Biscotti blues

Last week I made my first biscotti. I followed a Cook’s Illustrated recipe because it used melted butter. I’m all about the melted butter recipes these days – mostly because I never plan ahead and get butter to room temperature in time to bake. And when you melt the butter, and happen to forget to check it, it turns even better! It becomes brown butter. Deep, nutty flavored magic. Laziness pays off here – don’t tell my kids. The recipe also used classic flavors like citrus and almond, how bad could it be? That night we were meeting some friends for dinner so I boxed my new creations and proudly presented them. This is the text I got later that night…

Umm what?? 4 out of 10?? Now, to be fair I asked for an honest, critical review since it was my first time making them. But when I said honest I didn’t mean honest…geez. Ok fine, I’ll never use citrus again. I wish citrus was dead. But even with no zest I’d only get a 6 out 10! Still a fail! A fail!

So I did what any normal person would do – I read 1,000 biscotti recipes and reviews and planned my revenge. Revenge for what you ask? All he did was tell the truth. So I guess revenge for honesty. That’ll teach him.

So today was round 2.

I adapted my recipe using both the Cook’s recipe with King Arthur’s American Vanilla Biscotti recipe. But I didn’t leave it to that – nope – I messed with it further with my very own twist. That’s right bitches. I browned the butter. Boom.

Ok here’s the bastardized version… I’m making two versions from one dough. Classic Almond and chocolate chip.

  • 1 stick of salted butter (this is the kind we have. If you have unsalted use that and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the dry mix)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 cups of AP flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup sliced toasted almonds (you can use whole and just chop up)
  • Preheat oven to 350

Brown that stick of butter on medium heat. This is what it’ll look like when ready.

Remove from heat add the sugar right into the brown butter

Add the vanilla and almond extracts (are these not the cutest measuring spoons ever?? Thank you Marcela!)

It’ll look nice and smooth and bonus – it helps to cool down the butter so you can add the eggs right in. But buyer beware, once the egg goes in stir stir stir! It’s still a warm mix and you don’t want scrambled egg biscotti!

Combine the flour and baking powder with your buttery mix and you’ll get a very wet dough. You’ll now doubt the dough and think you’ve made a mistake. You haven’t. Leave it alone for 10 min. Which is exactly the time you need to toast your almonds!

I did them at 300 degrees and checked them every other minute. Why? Because I’m a notorious nut burner. I’ve burned almost every level ever toasted. From pine to peanut – burnt them all.

This is the color you want. Not any darker.

Go back to your dough, which should be manageable but still sticky. Cut in half and add the chips and almonds.

Bake for 25 minutes

My loaves are wider than I wanted – but so are my thighs – nothing’s perfect.

For the second bake reduce the temperature to 325

I cut my logs in half because they were too big. I like a two bite biscotti. If you’re ok with a gigantic one – don’t cut it in half.

This time they go in for 30 min. But after 15, it’s important to not only turn the pan, but also flip each biscotti – which is a pain in the ass but worth it!

And viola! Here are two different ways I wanted to end this post. I couldn’t pick so included both.

Ending 1) Now box them up and give them to everyone but the dude who told you the truth… just kidding just kidding.

Ending 2) So here they are – revenge biscotti! Like regular biscotti but baked with bitterness and anger. Just kidding. Just kidding.

Monday confessional

Ok let’s just say today wasn’t the winningest day I’ve ever had. The theme for my day would be, “two steps forward, three steps back”. Or is it,”three steps forward, two back”? You know what I mean.

Things that were done got undone. Technology was not my friend today. I went to go pick-up dry cleaning that I never dropped off. True story.

Anyway – not my day.

It was time for chocolate cake and tv.

But because this is opposite of good day – I didn’t even get this right.

The cake looks good in that pic, because I FaceTuned it. What is that you ask? New favorite app. Spend the $3.99. Treat yo self. As I was saying, the cake looks good but it was just ok. Not that I expected anything else from it. It’s a boxed, aisle cake. I wish it no ill will. It was a sad attempt at saving my day.

And the tv… I know I know. I should have known better. Even with my low-brow tv habits I haven’t succumbed to The Bachelor (ok I watched season 1-3 but those weren’t bad). But there’s been so much chatter about it that I gave in. It was a weak night.

Oh god was it bad. Like so bad I am shook people aren’t talking about how bad it is.

The premise is interesting. He’s a virgin. There’s a house full of vipers after him. It could be so bad it’s good, but it’s so bad that it’s sad. Weird and uncomfortable. Perfect for my day.

I’m just going to bed. We can try this all again tomorrow.

Baking is my kryptonite

Not that I’m comparing myself to the caped wonder. I’m not super at all. And I would never wear blue tights.

My husband used to work in a bakery all throughout high school. He worked for a wonderful baker whose family has owned a German bakery in NYC for over a 100 years (it’s still there – everyone check out Glaser’s on the Upper East Side!). That lovely baker is my daughter’s godfather and one of our closest friends.

In college he let me work at the bakery to make some extra money. Early in our marriage we lived in an apartement right above that bakery, and I’ve never met anyone who likes cake more than me! So why for the love of all the sugar gods can’t I bake? And please, save me all your advice. Yes, I know baking is a science. I know I can’t “wing” ingredients. Oh, you bake all the time do you? It’s easier than cooking you say? Well in the words of Christian Bale when he had the meltdown on camera…”GOOD FOR YOU!”. Bake yourself a cookie and eat it why don’t you. Sorry. I’m just covered in sugar and failure. I’ll be nicer tomorrow.

Here’s my latest crumby attempt. Literally. No, this isn’t the crumb layer. This is the final product. Oh I’ll still eat it. I’m not nuts. But I am done with baking for good! Done I tell you! Done!

  
 

 

 

Shopgirl

My favorite part of my favorite movie was on exactly when I needed it.

Today was about baking. And burning. And not thinking I didn’t needed parchment paper and then needing parchment paper. It was about being pissed off because my mother buys me a roll of parchment paper every time I see her. And toilet paper and ziploc bags. So even though I had 10 rolls of parchment paper I didn’t use it. And the coconut macaroons paid. They paid dearly. 

There was also an episode involving using light brown sugar instead of dark brown. Can’t things be easier??

Suffice it to say – I spent the whole day acting like I’ve never baked. Then I remembered that I actually haven’t baked since his time last year. But that’s not an excuse. All I had to do was follow directions. And the directions said use f@@king parchment paper.

So after that day I took a bath. Took an Advil. And turned the TV on. 

  
And instantly I’m in a good mood again. 

I’m easy. Easy like parchment paper.

Rabbit Rabbit

It’s December 1st. Tradition says that if you say those words together today you’ll have some good luck or good vibes or good something.

Don’t we all need some good vibes?

How are you? You doin’ ok? Made it through Thanksgiving? Me too. It was so much fun.

I miss it already.

I’m back at work after a whole week off. Actually I was back at work yesterday but it didn’t feel real yet. I was still avoiding all the work by asking people about their turkeys. It was awkward. People would come into my office to talk about some upcoming event and I’d redirect, deflect and evade.

“Can we go over this event agenda…” they’d say trying to keep me ontrack.

“Agenda…hmmm….yeah. What was your agenda for dessert on Thanksgiving? Let’s talk about that first.” I’d fire back.

I was hopeless. By 1pm I was finally ready to give it up. No one seemed to be having the post tramatic turkey day withdrawal like me.

So what’s next baby? Christmas? Hanukkah? New Year’s?

I like the holidays, what can I say? I like seeing friends and family. I like baking cookies. I like buying gifts. I like the whole damn thing.

One day, when my kids don’t see me everyday and my husband has lost most of his sight,  I’ll be one of those people that not only decorates their home, but also themselves.

That’s right. I’m talking themed clothing people!

Christmas sweaters. Thanksgiving earrings. Halloween PJs. Oh it’ll be on.

Till then – here’s some random photos to enjoy. My kitchen as I prepped. My turkey (apparently claried butter is the way to go). A couple of people passed out on the couch after dinner – which I consider the ultimate compliment. Photos of the hike my sister orgnaized for a few of us. I think more people would have joined had they known we would be stopping at a Vineyard on the way home.  True story.

xoxo

Nutty

Two years ago my sister showed up at Mother’s Day or Thanksgiving or Christmas – one of them – with a bag full of these spicy, sweet, salty nuts. They have a strange crack-like power on everyone who tries them. I decided to make a batch for our favorite aunt out in Long Island who takes our girl for a beach adventure every summer. In fact she’ll take any girls – all girls seem to be welcome. Boys too maybe. She’s good like that. She deserves some nuts.

This is the Smitten Kitchen recipe, quadrupled. Cause that’s how I roll.

4 Cups Nuts (any nut will do. Except the nut you’re married to), 1 egg white, 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, 1/2 Cup White Sugar, 2 tsp Cinnamon, 2 tsp Salt, 2 tbs Cayenne Pepper, 3 tbs water.

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Combine the sugars, cayenne pepper, salt and cinnamon. Whisk the egg white with the water until frothy. Add egg whites to the nuts and coat evenly. Add the sugar and toss. 

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Spread evenly in one layer on parchment paper and bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before packaging. I made a batch of these last week to take to a picnic and found this cute candy bowl. The plan was to give the host of the picnic the nuts and bowl, but when he offered it back at the end of the night, I took it. I couldn’t help it. It’s so cute. The first batch of nuts I made were pecans, almonds, and walnuts. The clear winner taste wise in our house is the pecans – so that’s what I made today.

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Carrot Cake 101

A couple of years ago I was gifted a fantastic cookbook called “Flour”. It is based on a bakery in Boston called Flour Bakery (duh). I love this book. I’ve made many of the recipes. I even went and found the bakery in Boston. Like all pilgrimages, there was a little bit of let-down (what? you aren’t impressed that I have your cookbook and love it? I’m not the first person to come in and want to chat about it?) – but in the end I felt validated. Croissants have a way of validating me.
My two go-to recipes are the banana bread and the carrot cake.
My two biggest fails from the book are the granola bar cookies and the chocolate almond dacquoise. That’s another story.

I made the carrot cake this weekend. Try it. People will hug you for it.

As always – here’s the recipe and the visual. You know I like pictures.

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Notice I added raisins. My man likes raisins. What can I say.

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Sift the flour, baking soda and powder, salt and cinnamon. My “sifter” is a strainer that I warped in the dish washer. Just an fyi.
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Cream the oil, sugar and eggs. 

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Add your carrots. Please don’t use the pre-shredded ones. They are covered in some sort of nuclear coating so they don’t stick together. But that coating also make it impossible for them to soften in the cake. So go old school and shred by hand. 
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Add vanilla. This is a homemade bottle my little bitty sister gave me a while ago. I keep adding store bought vanilla and trying to extend the life. Poor me. If only SOMEONE would make me more. Anyhoo.

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Add raisins if you want to or if you’re maritally committed to.
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Combine the dry and wet ingredients.

Divide amongst your pans. If you are are suspicious of non-stick pans like I am – add some non-stick spray. Otherwise, be normal and healthy and skip this step. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes .
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I forgot to add pecans to the ingredients photo. So sorry. These very very important. Toast a cup and let cool.
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Then using a highly evolved Ziploc bag/bottom of a plastic bowl method – pound them into pieces.
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Make the frosting by creaming butter, powdered sugar, vanilla (poor poor me) and cream cheese together in an empty kitchen, better to do multiple tastings.
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Frost between layers and frost. You only have to make the top look pretty. 
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Take the pecans and use them like Spanx all around the cake. They push and tuck all the unruly bits into place. You have a tight, toned and together cake. 
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Refrigerate for an hour before serving and then sit back and accept all the love. 

Awkward.

That moment after you lay everything out to make Christmas cookies and you think to yourself… I coulda been watching a cheesy holiday movie. Sigh.

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Faux Baking

It’s not really faux.
You do turn an oven on.
Our wonderful neighbors make this every year and I promptly stole the recipe.
Actually it’s more of a trick than a recipe.
But it’s so good and it’s so easy.
Here’s what you need 3 ingredients:
Small pretzels, Hershey kisses, and M&Ms.

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Preheat your oven to 175. See, told you it was baking.
Then spread your pretzels out on a sheet and put a kiss on top.

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Bake for 4 minutes and take out.
Add an M&M and smush down. Smushing is a technical baking term. Let them cool and done!

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Trust me, your people will be happy. Your people will love you. More. Finally.

Chocolate It’s Bananas! Bread Pudding

I told you guys I had too many bananas.  Ok – after this we’ll be banana free for a bit.  Hope you try this and hope you forgive me for not retyping the ingredients.  (Recipe can be found in the Flour Bakery Cookbook – again).  This is the first time I made this recipe but I’m a chocolate pudding risk taker.

 

Cube the bread and put in a wide, shallow pan.  I used a loaf of day old bread from the local bakery but any old bread would do.

 

In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar and baking soda.

 

 

Heat the half&half to scalding but not to a boil.  So basically a thin skin will start forming but no bubbles.  Although I saw a couple of bubbles but nobody’s perfect.  If you are perfect, you’ll start heating the half&half before cubing the bread and whipping the egg mixture, being 100% efficient with your time.  Or you can be like me and wait by the stove staring down the liquid as if you’re eyes had super scalding power.

Anyhoo – once it’s at the scalding hot stage – pour it onto the chocolate chips – which you’ve combined in yet another bowl.  I promise you, this is the last “another” bowl you’ll need.

 

Start stirring slowing after pouring and you’ll see the chips magically dissolve leaving a big fat pot of chocolate half&half.  You can just stop here and have that for desert if you’d like.  No one will know.

 

Once the chocolate has fully dissolved, slowly, carefully, pour the egg mixture in – all the while whisking as you go (and then try taking a picture at the same time. I’m just sayin’).

If the odds are in your favor and you don’t have chocolate egg curdles – pour the mixture onto the cubes of bread.  The book calls for pouring the liquid through a sieve first but I pretended not to read that part.

Then add the bananas.  You can either slice the bananas in or in my case, squeeze the overripe goop onto the pan and mix in.  Tasty.

Then into a 300 degree oven for a 1.5 hours.

 

Once done – add your choice of topping – chocolate sauce, whipped cream, ice cream…. take a wild guess what I picked.

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