3.07.2010

hereditary neuroses ...

My family prides itself on our penchant for outrageous baked goods. My mom, the ringleader, has a pretty extensive repertoire - case and point, one of her many traditional Thanksgiving desserts:

Rice Krispy Turkey

We were very lucky to have grown up with homemade seven-layer ice cream cakes and Rice Krispy Castles for our birthdays. Although I must admit, sometimes we do worry about her - like the time she covered an apple pie with a collage of leaves and vines made from leftover dough. 

As you can imagine, my mother is a bit of a detail-obsessed baker. I distinctly remember receiving a lecture on the importance of proper flour-leveling at age 6. But I've come to learn that perfection really is the key to proper baking. It's also the key to avoiding near-death experiences in the kitchen -  my older sister learned this the hard way when she started a fire by doubling the intended amount of baking soda ... rookie mistake. Since then she has blossomed into nothing short of a kitchen goddess.

Today I found a recipe for Almond & Cinnamon Biscotti. Biscotti are particularly wonderful because they necessitate a cup of coffee, and in my opinion anything that necessitates a cup of coffee is a good thing, maybe even the best of things.

Some chopped almonds pre-toasting

I also love the biscotti-making process because it's a bit more involved than a normal cookie-making process. Biscotti means "twice baked" in italian, so you make the dough, roll it into a log and bake it on a high heat. After the log cools, you lower the temperature, cut it into slices and bake them for a second time. 


Greater involvement = greater bonding between me and the baked good. By the time they were finished I almost felt too guilty to try one ... as you can imagine, that guilt dissipated almost instantaneously.




Biscotti dough is significantly drier than normal cookie dough, so if you don't own a "heavy-duty electric mixer" as the recipes requires, it can be a bit of an upper-arm workout



Here's the log before the first round of baking - I brushed the top with an egg wash and sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar for prettier / yummier biscotti




The prettiness / yumminess factor increased exponentially with the addition of dark chocolate



They're sort of cute ... like little, chocolate-dipped soldiers


Dark Chocolate Dipped Almond & Cinnamon Biscotti
adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon almond extract (I used vanilla extract again instead)
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt


Directions

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 18" x 12" x 1" baking sheet. Combine first four ingredients in bowl of heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment  (you can also opt to rough it as I did). Beat until well blended. Mix flour, almonds, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Gradually add to egg mixture, beating until blended (dough will be soft).

2.) Turn dough out onto floured surface and gather together. Roll dough between palms and work surface into 16" long log. Transfer to prepared sheet. Flatten log to 1" thickness.  At this point I brushed the dough with 1 beaten egg and sprinkled extra cinnamon and sugar on top. Bake until light brown and cracked on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer sheet to rack; cool log 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

3.) Transfer warm log to work surface. Using serrated knife, cut log on sharp diagonal into 1/4" to 1/2" thick slices. Arrange on baking sheets. Bake 10 minutes per side. Transfer to racks and cool (biscotti harden while cooling).


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