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

Christmas Morning Agenda, Circa 1969

Men:

Wake at 8:00 a.m.

Shave

Put on pants

Eat a few sugar cookies

Go to a movie

Home to drink too much eggnog and watch the kids fight over gifts

Sleep it off

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Women:

Wake at 5:30 a.m.

Take rollers out of hair

Style hair

Apply makeup

Squeeze into holiday pantsuit and heels

Make stuffing

Put turkey in oven

Peel potatoes

Get kids out of bed

Get kids dressed

Give kids sugar cookies and plop them in front of Rudolph rerun

Make green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, creamed onion casserole

Bake pies

Mash potatoes

Set the table

Clean up broken ornaments and scold kids

Go to movie

Home to secret stash of vodka

Watch kids fight over gifts

Quick dust and vacuum before 20 guests arrive

sallyron

Mincing Words

After I wax on a bit about how annoying it is when someone on a certain substance (meth), who wants more of that substance, tries to break into a building in broad daylight in order to loot the contents by repeatedly kicking a steel plate door, I’ll get to the recipe portion of this post. I promise.

When Mr. Kicksit launched his assault on said door, the noise distracted Sam-dog who was about to do his part to fertilize the grass near said door. It was pouring rain, Sam was frozen completely through, he was being distracted by the noise, and as I’m not exactly Mother Teresa in the live-and-let-live department I yelled, “Holy bleeping bleepsticks! Would you please knock that bleep the bleep off?!” Silence was restored, and Sam and I were able to complete our mission. I’m certain it was because I said ‘please’.

Obviously I don’t mince words, but I do mince pie. I make mincemeat pie, that is, as did my mother, grandmother and great grandmother before me. Unlike my small crowd of estrogenic, vaguely British ancestors, I don’t make the mincemeat myself. That would be madness when one can simply drive to a grocery store, hunt around for jarred mincemeat, end up asking a clerk where it is, wait for the clerk to find his manager and ask her where it is, and end up back at the front of the store where it is conveniently hidden behind bread crumbs and canned pumpkin…

Come to think of it, the 12-hour process of boiling the suet out of some tough cuts of mutton and sunning my own grapes to make the raisins doesn’t sound so bad. Original mincemeat wasn’t intended as dessert, it was a meal made with odd bits of this and that out of necessity by stooping surfs hovering over a pot for the better part of a day, praying the food would come out good. Modern mince contains very little–if any–meat, and relies on a bevy of spices for flavor. It is mostly raisins, apples and corn syrup.

To make up for the lack of beef or mutton fat, I add a half cup of chopped walnuts per jar of mincemeat. To stretch it I add a small, cubed apple and 1/4 a cup of raisins or currents. If you like, add a teaspoon of cinnamon and/or half a teaspoon of ground clove for extra zip. If you like to live on the edge, add one tablespoon of rum.

The crust, however, is what brings it all together. If pride be a deadly sin, then I shall die with crust crumbs on me lips, a spryly tined fork in me eye and me crust recipe clutched in me blue hand. It’s that good.

You are strongly encouraged to forget everything anyone has ever taught you about making pie crust and do this:

1. Per double crust pie, place 2 1/4 cups of unsifted flour in a large mixing bowl or food processor.

2. Cut up 3/4 cup of cold, unsalted butter and toss it on top of the flour.

3. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

4. Have by your side some chilled water and a measuring tablespoon.

5. Either cut in the butter with a fork or hand pastry cutter, or pulse-process the flour and butter together until it forms small clumps.

6. Sprinkle one tablespoons of water on the mixture and pulse or cut in until it starts to absorb. Add one more and repeat until the dough comes together when you squish it. Use no more than five tablespoons. It won’t look like ordinary pie dough, but more like cookie dough.

7. Form dough into a ball by packing it tightly in plastic wrap (the less fondling, the better) and chill it for however long it takes you to prep the filling. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t want the dough too cold.

8. Roll out slightly more than half the dough on a floured surface to fit the bottom of a 9″ or 10″ pie dish. The dough will likely break on the way from the rolling pin to the dish, but can easily be patched.

9. Prick a few holes in the bottom crust (as it were) and pour inside it the stuff I mentioned above. (I’m checking to see if you’re paying attention.)

10. Roll out the rest of the dough to form the top crust and plunk it over the mincemeat. Pinch the bottom and top edges together (as it were), leaving no room for the contents to escape. We aren’t going for perfection, people. A perfectly fluted edge is not only intimidating to your guests, the peaks tend to burn. There is nothing I despise more than burnt pie crust peaks, and that’s the truth.

11. Cut slits in the top crust so steam can vent.

12. Dust on a tablespoon of sugar, if you wish. You do.

13. Cover the edges of the crust with foil or a crust cover (yes, they make those). This year I used the outer part of a tart dish with a removable bottom. It flattened the edges during baking, but once again we’re more concerned with taste than elegance.

14. Bake pie on next to lowest rack for 35-40 minutes until faintly golden. Placing it on a lower rack ensures the bottom crust is cooked. If the top crust edges aren’t golden enough for you, remove the foil or other device for the last few minutes of baking.

15. Cool for at least two hours before serving. Cover leftovers and store on your counter like some pre-dental, Medieval person, or in the fridge if you are the nervous sort.

If you insist on using vegetable shortening, use 2/3 cup and up the water to five-and-a-half tablespoons. (Butter contains its own water.) This crust can be used for any pie, from apple to chocolate cream. It has a flakey, shortbread consistency. I discourage an egg wash because an egg wash turns a crust to leather. There is no need to follow suit with my poor, British ancestors and eat your shoes.

Fuggly Boots and a Bottle o’ Rum

Quick questions: Anyone still bothering to watch football? I’m so discouraged with this season, I’ve cancelled my Seattle Seahawks Jockstrap Flip-Up Advent Calendar order. I’ll just have to wallow in curiosity, and smooth my ruffled hawk feathers by walking my dog in my new Ugg boots*. What’s the point of having children if we can’t humiliate them with bad fashion trends, right? (Limit your answers to “Yes,” or “No, and what is wrong with you?”)

Now for the real reason we’re here: fruitcake. Dark fruitcake, to be exact. It’s notoriously hard to photograph, but I think I may have done it some justice by adding an empty bottle of rum and being ripped on Ambien when I set up the shots. I purchased said bottle o’ five years ago**, and will have to–ulp–brave the local methy liquor store before I can make my Great Aunt Mary’s*** famous rum balls. Life is a constant struggle.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to read recipes, I follow the dictates of page 75 of the 1968 edition of Better Homes & Gardens “New” Cook Book; adding prunes or dates instead of raisins and swapping out the canned OJ for some seedless jam, fresh juice or a dry gin martini, and pretending I’m in the spectacularly modern feature kitchen.


___________

*Yes, Sam-dog will be wearing the Ugg boots.

**The rum, not the Ambien. Apparently I’m a bit too ambiguous since being dropped on my head at the tender age of 43.

***The one on my mom’s side, not my dad’s side. If you’d been paying attention to this blog AT ALL, you’d know I had two.

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.

Quiz: Clint Eastwood Movie or Undergarment?

1. In the Line of Fire

2. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

3. Lady Godiva of Coventry

4. The Enemy Below

5. Two Mules for Sister Sara

6. Dirty Harry

7. Magnum Force

8. Breezy

9. The Enforcer

10. The Gauntlet

11. Pale Rider

12. Every Which Way but Loose

13. Hang ‘Em High

Extra credit: TV Series or Undergarment?

14. Rawhide