Old Bay Biscotti

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My mother is the youngest of six. She grew up in a hard-working Italian household in an immigrant neighborhood, where summers were spent outside sitting on the stoop and tending to the large garden in the backyard. My grandmother canned pretty much anything that came from her garden. The colorful jars in her pantry were neatly lined up, showcasing her vivid red tomatoes, slender green beans, and colorful peppers. Canning is coming full circle and gaining in popularity, but she canned out of necessity.

Coming from an Italian family, it is no surprise that food was at the center of everything. My grandmother was a wonderful cook, having spent much of her time working in various restaurant kitchens. In addition to her homemade pastas, grandma made a mean bowl of clam chowder.

My aunts and uncles each took different recipes and memories from my grandmother’s kitchen. Everyone learned how to make the family recipe for spaghetti sauce and over time tweaked it and made it their own. Other recipes were shared with only one of them. Uncle Punkin, it is still a mystery as to how he got that nickname, was the only one entrusted with my grandmother’s clam chowder recipe. It outlived her and was still served at a local restaurant decades after her passing.

As kids, my brother and I never ate it. My mom didn’t know how to make it and if she had we probably would have balked at the idea. I have been told we were not adventurous eaters. Plus, my father also had a shellfish allergy that made him blow up like a puffer fish in defense mode. So, we ate little seafood growing up, outside of those inevitably greasy fish sticks from a box.

Years later when my husband and I wanted to try our hand at clam chowder we called my uncle, at my mother’s insistence of course. I think she was secretly using us, hoping we’d be able to convince him to give us my grandmother’s recipe.

As it turned out, Uncle Punkin was more than willing give it to us, but made me promise not to share it to anyone, “especially your mother,” he said. I promised.

Minutes after getting off the phone with Uncle Punkin, our phone rings and it’s my mom, asking if he divulged the coveted recipe. “He did. And I’ve got it,” I replied in my best super spy voice. “But I can’t share it with you,” I continued. “He made me promise.” There was some rather colorful language on the other end and we hung up.

Minutes later the phone rings again. “Are you on the other line with your mom?” asked Uncle Punkin. “No, she just hung up,” I reply sheepishly. “I didn’t tell her anything,” I quickly reassure him.

“Good,” he says. I feel like I’ve struck a deal with the devil. “Then I’ll tell you the secret ingredient I left out.” He didn’t trust me or my mom for that matter. “It’s a sleeve of finely ground saltine crackers.”

“Thanks. I promise I won’t tell a soul,” and we hung up.

I’ve kept my promise. To this day, my uncle and I are the only ones in the family that know the infamous clam chowder recipe. I just talked to him, hoping I could share grandma’s amazing recipe with you here, but it will have to remain a secret for now.

My husband and I have made only one change. Living in Maryland, we add a healthy dose of Old Bay to give the chowder a little local flare. While oyster crackers are often served alongside a steaming bowl of clam chowder, we thought it would be interesting to dip some Old Bay Biscotti instead.

These are very simple to make, with only 5 ingredients. Since we don’t eat a lot of these at one time, the recipe below is halved and makes about a dozen. The dough is very moist, almost like a cookie dough. You can mix the batter entirely with the spatula and there is no kneading involved. When you are ready to form the logs, moisten your hands with some water to keep the dough from sticking and shape the logs directly on the parchment paper.

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Old Bay Biscotti 

YIELD: approximately one dozen

1  ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

2 eggs

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat-bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and Old Bay.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs.

4.  With a rubber spatula, stir the eggs into the flour mixture until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is sticky or the consistency of a drop cookie batter.

5.  Moisten your hands with water.

6.  Form a log, approximately 2 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.

7.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer the log to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

8.  Transfer biscotti log to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 10 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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What to do with the ends #74: Forget the mallet! Use the ends to help you break open the steamed crab shells at your next picnic.

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Bing Cherry Biscotti with Kirsch

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It’s official. Spring is here.

This past weekend we spent the day in DC. We edged our way closer and closer to the curb so the kids could see the cherry blossom parade and we braved the masses at the tidal basin to get an up close view of the cherry blossoms. The cherry blossoms always remind us of our time in Japan, specifically a train ride to Hirosaki Castle where we picnicked and sipped sake on grass carpeted with pink fallen cherry blossom petals.

While in the city, we decided to see some sites too.

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Our daughter was adamant about seeing the Lincoln Memorial. As we walked passed the Washington Monument and made our way alongside the reflecting pool, we handed each of our kids a penny. They were amazed to find out that the image on the penny was the exact same one they were looking at in the distance. We counted the steps to the top, felt how cool the bricks were, and talked about how the hands of Lincoln are the letters “A” and “L” in sign language (which park services deny is intentional in the design). As we all gazed up at his statue, our son looks at us and asks, “Was that how big he was when he died?” We explained that you do stop growing at some point.

On our way to the tidal basin we passed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, with the inscribed wall looming behind statues of soldiers dressed for field combat. As we were explaining the purpose of the memorial to the kids, our son abruptly stops and asks in a very loud and anxious voice, “Was I ever in a war?” We assured him he was not.

As we passed through the entrance to the tidal basin, we looked up to see the face of Martin Luther King Jr. carved in granite. We’ve discussed Martin Luther King Jr. before and his story was shared with the students in our daughter’s kindergarten. Our son was standing a few feet away when he recognized the face and yelled over to me, “Is that the king that was shot?” We took a minute to refresh his memory privately.

Overall, the relaxing picnics we once experienced have been replaced with little feet that don’t stay in one place for too long, chants for ice cream, whines about tired legs, and questions peppered by urgency. So we walked a lot, ate ice cream, carried the little man on our backs, answered as many questions as we could before promising to look up more on the computer when we got home, and had a fabulous day!

With the cherry blossoms fresh in our memory, we created these Bing Cherry Biscotti with Kirsch, perfect for a picnic on a bed of cherry blossom petals.

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Bing Cherry Biscotti with Kirsch

YIELD: approximately two dozen

1 cup chopped dried dark bing cherries

½ cup Kirsch or Cherry Brandy, plus more for topping

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for topping

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup finely ground cornmeal

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs and 2 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 heaping cup of whole almonds

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  Place the cherries in a small bowl with the Kirsch and sugar. Set aside.

3.  In a large flat bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.

4.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, and vanilla extract.

5.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

6.  Add the almonds. Knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.

7.  Separate the dough in half.  Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

8.  Drizzle the top of each log with Kirsch and sprinkle with sugar.

9.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

10.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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What to do with the ends #73: Use the ends to prod the masses on your next trip to see the cherry blossoms.

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Fig Biscotti with Ground Pecans

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(I wrote this post quite sometime ago, as those of you familiar with the pig spit drama will know, but just realized I never posted it.)

I often joke with my husband that we should start a blog with the tagline, “Our Life in Bumper Stickers”, outlining all the crazy one liners that we hear on a daily basis. One liners that, on a bumper sticker and out of context, would have people scratching their heads. On a recent road trip here are a few that the kids uttered that we thought would qualify. “Can I see if I color my eye?” “Can I be dead then?” and “Read or you’re going to jail!”

My husband and I found ourselves alone for a few hours this past Friday afternoon. Our daughter was in school. Our son was napping. My husband was home from work to oversee the construction of a fire pit for our newly acquired pig spit. That is another story all together. So, with an afternoon ahead of us he hinted at some “private” time while I asked if he wanted to bake biscotti. He told me that should be on a bumper sticker. The biscotti won out. I’m not sure what that says about us as a couple.

Although the kids and I have experimented and made hundreds of different biscotti, my husband serves only as the in-house taste-tester. He has never made biscotti.  We (me actually) thought it would fun for him to try his hand at making biscotti.

While he chopped figs, I asked if he wanted this or that in the bowl, then measured and mixed the ingredients. Then I kneaded the biscotti. He added the figs. I kneaded some more. Then I shaped the logs. He made an egg wash and then added a thick layer of sugar on top.

And since they are technically “his” biscotti, he wanted them baked only once to keep them soft. We made them yesterday. One of the biscotti logs is still sitting on the cooling rack on the counter. I’m not sure what he plans to do with it next. I took the other and sliced it extra thin and twice baked the biscotti. I figured I did half the work, I am entitled to half the end product. I think he is more of a visionary than an implementation kind of guy. But “his” biscotti are delicious.

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Fig Biscotti with Ground Pecans

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for the topping

1 ½ teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

½ cup ground pecans

3 eggs, plus 1 egg white for the topping

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup chopped dried figs

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat-bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and pecans.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract.

4.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5.  Add the figs. Knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.

6.  Separate the dough in half.  Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

7. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl and brush on the top of each log. Sprinkle a very generous amount of sugar all over the tops.

8.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

9.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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What to do with the ends #72: Use the ends as fire starters for your next pig roast.

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Blueberry Lavender Biscotti

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March is National Craft Month.

While I have over the years tried to justify my crafty ways to my husband, he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get it the way I don’t get golf. Really…spending all day in the hot sun chasing a little white ball around the grass? Long before children, when he couldn’t find someone to golf with, I would occasionally venture out with him. I drove the golf cart, which seems like the only really neat part of it all. Apparently I talk too much and don’t see anything wrong with driving on the greens, which I learned is frowned upon. I was also responsible for the scorecard, until he began making up his own score. So I simply started writing down what I thought his score should be before we moved onto the next hole. With my verbal chiding, random scoring system, and reckless driving, my chauffeur duties didn’t last long.

In the spirit of National Craft Month, a few of us decided to take on a challenge and learn how to knit socks. After two classes, we are half way though the project, which up until this point has already involved a great deal of trial and error, some late nights, a few swear words, and arthritic fingers. At this point in the project, I consider myself lucky, not talented.

One of our sock sisters has freaky fast fingers. Her family will all be getting socks for Christmas. Realizing my limitations, I will be lucky to complete one pair of socks this year.

I believe there is much to be said for creating rather than consuming. I think an article another fellow sock sister shared explains it best. Entitled, “This is your brain on knitting,” the article describes the benefits of creating, whether through music, the arts, cooking, or crafting. When we create, we live more fully. For our family, biscotti is one that we enjoy creating, both food and memories.

Our sock sister who forwarded the article is also the creative visionary behind these Blueberry Lavender Biscotti, an amazing flavor combination that not only smell good coming out of the oven, but taste delicious too!

 

Blueberry Lavender Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoon dried lavender

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of 1 lemon

¾ cup dried blueberries

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat-bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lavender.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and lemon zest.

4.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5.  Add the blueberries. Knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.

6.  Separate the dough in half.  Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

7.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

8.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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What to do with the ends #71: Wrap your yarn around the ends for your next knitting project.

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Bailey’s Irish Cream Biscotti

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Happy belated St. Patrick’s Day. Not a holiday that we traditionally celebrate. Although we do have plenty of friends who are known to “get their drink on” and celebrate their Irish heritage.

Luckily we live near neighbors who know how to throw a St. Patty’s Day shindig, complete with hidden leprechaun notes written on green strips of paper and a scavenger hunt to a pot of gold (chocolate really, but the same thing in our eyes) for the kids.

Our contribution to the amazing spread which included corned beef with all the trimming, breads, brownies, homemade Guinness pudding, and green mac-n-cheese, were Bailey’s Irish Cream Biscotti. We’ve made these before and they are always a bit hit. We forgo the coffee and dip these biscotti in straight Bailey’s. Your neighbors will thank you.

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Bailey’s Irish Cream Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal

1/3 cup and 1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs and 1 egg white

9 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream, divided

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a small bowl, mix 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 3 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream. Set aside.

3.  In a large flat-bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, 1 cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt.

4.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, and 3 tablespoons of the Bailey’s Irish Cream.

5.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture, the sugar and Bailey’s mixture, and the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

6.  Separate the dough in half.  Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

7.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

8.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

9. In the bowl of a double boiler over low heat, slowly melt 2/3 cup of the chocolate chips and the remaining 3 tablespoons of the Bailey’s Irish Cream. As the chocolate starts to melt and turn glossy, add the last 1/3 cup of chocolate chips, turn of the heat, and stir constantly until the remaining chocolate chips melt. Spread onto each biscotti and place in a refrigerator for 10 minutes to let the chocolate set.

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What to do with the ends #70: Leave leprechaun notes under the ends and create your own scavenger hunt to your own pot of gold.

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