I am deeply involved in Indian cooking and Indian recipes. 99 percent of the time you can find me with a clay pot and wooden paddle, my mortar and pestle and a wide range of spices, except when I'm not.
I am of Italian ancestry on both sides of the family tree and every now and then my inner Guido comes out. I can say that because I'm Italian and yes, I've seen Jersey Shore. I'm not proud of it but yes, in another life I might be walking in Jaywowws' wedgies.
Both of my grandmothers were amazing cooks, my mother does not like to cook and as I've mentioned before, constantly says that in her next house there will be no kitchen. When people ask me what my mother likes to make, I say ...reservations...Ba-dum-dum! (rim shot goes here).
I've always made Cantucci which is a rather hard Italian cookie from Tuscany (my familys' neck of the Italian woods) . It's made for dipping in Vin Santo , or coffee, or tea or whatever. Unless you have a dentist in the family, dipping is highly recommended.
A couple of months ago my husband who happens to have quite a few dentists in the family asked me if I could make him some biscotti. Ironically biscotti is something I've never made. It is however the only cookie my mother has ever made successfully. Go figure. I looked upon it as a challenge. Surely I could make biscotti if Frances could. All I needed was the right recipe.
The simple way would have been to call her up and ask her as she lives just 7 miles down our road, but I could hear her laughing in my head so I Googled biscotti instead.
I don't know if anyone here has ever Googled biscotti but the results are somewhere up there with Googling Brad Pitt naked or something. Not that I would know anything about that.
After looking at what seemed like millions of biscotti recipes (which all looked the same to me) I picked one and one day while Alan was at the dog park with The Wolf, I baked some.
They were amazing!! Evidently I'd picked the right recipe.
I fed some to Alan. The biscotti disappeared rapidly. he asked for more. I baked more,
One morning down at the Basque Boulangerie at coffee, the subject of biscotti came up. My friend Laura said that her kids loved biscotti and naan bread and she thought it would be a good idea for them to learn to make them . Could I show them how?
I've done a certain amount of showing friends how to cook Indian food over the years, so I thought, why not? I suggested we start with biscotti since it was the holiday season and there were school parties and such. On a cold December night Laura, Carson and Maeve came over. While Carson amused himself with his Gameboy in the living room, Laura and Maeve and I got down to some serious biscotti baking.
The one thing I've learned about biscotti recipes, is you don't talk about biscotti recipes. Sort of like Fight Club. There are a zillion of them and once one has settled on the basics, one can go commando from there. Sky's the limit. I told Laura and Maeve to bring whatever they wanted to put in their biscotti and we'd find a way to work it in.
The basic recipe I started with was from a website called All Recipes and was contributed by Mrs. H. Michaelsen of St Charles Illinois. Kudos to her! It's a great recipe, and an even better jumping off point. Maeve and I had a great time making these crunchy biscotti.
Here's the basic recipe we used as a starting point.
Wet Stuff :
In a large bowl, cream together with an electric beater
1.) One stick of butter
2.) One cup of sugar
When the mixture is nice and frothy add in
3.) 3 whole eggs one at a time. Make sure they're mixed in well.
Here's where we changed up.
The original recipe calls for adding 1 tsp. of vanilla or anise. We added
4.) 2 Tbs of fresh squeezed orange juice.
After that we mixed in the dry stuff
5.) 2 cups of flour
6.) the zest of one orange
7.) 2 tsp baking powder
8.) a pinch of salt
Mix these dry ingredients into your wet batter with a hand or stand mixer.
When your batter is mixed toss in
9.) 1/2 cup of chopped almonds
when chopping almonds be very careful. Especially with young hands. Meave is wearing my knife proof butchering gloves while she chops. Something I wish I'd discovered years ago. Oh well, I'll never be a hand model.
This is the part where you can get creative. You might use pistachios or rosewater or both. We made one batch with almonds and chopped dates. You might even use chocolate chips or dried cranberries. Whatever your heart desires. You are the biscotti boss. Remember, it's your world; the biscotti just live in it.
So, when you have decided and your batter is mixed, spread a cookie sheet with foil and grease the foil.
Spread your batter in two long rectangles. they should be about 12 inches long and about 3 inches across. I usually spread the batter with a teflon spreader, it works neatly and smoothly.
When your batter is spread in two columns brush them with
10.) 2 tsp of milk
Then sprinkle both columns with
11.) 1/4 cup of sugar
Bake your biscotti batter at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the cookies are nice and golden and firm to the touch.
Slide them out of the oven and lower the heat to 300 degrees.
While your oven is cooling, slip your dough rectangles onto a wire cooling rack and let them cool for 15 minutes.
Being a couple of geeks, Maeve and I used this time to catch up with our iphones and we both discovered that we had the same Black Eyed Peas ring tone. Which we'd made ourselves thank you very much. We called each other back and forth and danced around a bit.
We then took them out and turned them over so they'd cook on the other side for another 10 minutes.
After that we turned the oven off, left it slightly ajar and let the cookies and the oven both cool off together.
We then took some good valhrona chocolate...(white) and heated it briefly in the microwave .
We then dipped the cooled biscotti in the chocolate let them dry on a wire rack and they were done.
There are other ways to frost, but it was a school night so we went with quick and easy. In a flash the biscotti were packed in a convenient tin by Maeves' mom, my friend Laura.
So that was Biscotti School in my kitchen last month. Maeve has already baked a couple of batches on her own. When it comes to biscotti it's always good to remember, give a girl a biscotti and she'll dunk today. Teach a girl to bake biscotti and she'll go into the cookie business.
Maeves' next lesson will be naan bread, since it's way cheaper to bake naan for a house full of teenagers than it is to have to go out and buy it ready made. Stay tuned.