December 11, 2010
That I don’t have to plan everything down to the last detail. That no one actually cares if my kitchen floor is immaculate (it’s not, in case you were wondering). That it’s okay to skip the gym on Friday and eat fried shrimp instead. That hanging with your eighth grade students during the last “study” hall of the year, eating jelly beans and making velociraptor noises and playing hangman will cure any existential woes you may be experiencing; in fact, it will disappear them altogether.
Maybe I’m not so much learning as remembering, or being reminded. The holiday cards are rolling in and we’ve begun our tradition of decorating the mantle with them, pictures and notes from the people we love, who love us, who live near and far, who are figuring out how to do life the best way, with the most of what matters and the least of what doesn’t.
I don’t have it all figured out, but I’ve kind of given up on that anyway. Nothing to figure, really. Today to enjoy. That’s what I got. Well, that and cookies.
adapted from Epicurious.com
2 ¼ cups flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
6 T unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. whole anise seed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract
1 cup toasted almonds, chopped
optional: 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, for dipping the finished biscotti
pan: baking sheets lined with parchment
Beat the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat in eggs one at a time, then mix in the extracts and anise. Stir together the dry ingredients, then add to the wet mixture and blend until a dough just comes together. Stir in the almonds.
Flour your counter or a cutting board generously. Carefully gather the dough—it will be sticky!—and divide it in half, shaping each half into a log about a foot long and 1 ½ inches wide. Basically, the logs of dough should be as wide as you want the length of your biscotti to be.
Transfer the logs onto one baking sheet, leaving a little room between them. Bake until firm to the touch but still pale, 25-30 minutes. Cool for about ten minutes, leaving the oven on.
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, cut logs into thick slices. Place the slices, cut side down, on baking sheets and bake until firm and golden, flipping halfway through the baking (20 minutes total, or 10 on each side).
Once the biscotti have cooled, melt the chocolate in the microwave (carefully, in 30 second increments, stirring between each) or in a double boiler on the stove. Dip each cookie into the chocolate and return to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill the cookies in the fridge for 20-30 minutes, or until the chocolate sets.
Store the biscotti in an airtight container for up to a week.
from Cook’s Illustrated
1 cup pecans, toasted & coarsely chopped
1 ½ sticks butter, melted
1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 cup white chocolate chips or chunks*
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. salt
pan: square baking pan (8 or 9 inches)
Line the baking pan with foil, leaving plenty of overhang on both sides. Grease the foil with cooking spray or butter.
Whisk the melted butter and brown sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients but don’t over-mix. Fold in the chocolate and nuts, then pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.
Bake blondies until the top is shiny and cracked and the center remains firm when you give the pan a good shake. Depending on your oven, this should take somewhere between 20-30 minutes.
Cool the pan completely (don’t cheat, they’ll be too liquid inside!) on a rack before lifting the blondies out by their foil overhang and cutting into generous squares. The blondies will be gooey; don’t fret, that’s part of their charm.
*You can also use a mixture of white chocolate & semisweet chocolate