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For many years, the word “biscotti” conjured up images in my mind of brittle, roof-of-the-mouth-ruining, stale cookies that were flavored mainly by the same nasty anise spice that makes everyone avoid the black jelly beans. I’m not alone — these oft-maligned cookies certainly don’t receive the reverence that other similar baked goods receive in most circles of this country. The thing is, however, that most people — including myself, until recently — have never had fresh, well-made biscotti.

Recently I was lucky enough to get a tasting of these treats from Laura’s Biscotti, a small, independent business based out of Malvern that sells homemade biscotti and granola. Though all biscotti have a somewhat brittle texture due to the twice-baked nature of their baking, Laura’s are more crumbly than crunchy, which creates a light and airy feeling as you eat them. Dunk them in some coffee, and they get even better.

Of the flavors I tried, brown butter pecan was my favorite — its buttery, nutty flavor is the perfect foil to an afternoon cappuccino. These actually reminded me a bit of grandma’s spritzgebäck butter cookies — a holiday treat in my family and noble company for any comparison. The chocolate pistachio were also excellent — and another example of Laura’s brilliance with flavor pairing. For traditionalists, Laura does offer an almond anise flavor, but you’ll have to taste test those on your own. As for me, I’m lining up next to try the dark chocolate fig (year-round) and pumpkin spice (fall only). Other flavors include Cherry Pistachio, Peanut Butter Chocolate, Ginger, Cranberry Orange Walnut, Lavender Lemon and Caramel Apple Walnut.

Laura also offers two varieties of homemade granola – Dad’s original (based on her dad’s recipe) for the hard-core granola, and vanilla, which is a bit sweeter (though not nearly as much as the stuff you find on supermarket shelves) and fruitier.

The story of how Laura’s got started is rather amusing; its about as backwards a story as you’ll hear. She was working at Caffe Craze in the Malvern train station a few years back, and she brought some homemade biscotti to the owners of the just-opened Restaurant Alba to welcome them to the neighborhood. Chef Sean Weinberg liked them so much, he asked her if she could make them to serve as part of their dessert menu. From there, Laura began to develop flavors and has slowly grown the business over time. (Let this be a lesson to you youngsters out there — a little neighborly courtesy could change your life!)

Laura’s Biscotti are now available online and at many local establishments including Burlap & Bean in Newtown Square, Caffe Craze and Worrell’s Butcher Shop in Malvern, Carlino’s in WC and Ardmore, and Talula’s Table in Kennett. For ordering details and a full list of retail stores, visit her how to buy page.

Recently I’ve been speaking with a variety of food-based small business owners, and I always tend to ask them what their “secret” is. Interestingly, most of them tend to look confused at the question, and Laura was no exception. She couldn’t really think of one — so here’s my take: folks like Laura don’t really have a secret per se; they simply use good ingredients, and put their heart and soul into small batches of the food they create. This isn’t rocket science — it’s baking. Simplicity plus love equals quality.

Originally posted in 2011 on Main Line Dine