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

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.

Weak Cup of the Week, Week Five

Ten or so years ago I decided I’d join the food and drink fadsters, and my first assignment was to try a vogue, mysterious bubble tea beverage. Lucky for me, there were dozens of bubble tea outlets in the Seattle metropolitan region. Seattle is replete with Asians and asiaphiles, ensuring that every few feet there will be a place that primarily caters to the food tastes of people who consider me and my food habits unusual.

I swung into a tea shop, and was delivered an endless list of possible combinations of tea and bubble flavors in rapid-fire Chinese-English by a girl who’s speech pattern indicated she wasn’t above the misuse or omission of punctuation*. Making matters worse, I had to choose between clear, brown, bright green, blue or pink bubbles.

Seriously? When I order something at Starbucks it takes two seconds. “Double short latte, please.” Done. Sometimes I want a fancier drink, but I do it to teach the, “Single tall, caramel, decaf macchiato with twenty-five ice cubes, six Splendas and–oh, why not?!?–a drizzle of chocolate sauce, please, because I went to the gym today,” people a lesson in proper coffee ordering.

It wasn’t easy, but I pared down my choices to green tea with a splash of milk for the primary fluid, and unobtrusive beige bubbles that I was promised were also made with green tea. I still felt ridiculous.

As that first blurp of tapioca climbed up through the oversized straw and into my mouth I thought, “This looks and, quite frankly, tastes like a clogged toilet.” The starchy blob didn’t have any redeeming qualities other than bitter sweetness, nor did it have a purpose in the drink. I tossed the almost full cup into the nearest trash can and ran before I could be judged.

Assignment: complete. Results: unfavorable.

On the heels of the bubble tea craze came the donut craze, immediately followed by the high protein craze; at which point I resigned from the fadsters. I enjoy a lot of meat, but I can’t skip carbs without enduring potentially fatal withdrawals.

____

*For the record, neither am I.

Weak Cup of the Week, Week Two

This week’s weak cup of green tea comes from my kitchen, high atop a luxury condo building in the heart of Seattle’s business district overlooking a sparkling, blue bay. And by that I mean, one of the middle floors of a six story condo overlooking one of the grossest dive bars in existence with no water in sight other than what falls from the sky.

There is no irony, no tongue in cheek, no chic vogueness to that bar. It’s a dump. It’s a popular venue for a very different type of business than what one might find in a proper business district: crack sales and distribution. But at least it has color and flavor…

…unlike this cup of tea.

What? I never said I was Annie Leibovitz.