Saturday, June 19, 2010
Sundays are synonymous with relaxation and comfort. The perfect day to enjoy brunch with your girlfriends, go to the Farmers Market, go for a bike ride or hike, catch a matinée, or simply have breakfast in bed with your favorite newspaper or magazine. Simple moments that allow us to breathe, clear our heads, and recharge.
Unless I'm going out or expecting guests over, Sunday meals are quite simple and begin with le petit déjeuner. Consisting classically of tartines, croissants, or other pâtisseries accompanied by a warm beverage, this type of quick and simple breakfast is my most favorite. Having made almond biscotti the day before, all I was missing was some hot chocolate and a travel magazine.
Despite growing up in Europe, I've never really liked biscotti. Usually rock hard and way too dry for my taste, it's something that I never intended on or thought about baking at home. After all, how much better than what I'd tasted could it get? A few weeks ago, I was going through some of my cookbooks, and I came across a recipe for almond biscotti by Dorie Greenspan that just sounded so delicious and different, I had to mark it as something to try. Oh, how I'm glad I did. I could eat this all day, every day.
I'm a huge almond lover, probably because of my mom. Growing up, there were always almonds around the house. Whether in salads, rice, desserts or simply as snacks, my mother was always adding them to her dishes. As a kid, I didn't always get it; I kind of thought nuts or fruit in salads was weird. Little did I know, my mom was just ahead of her time and that years later those same ideas would be changing American cuisine.
There are very few ways, if any, to go wrong with almonds or almond extract. There's just something so comforting about the sweetness and aroma of this tiny little fruit. Combine that with a buttery, crunchy, yet moist cookie, and voilà! Lenox Almond Biscotti: a wonderful, but dangerous, treat.
I've tried these a few different ways: plain, dunked in hot chocolate or tea, dipped in semi-sweet chocolate, and accompanying ice cream and fresh fruit. Delicious, and not only easy to make, but versatile too, which makes it my kind of food. This is one of those recipes that you'll want to memorize and make over and over again. As an added bonus, they look fancy, so you're guaranteed to impress guests.
Lenox Almond Biscotti
(recipe from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)
Printer Friendly Recipe
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3/4 cup sliced almonds, blanched or unblanched
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the cornmeal and whisk again to blend.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed for 3 minutes, until very smooth. Add the eggs and continue to beat, scraping down the bowl as needed, for another 2 minutes, or until the mixture is light, smooth and creamy. Beat in the almond extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. You'll have a soft stick-to-your-fingers dough that will ball up around the paddle or beaters. Scrape down the paddle and bowl, toss in the almonds and mix just to blend.
Scrape half the dough onto one side of the baking sheet. Using your fingers and a rubber spatula or scraper, work the dough into a log about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. The log will be more rectangular than domed, and bumpy, rough and uneven. Form a second log with the remaining dough on the other side of the baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden but still soft and springy to the touch. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and cool the logs on the baking sheet for 30 minutes.
If you turned off the oven, bring it back up to 350 degrees F.
Using a wide metal spatula, transfer the logs to a cutting board and, with a long serrated knife, trim the ends and cut the logs into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the baking - this time standing them up like a marching band - and slide the baking sheet back in the oven.
Bake the biscotti for another 15 minutes, or until they are golden and firm. Transfer them to racks and cool to room temperature.
Because they are dry and they're fine if they get even drier, the biscotti will keep at room temperature, covered or not, for about a week.
Dried Fruit Biscotti:
Add about 1/3 cup dried fruit, such as raisins, dried cherries, cranberries, apricots (chopped) or currants, to the dough. If you'd like an extra shot of flavor, flame the fruit with port, kirsch, dark rum or amaretto.
Whisk some spice into the flour mixture: ground cinnamon, ginger, cardamom or even black pepper. For cinnamon and ginger, use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon; for cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon; and for black pepper, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon. Start with the lesser amount, then make to-taste adjustments on the next batch. If you choose to add ginger, you could also add very small pieces of stem ginger in syrup (available at Asian markets and in the Asian foods sections of supermarkets).
Many traditional biscotti are flavored with anise, and these can be too. For the best results, grind the aniseed (start with 1 1/2 teaspoons and, if you want, increase of decrease the amount in your next batch) in a food processor or blender with the sugar.
Substitute walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts or chopped macadamia nuts for the almonds or, following the theory that more is merrier, make the biscotti with a combination of nuts.
Lemon or Orange Biscotti:
Rub the grated zest of 2 lemons or 1 orange into the sugar before beating the butter and sugar together.