Sunday, June 13, 2010

Biscotti Hottie

My mother is a phenomenal cook (I bet she's humbly scoffing as she reads that statement, but don't let her fool you). I was one of those kids that led a rather charmed, Leave It to Beaver-esque existence when it came to the home she made for us all. Home-cooked meals, cookies made from scratch, beautifully decorated dining tables... basically she's a kind of Martha Stewart/Julia Child hybrid, but even more awesome, if you can imagine. Although seemingly scattered at times, and always modest, she manages to perfectly orchestrate meals--whether they are for four or fourteen--down to the last, votive-lit detail. This is a photo of a dessert table that she just "whipped up" for an open house we had over Christmas. No big deal, right?

I truly wish I could say that I take after my mom in the culinary department, but in reality, cooking stresses me the heck out. First of all, give me something hot to handle and I will burn myself, it's just a question of how badly--on a scale of 1 to instantaneously bubbling, how bad is it? Second, if I have to time the completion of multiple dishes at once, I go manic. I start yelling at vegetables and forget to wear oven mitts (again, going back to the burning thing... not pleasant). Picture the frenzied pace of Iron Chef but instead of having a legitimate reason to be frantic, like on-the-fly desserts made with truffled buffalo pâté, I'm just trying my darndest to pan-fry a chicken breast.

The one exception to my kitchen conundrum is this: I somehow manage to fair better when it comes to baking. Before you try to tell me that baking is cooking, let me stop you: BAKING IS NOT THE SAME THING AS COOKING A MEAL. I cannot be convinced otherwise. Many have tried, all unsuccessfully.

When I bake, I can focus on one thing at a time. Oven on. Mix the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients. Combine. Stir until your arm falls off. Bake. Cool. Munch. There's no guess-work in baking; no "for heaven's sake, does this need more salt? DOES IT?!"; no having to keep things warm while you're waiting for the other stuff to hurry-the-heck-up and cook already; no working with raw meat--yucka! Yes, Dr. D is a much better cook than I, so best to stick with what I'm good at.

Last weekend, in a fit of ambition (and after witnessing my husband glance listlessly into his morning coffee and mumble a wish for something sweet to go with it), I decided to try my hand at biscotti. I didn't think it would be possible to make Dr. D love me any more than he already does, but I may have achieved just that with this simple recipe. I even earned a new nickname; Dr. D, with a mouth-full of warm almond cappuccino chocolate chunk biscotti, dubbed me his "biscotti hottie."

Just in case anyone wanted to give it a go, I'm including the recipe below. A word of warning, however: the recipe calls for parchment paper to bake the loaves on. If you're a baking newb like me, you're probably like "huh?" Yeah, I had no idea what it was either. Dr. D was so excited about the prospect of fresh biscotti that he made a special trip to the grocery store for me to track down this elusive baking item, and after no success finding it on the shelves, he managed to charm one of the workers in their bakery into lending us some (and when I say "some" I mean 1 sheet--this stuff must be hard to come by!). I plan to go to a larger store in the near future and see if I can stock up, because this is only the biscotti beginning for us :)

Toasted Almond Cappuccino Biscotti with Chocolate Chunks

3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
2 cups flour
1 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 cup espresso or strong coffee, cooled
1 tablespoon milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

In a small bowl, whisk together the espresso (or coffee), milk, eggs, and vanilla. In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, & spices until combined. Gradually add wet mixture and beat until dough forms, adding morsels about halfway through. With floured hands divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface roll each half into a log about 10 inches long and 2 inches wide, and transfer to parchment paper lined baking sheet, spacing 3 inches apart. Pat down slightly. Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees, then let cool for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees, slice the loaves on a diagonal (about 3/4 inch wide slices) and bake slices for 5 minutes on each side or until pale golden. Serves approximately 30 slices.


Dr. D said...

In my opinion, this biscotti should be classified as a schedule 2 controlled substance and require a triplicate prescription. Yeah, it's that good.

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