Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Kitchen Chronicles - Part 1

Biscotti in the Garage
After 15 years we are finally redoing our 1970’s kitchen.  When we moved into our house we slapped some paint on the walls and cabinets and said to ourselves “some day.”  Well “some day” has arrived. It has taken a fair amount of saving and a huge dose of courage.  I had lived through a remodel at my parents’ home and hadn’t enjoyed doing the dishes in the bathtub and existing on microwave meals.  This time around I am extraordinarily lucky to have a husband that has the experience and desire to recreate a temporary kitchen in our garage. 
Kitchen before demolition
Breakfast room
Current state of kitchen
Breakfast room 
I’ve never ever liked our garage, partly because parking in it required a fair amount of courage that I wasn’t going to scrape off the paint on our cars as I backed out.  Also getting into and out of our cars in the garage required a yoga type contortion that my body just never enjoyed.  Well, I take it all back.  Little garage, I will never bad mouth you again.  This garage will keep me sane and somewhat patient over the next 4 or 5 months.  It now houses all of our appliances and a few of our cabinets from the old kitchen.  And for this I will be eternally grateful. 
The Kitchen Garage
The temporary kitchen was christened this week with my first batch of cookies.  I chose to make biscotti for a friend.  These are the best cookies to make as gifts because they refuse to go stale and are sturdy enough to handle packing and travel.  In fact, these ancient cookies were originally made for travelers, soldiers, sailors, and even Christopher Columbus took them on his voyages.  Many other cultures have their versions of biscotti.  In the United Kingdom there is the rusk; in Germany it is the zwieback, and the Easter European Jews call it mandelbrodt.

The literal translation of biscotti is “twice cooked.”  While these cookies can keep for up to 3 months they are too tasty to stick around that long. This is a versatile recipe.  If the classic Italian anise isn’t to your taste, try lemon or orange.  You can also add toasted nuts or dried fruit or chocolate chips.
Traditionally in Italy biscotti are served with a drink into which they can be dunked.   This recipe is from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Shere.  I’ve made a slight alteration by substituting some of the flour for cornmeal. I prefer a fine grind of cornmeal, but medium grinds work too.
 Aunt Victoria’s Biscotti
½ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla, lemon, orange or anise extract
2 cups plus 2 tablespoon flour (or 1 ½ cup flour, 2 tablespoon flour and ½ fine ground cornmeal)
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Optional: Liqueur- 1 tablespoon grappa or sambuca or pastis or anisette or pernod and 1 teaspoon aniseed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
Beat in the eggs until mixture is smooth.
Add the extract (and liqueur if you are using it).
By hand fold in the flour, baking powder, and salt until just mixed
Now add nuts or chips or seeds if desired.

On a lightly floured board or counter, gently make two equal sized logs.  
Set them on a baking sheets and bake them on a middle rack in the oven for 25 minutes, or until they are set and lightly brown.
Cool the logs for 5-10 minutes.  Then slice them diagonally about ½ inch thick.
Lay slices back on the baking sheets and return to the oven for approximately 10 minutes to toast them.  Turn the slices over to dry for another 10 minutes.  Cool and then store in a tightly covered container.
toasted biscotti

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