  51. Jenny

    I made these last night, halving the recipe to try them out. They came out very dry, more like crostini. Per my biscotti recipe from Il Fornaio – which I’ve made successfully umpteen times – the first bake is 15-20 minutes and the 2nd (at 350) for 10 mins. It also uses 2 cups of flour, 1 t baking powder and 1/4 tsp baking soda for 4 logs. They are still delicious! but next time around, I am using less flour and less time in the oven.
    Thanks Deb for all that you do!

    1. Jenny

      I made these last night, halving the recipe to try them out. They came out very dry, more like crostini. Per my biscotti recipe from Il Fornaio – which I’ve made successfully umpteen times – the first bake is 15-20 minutes and the 2nd (at 350) for 10 mins. It also uses 2 cups of flour, 1 t baking powder and 1/4 tsp baking soda for 4 logs. They are still delicious! but next time around, I am using less flour and less time in the oven.
      Thanks Deb for all that you do!

      1. Jenny

        Oops. Meant to recant ALL of the above! I took them to an outdoor gathering and they were a hit. So what do I know? And I have found biscotti recipes with the same timing on cooking. I’m still going to try with a shortened time and compare. Phew.

  52. Fiona Coombes

    I ended up with very peppery biscotti – my error for using Australian tablespoon measure (20 ml) and grinding the pepper too finely. They were still very nice but too hot for some eaters.

  53. Ailsa Crawford

    Golly, these biscotti are good. They are so very addictive and they taste so good and I could easily eat them all! I really am trying not to, but they are right up my alley. Lots of pepper and the Parm is just right. Just enough heat on my lips to encourage me to reach for another. Which I just did! Deb, you have the most wonderful recipes. Thank you and thank you again and again.

    1. Christine Russell

      Joan– I used store-bought grated Parm, & 4 1/2 oz. of that equalled about 1 1/4 c. That’s the amount I used, & it seemed enough.

  54. CHR

    So, made these wonderful biscotti again, and have the same question that I wrote on 12/7/20. They get hard, but not to the point of truly crisp, which we prefer. We have toasted them in the toaster oven, which works, but I’m wondering if they can simply be baked longer (how much?) to achieve the extra crispiness we seek. Any advice?

  55. Susan Weiller

    Can the dough be made in a food processor? It seems pretty straightforward to do so. Is there a reason you suggest doing it by hand?

  56. Bridgit

    I just made these as part of teacher appreciation gifts. They’re delicious and perfect for a teacher who loves savory things! I shredded the cheese, pecorino, Romano, in the food processor, and made the dough in there as well, Using about a third whole wheat flour. I cut them about a quarter inch thick and stood them up for the second bake. Lovely. I can certainly make them again.