The Right Knife for Slicing Biscotti

Yesterday I quadrupled my biscotti recipe. That’s a lot of biscotti! But I like giving them as gifts, and in this gift-giving season, a pile like this comes in handy.

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I have made these lemon-anise-almond biscotti many times, but this time I had a problem. I formed the loaves and baked them until they were firm to the touch, but I’ve got things to do, you know, so when they came out of the oven, still hot, I wanted to slice them right away.

This has been a challenge for me before, but it was worse today – as I sliced the hot loaves, every time my knife hit a larger almond piece, the piece started to break apart, especially at the edges. You don’t want this. See how some of them are full pieces and some have broken edges?

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You want full pieces. You want all full pieces. Why was this happening?? I was not using my ordinary, everyday serrated knife, the one that fits in my wooden block holder, the one I’ve been using so long that its teeth are worn down (which would surely jam up against the almond pieces and cause breakage).

Instead I was using what I consider my best serrated knife, the one I hold in reserve for special jobs. It lives in the drawer because there’s no slot for it in the wooden block. It’s hefty and shiny and has very sharp teeth (for making short work of almond pieces) and I think it was expensive. It looks expensive. (It was a gift so I can’t be sure.) I was being very careful. Okay, the loaves were still hot, but that shouldn’t matter so much.

But I can’t have broken pieces. It’s true that they would taste just as good, but c’mon, I am not going to give them as gifts. And I am not going to eat them myself (no nuts for me, and almonds are the worst). And I would feel pretty bad saying to someone Here, would you like the broken ones? Yet they seem too good for the chickens!

Then I looked at that gorgeous knife as if it’s the knife’s fault that I had this problem, and I realized: It’s the knife’s fault! It’s too fat! Heft in a knife is perhaps not always ideal. I then remembered another serrated knife that I got at the county fair decades ago, you know the kind: “This knife will slice through wood” and some guy behind a table is demonstrating the amazing strength and sharpness of a $5 knife with a plastic handle. You can hardly believe it’s that good but you see the proof for yourself. I had bought the knife. It didn’t fit in the holder either so it too lived in the drawer. And there it was.

These are the two knives side by side, the poor cousin and the rich uncle.

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Standing up on their teeth, look at the difference in their thickness. And see what a difference in the slicing!!

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That cheapo knife made perfect slices for me every time. See how each piece on this baking sheet is a full piece, like the one I’ve outlined in red, no broken edges?

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Needless to say, I was very happy I had kept the cheap one, very happy to have the right tool for this job. Bigger, heftier, pricier and stronger is not always better. Only one question remains.

What should I do with the broken pieces??

9 thoughts on “The Right Knife for Slicing Biscotti

  1. First of all, I’ll be the first to volunteer a home for your broken pieces.
    Looking at the two different knives I see that there is a big difference between the number of teeth per inch. As in woodworking with hand saws there is a difference between a rip saw and a crosscut saw. The first cuts with the grain and the second across the grain and typically has twice the number of teeth per inch. If you use a rip saw across the grain it will make a frazzled edge.
    I made your biscotti recipe once before and it was great. Next time I make it I’ll take note of which knife I use.

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  2. I’m not one to care for biscotti but I do have the same “cheap” knife in my drawer and use it all the time. It slices through anything smoothly every time. I guess way back when our thought process as sisters was the same for the purchase. Who knows, maybe we were together when we bought them. I hope all enjoy the biscotti, even the pieces.

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      • I have the same knife from the Champlain Valley Fair! Where we there together??! I do not remember. No need to say that I use it very often. Got it during my first visit to Vermont (Drew was just a little guy). However I do not use it as often as the bread knife we got in Kempten when you first visited me in 1976 (?).

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  3. So engaging, and what did you do with the broken pieces? Add them as a topping to ice cream! I’m sure they were tasty, and I agree, that the chickens would not appreciated them like your guests would, Patricia!

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