Dutch-Norwegian Girl Makes Biscotti; Brags About It

Yes, yes, yes. I know I’m supposed to be related by blood to my Italian cousins in order to gain any street cred when it comes to making biscotti. Consider me the Vanilla Ice of the Furfaro clan and jump me in, anyway. 

These sumptuous delicacies are not like what you get from the cookie aisle in the grocery store. You can actually bite into them and chew them without losing half of your teeth. They will cause you to gain weight because you will eat the entire batch in one sitting, so go get you some phat pants and get thick, girl.

Dough ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (if mixing and kneading by hand, butter should be softened not melted)

3/4 cup sugar

1 whole large egg + two large egg yolks

2 1/2 to 3 cups unsifted flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Add butter and sugar to mixer and beat until well combined. Add eggs and quickly beat into butter and sugar. Add 2 1/2 cups four, the baking powder and salt, and beat until smooth. If it doesn’t hold it’s shape when you form a ball, add another 1/2 cup of flour and beat until smooth. Slow the mixer and let it knead the dough for around 60 seconds, adding spices nuts, etc. while it kneads.(If hand mixing and kneading, knead dough until it no longer sticks to surface.) Dough will be shiny and very smooth. 

Gather up the dough and place it onto an un-greased baking sheet. Form a rectangle about 3/4 inch high, 15 inches long and 6 inches wide. IMG_3331

Bake for 20 minutes, or until it is firm to the touch, crinkly and very lightly browned on the bottom. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.IMG_3332

With a sharp, large knife, carefully slice into 3/4 inch by 6 inch lengths. Turn lengths on sides, rearrange on sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until very slightly browned on the side touching the baking sheet. Turn off oven, open oven door a little and let the biscotti sit inside until the oven cools. Cookies will be firm, buttery and easy to bite.IMG_3333

My favorite flavor combinations:

*1 tablespoon aniseed, zest of 1 orange, 1/2 cup blanched, slivered almonds

*1 tablespoon poppyseed, zest of 1 lemon

*1/2 cup pistachios, 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Serving suggestion: a bit of quick dunking in a rich cup of coffee (coffee instructions elsewhere in this blog).IMG_3334

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Cookies for Oldsters

Chewy, buttery, loaded with regularity and middle-aged goodness, this recipe is so similar to the Quaker Oats oatmeal cookie recipe that I should probably be arrested for plagiarism (or grand theft auto, but that’s a story for later). Instead of oats, however, there is bran in these here cookies.

Bran, as you are no doubt aware, tastes like sawdust. The texture is much like sawdust, too, and requires plenty of moisture to make up for its inherent dryness. There is a lot of butter and brown sugar in this recipe. A lot. Do not labor under the illusion that these are low calorie. I don’t do low calorie.

I bumped up the spice factor to delight the palette and bury the sawdust taste in the woodworking shop where it belongs; and the end result is so good, I ate six of them in an hour. I can’t wait for them to kick in… if you catch my drift.

THE INGREDIENTS:

1 cup margarine or 1 cup butter, softened (Please use butter. Please.)
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon (Also add 1/2 teaspoon cloves, cardamom, allspice and/or nutmeg. Whatever you got.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups Allbran, Bran Buds or a generically branded sawdust
1 cup raisins or currants (I prefer the latter because they stay chewy and aren’t quite as sweet.)

SOME INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars by hand or in mixer. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Dip-level-pour the flour (or sift, if you’re like that) and add it and the salt, soda and spices to the wet ingredients. Stir until combined. Add the bran and the raisins or currants, and stir to combine well.

Place walnut-sized blobs of dough around two inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet, and bake for approximately 10 minutes. They should be slightly dark around the edges, and the sheen from the center should be almost gone. Cool them briefly before removing from sheet. Makes around 40 amazingly tasty cookies full of fiber, iron and whatever vitamins they put in the cereal.

A PHOTO OF THREE COOKIES:

brancookies

Nondenominational Gingerbread Cookies

Someone recently tried to convince me that Christmas is about the baby Jesus, and that there are over a billion people on earth who feel that way*. In my experience it’s about eating and bickering, and giving a nod to all those other holidays that conveniently land in late December.

Despite my general heathenish ways, during bicker season I operate under the assumption that spices probably weren’t something Joseph and Mary could afford (on account of all the times they had to move). I set aside my resistance, and I selflessly make Jesus some festively spiced birthday treats known as gingerbread cookies.

Gather ye your ingredients:

1 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup white sugar

1 cup molasses

1 egg

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

5 cups flour (plus extra for rolling out dough)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2-3 tablespoons ground ginger (I use 3)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon allspice (if you can afford it)

1/8 teaspoon very finely ground black or white pepper (optional)

Have at a’hand:

measuring devices

rolling pin (for chasing your spouse out of the kitchen)

cookie sheets

cookie cutters

flat spatula

circus strong man with a pastry cutter, fork and wooden spoon, and/or a stand mixer

Using either a stand mixer with beater attachment or a pastry cutter, add the shortening and sugar in bowl, stir or cut up at first, then beat it into a fluffy dither.

Crack egg into a separate bowl and whisk it a little to break up the yolk. Check for pieces of shell or a funky smell, and if it passes those tests you can add it to the sugar and shortening. Also add the molasses and vinegar. Beat for about a minute.

Measure five cups of flour into another bowl and lightly stir it with the soda, salt and spices. I don’t bother to sift, but I make sure my cups of flour aren’t packed too tightly. A separate bowl allows you to recount your cups in case you lose track, which never happens to me**.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a cup at a time, stirring between additions and scraping down the sides of the bowl to catch all the stray stuff. When everything is combined, turn the mixer up just a little and give it a 30 second fast stir. The dough with start to form a mass and will climb up the beater. If you are using the ‘circus strong man’ method, have him put a little elbow grease into it.

Pack the dough into a thick disk (sort of) and wrap it in plastic or put it in an air tight container. Let it chill for at least an hour.

This is a big recipe, so only roll out half the dough at a time using plenty of flour on your chosen surface. I roll it on the counter atop my dish washer so I can scrape the floury mess into the washer when I’m all done. (Make sure it isn’t full of clean dishes before doing this.)

I eyeball the thickness of my dough at about 3/16 inch, but some people like it 1/8 inch and some 1/4. If you have trouble visualizing these measurements, buy a ruler. No, really. I’m not a grade school math teacher, okay?

Cut out cookies using cutters that are sharp, aren’t too large, and don’t have a lot of very thin shapes because that sort of thing will break during the icing process. Plus those itty bitty stems of dough usually cook too fast. My fave cutter is actually an oak leaf, but it looks enough like a holly leaf, it can be iced in many festive ways and it doesn’t scream “CHRISTMAS!” at everyone on my Kwanzaa gift list.

Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet. Sometimes I use parchment paper underneath the cookies for easy removal after baking. Also, a very flat spatula is required for transport so you don’t smoosh your shapes. (If you want smooshed shapes, wear a tighter girdle.)

The cookies should be about an inch apart on the sheet. When you get your first sheet filled, pop it into the fridge for around 10 minutes (this prevents spreading); during which time you can preheat your oven to 375 degrees and get a head start on your next sheet.

Bake the cookies for 6-7 minutes. Do NOT bake them longer than that. You’ll be gathering up the excess dough from the first rolling and rolling it out at least once more to get more cookies to cut. These subsequent rollings can make for some proverbially ‘tough cookies’ if over baked.

Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on the pan. Remove from pan and place in airtight container until you are ready to decorate, where they can live–unadorned–for up to two weeks, or freeze them for up to a month. Makes five dozen 2″x3″ cookies.

I’ll do an OCD, A-type personality bit about cookie decorating later in the season. Now go get your Xanax refilled before the Christmas rush.

________

*Sources close to home have revealed that they attend midnight mass, but as yet they haven’t provided any concrete evidence.

**Actually, it happens to me constantly. It’s a real problem and I should probably get it checked out.

Here Come the Holiday Baking Posts: This Is the Only Warning You’ll Get

I’m such a slob, lately. Seriously. Ever since finding out my beloved cat Spenser has The Cancers* (said in that cute way so I don’t get all bummed and wander off, again) I haven’t done much of anything. Some people say, “Stay busy and active, okay? I don’t want you to miss out on anything life has to offer.” My cat says, “Stop everything and pay attention to my every move. If I can’t have a life, neither can you.” Cats are selfish bastards.

At any rate, I’d made up my mind to do all kinds of holiday baking this year, and as that is something I can do while being Spenser’s home hospice care nurse, doctor of force feeding and orderly of pill cramming, that is what I shall do.

Every year, whether I bake or not, I research recipes. I’m a good cook and an even better baker, so I don’t really need full recipes that are all neat and tidy and exact. I do, however, enjoy some of the tips and tricks, interesting additions… and bad photos.

Blogs weren’t popular when I first started internet recipe hunting six or seven years ago. If there were photos attached, the photos were beautiful, professional and appealing, with no extra browning on the edges of cookies or dry looking cakes. Now that any home cook can whip out a camera phone and take a candid shot, I’m seeing images that are, well, hilariously bad**.

I’m going to fix that, my loyal subjects, and document my holiday baking foolery for you. All of it. From mincemeat pie to fruitcake, and also the stuff people actually eat. My photos may not be all that wonderful, either, but you’ll never know thanks to the awesome power of Photoshop. See how selfless I am, even though I’m busily pre-mourning my fuzzy little boy’s demise?

For now, you seriously have to see these homemade offerings:

This right here is why people hate fruitcake. If the first fruitcake I saw looked like this, I’d have run the other way, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

French baking mat: $20. Professional 1/2 baking sheet: $16. Six shy, nervous cookies: priceless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a love for the ages. It was a love born of hardship. And when they could hear the soldiers at their door, they walked into the fire as one.

 

 

 

 

 

__________

*Not for nothing, I always thought The Betes (diabetes) would get him because he used to be super fat.

**I have a good friend who does a recipe photo blog, and her photos will make you want to leap into your computers and do unspeakable things to the chef and the food and you can tell her I said that. http://poeticfood.blogspot.com/

The Letter ‘M’

I’ve been contemplating doing another product endorsement, possibly for Fred Meyer’s new Home Sense Facial Tissues that come in a set of four decorative boxes and cost, like, almost nothing AND are soft and strong. BUT there is something distracting me from that titillating topic. What could be more interesting than quality facial tissues at bargain prices, you ask?

Professional psychics. I’m obsessed with professional psychics. I want to be either a psychic or an FBI profiler; or at least a writer for The Mentalist. (Call me, Simon.) The amount of information they get by simply asking, “Have you lost anyone whose name starts with the letter ‘M’?” blows my mind. Think about it. Who hasn’t lost someone whose name starts with the letter ‘M’? Why, I had two great aunts, both named Mary. Both are deceased!

I didn’t mean to sound so excited about that. Sadly, one Mary died many years ago and the other a year ago. That leaves the door wide open for the next question: “You lost them recently?” Or: “You lost them long ago?” Either way, we have a winner.

The holidays are approaching, and it’s a great time to tap that vein (as it were). Both of my great aunts had a strong influence on our family during the Christmas season. One Mary was so natural at keeping kids happy she should have taught the first grade. Maybe she did. It doesn’t matter. The other lived a little higher on the hog than the rest of us, and decorated her home with fascinating beauty and kept the adults out of us kids’ hair so we could “steal” her expensive caramels that were left well within our reach. *wink* One Mary was in charge of Christmas Eve, and the other was in charge of Christmas Day.

“But you don’t like holidays, do you?” asks my internal psychic/profiler. Exactly right. What’s important here isn’t the delightful memories I’m having, it’s what’s happening to my shoulders while I think about those memories. There were some not so great things afoot that time of year for almost everyone in Western society.

A good psychic/profiler would watch my shoulders, and then say, “You don’t have to tell me why you don’t enjoy holidays. I can tell it’s private.”

What is private? They and/or I don’t know. Neither one of us/them can see into my mind, let alone chat with either Mary, but we don’t need to. We watch. My shoulders are rolling forward, not down. Okay, I remember what happened to me, but I’m having trouble keeping my pronouns straight. Shoulders. Watch the shoulders.

A psychic would say, “They both want you to know that if they could have done something, they would have.”

An FBI profiler would say, “You found a way to get whoever hurt you back. Everyone has that darkness within them, and you are one of the lucky ones. You know how to let it out.”

What a lovely sentiment to be told that two women, both fun and entertaining, were on my side. Or to be told it’s normal to want to kill people. I want to believe and take comfort in those words. Sometimes that longing for acceptance is enough to make people spill their guts. I’m so relieved my aunts supported me and that killing people and hiding their remains in my freezer and serving them to guests in lieu of a Christmas turkey is okay, I’m ready to talk about all of it…

…to a licensed therapist.

Four aces, baby!

Let’s see what I can do with a deck of cards. It doesn’t have to be a mystical deck like a Tarot deck; though I know those decks well, any old deck will do. (I’m typing ‘deck’ over and over again for my own amusement, obviously.) Pick a card and I’ll tell you what it means to YOU and we can share a super special moment, or just click the “like” button down there to let me know you actually finished reading this ridiculous, pronoun-ridden post.

Weak Cup of the Week: The “Why I Tried Red Bull” Edition

The prognosis is bleak. I’m not just lactose intolerant, it’s a strong possibility that I have a full-on allergy to cow’s milk. It’s dismal and life altering, and though not directly responsible for my inability to post weekly Weak Cups of the Week, it has everything to do with why I tried Red Bull. Let me ‘splain.

At this stage of life sans dairy, it’s easier to point out what I can’t eat than what I can eat. I can’t have ice cream, for instance, and there is no true replacement. Later this evening I’ll dip into a “frozen chocolate treat” made with almond milk and make note of my findings, but I can tell you all right here and now it isn’t going to taste anything like Haagen Dazs.

When people say, “Oh, but you can have soy and rice and almond and blah blah blah, ” it takes me a second to get that, “You’re an idiot with no taste buds,” look off my face and attempt polite agreement. I then point out that I can’t have too much soy (gas city) but I can have goat’s and sheep’s milk, and love the cheese and yogurt culled from these critters. I then receive a, “You’re an idiot with no taste buds, and you’re gross,” look from my conversation partner and we agree to disagree or mount a cold war.

I can’t have Starbucks Doubleshots in a can, either. This is my go to drink when I don’t have the early morning wherewithal to operate a Melitta filter and a coffee grinder, but it’s mostly milk. Bibicafe is good, but expensive and hard to find. Pepsi is too sweet and Coke dissolves dimes and teeth, and both are very high in sugar; and that is why I bought my first Red Bull.

I’m not going to lie. I didn’t fancy the stuff. To keep things somewhat genteel I shall give my assessment in wine-tasting terminology. Sort of.

When I first pulled back the flip top on the slender, blue and red can I caught a whiff of vanilla and dare I say floral? A deep floral, like Hawaiian white ginger, neroli (a variety of orange flower) or exotic ylang ylang would pair well with many cola beverages, but the vanilla made me nervous.

It was odd that the top note was ever so slightly deeper than what comes next in perfuming and wining; the sustained middle note. The next thing that hit me was citrus, which is a typical top note. Mandarin? Bergamot (related to grapefruit)? Lime? Regardless, when mixed with the strong florals and vanilla it started to smell like Cascade dishwasher detergent.

I bravely took a sip and felt the surprisingly bland, caustic fluid strip my teeth of their enamel. Apple and cherry leapt to the forefront, and who doesn’t want grapefruit and vanilla on their apples and cherries? After that it became chemical. Though it doesn’t contain a chemical sweetener, it tasted as though it did. Much like milk substitutes don’t taste like milk to me, chemical sweeteners will always taste like anything but sugar.

I swooshed the sip in hopes of finding something redeeming, but instead ended up with a mouth full of explosive calcium carbonate that had to go somewhere… so I swallowed.

*ulp* *burp* Pardon.

The can sat staring at me for a few more minutes, chiding and bullying me into trying again. “Billions of teenagers think we’re da bomb, you dopey old lady! What’s wrong with you? 80 milligrams of caffeine and I can stay awake through history class AND math!”

When I brew a cup of coffee or tea, I’m hard core. What I end up with has more like 200 milligrams of caffeine and tastes good. I have two or three cups, too. Mind you I doubt I could keep my eyes open during 10th grade English, but I can get in a ton of housework and social networking AND still make time to watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills while knitting a 300 mile long scarf. Good luck with that, teenagers.

The can waited patiently, breathing and wheezing carbonation for half an hour, and I thought, “Okay. Maybe the taste improves with aeration.”

The vanilla, citrus, chemicals and tree fruits were gone, and were replaced not with a bottom note of cola nut, chocolate or espresso bean, but with what could easily be described as Perrier.

“Mmmm, boy,” I said to the dog. “To think I paid $1.99 for the experience of drinking lightly caffeinated, overly carbonated mineral water, when I could be sipping a full, round, smooth, deadly strong cup of coffee with two tablespoons of sugar and a hefty sprinkle of non-dairy creamer.” He watched intently as I poured the rest of the Red Bull down the sink.

At any rate, now I know what I can’t have–and what I don’t want. That’s progress, right?