Manchego Biscotti

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I’ve often said I could live on bread and cheese alone. Cheese plates, pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, and french onion soup would top my list.

This summer a friend brought us a chunk of manchego cheese. We feel in love with it. Manchego cheese is from Spain and has a uniquely colored and patterned rind.

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While in Philadelphia this summer, we visited DiBruno’s House of Cheese in the Italian market on 9th street. The Cheesemonger was incredibly generous and let the kids and I try a variety of cheeses, some the kids enjoyed and others they did not. When he asked what we liked and I mentioned the kid’s affection for what we call in our house, “the flat white cheese” (aka, provolone), he offered up a sample. When the kids made that face that let me know they don’t like what they’ve just eaten and are looking for my approval to spit it out, I quickly nodded my head no. We obviously aren’t buying the good stuff. We left with some homemade pepperoni (which is the best I’ve ever had, seriously), a copy of Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese: A Guide to Wedges, Recipes, and Pairings (I’ve decided I need to learn more, which of course leads to more tastings), and a chunk of manchego.

We’ve actually bought manchego about half a dozen times, with the intent of trying it in biscotti. But we’ve eaten it every time and it never lasted long enough for us to experiment. In fact, that little chunk of goodness our friend brought this summer prompted me to add a food related item to my bucket list: buy an entire wheel of cheese! You know, the big kind that you usually see on display that you have to tap to see if it is for real or fake? Call me crazy. 

We sliced these biscotti super thin and baked them longer, so they resembled crackers or crisps. The savory manchego cheese and just a hint of sweetness are perfect for dunking in your favorite dip, topping with chicken salad, or using as croutons in soup.

We also used them to make a brushetta appetizer. We layered Manchego Biscotti with roasted garlic, which we smeared across the top before added a few slices of carmelized onion. We then added some oven roasted tomato and drizzled it with rosemary infused olive oil. We topped it all with a slice of manchego cheese and popped it under the broiler for 5-7 minutes. Goodness all around!

manchego app

Photo credit: Most photos taken for this blog entry were styled, photographed, and edited by our daughter.

Manchego Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup finely grated manchego cheese, plus 1/2 cup for the top of the logs

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg and 2 egg whites (keep the yolks to brush over the top of the logs)

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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, mix the flour and manchego cheese by hand to coat the cheese and keep it from sticking together.  Whisk in the sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg whites.

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.  Separate the dough in half.  Form three 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.

6. Whisk the two egg yolks and brush liberally over the top of each log. Sprinkle with additional grated manchego cheese.

7.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35 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 30 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 #86: Feed them to your camel, if you’ve got one.

 

Rosemary Raisin Biscotti

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We own very few pieces of furniture that can’t be turned into a fort in a matter of minutes with the help of a few sheets, blankets, and pillows.

Bedroom furniture finds its way into the sunroom to create a secret reading nook where no one will surely look. Dining room chairs are in the living room, where if you prop the extra pillows up just right, you can create the perfect fort for a game of UNO. The ottoman becomes a boat when you add a sail wrapped around two chairs and connect it with the bench from the foyer, which becomes the gangplank for pirates who willingly plunge themselves into the dark sea below. Two kitchen chairs and a fitted sheet are just what you need to set up an animal hospital for the doctors that perform tail straightening procedures on monkeys, save the limbs of dogs with broken bones, and conduct the risky removal of animal appendixes.

While forts are cool, they require plenty of additional supplies to make them functional. I’ve been told flashlights, books, stuffed animals, rulers, hair brushes, toilet paper, band aids (which don’t always come off stuffed animal fur!), and snacks are required to really trick out a fort.

Our ability to create specialized and massive forts may only be surpassed by our ability to find a way to sneak raisins into anything we can. We use raisins in muesli, zucchini bread, granola, muffins, salads, tagine, couscous, and plenty of other dishes. My father-in-law even puts raisins in his stuffed spinach pizza, something his mother used to do for him when he was a kid.

We’ve recently noticed quite a few products that combine rosemary and raisin and thought we would give Rosemary Raisin Biscotti a try. Trader Joe’s sells Rosemary and Raisin Crisps, which are perfect for dipping in chicken salad or topping with goat cheese. Leslie Stowe also sells a rosemary and raisin crisp that incorporates pecans. I’ve also come across recipes for Rosemary Raisin Almond Bread and Pan di Ramerino that I am looking forward to making.

My husband believes these Rosemary Raisin Biscotti may be the best bisoctti we’ve ever made…and he’s tried his fair share. We use less egg and more egg whites in this recipe which makes a crunchy, yet cookie-like texture, perfect to eat by themselves or with a mug of your favorite tea.

Rosemary Raisin Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for topping

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons dried rosemary (cut and sifted)

1 egg and 3 egg whites (save the yolks for the egg wash)

1 cup raisins

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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 rosemary.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg whites.

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 raisins. 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. Whisks together the three remaining egg yolks and brush the tops of each log. Sprinkle liberally with sugar.

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 #84: Hang the ends by strings from the ceiling of your next fort and practice eating them without your hands.

 

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 1

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.

Candied Bacon and Rosemary Biscotti

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We have a six-year-old who has lost eight teeth and has three more wiggling loose. She looks like a hockey player. If you ask her how many teeth she lost, she will proudly tell you, since she sees herself as an overachiever after learning most of her friends are still waiting to lose their first tooth. She likes to stick her tongue through the holes in her smile and make funny faces. Yet, we didn’t realize what level of anticipation, excitement, and drama can occur when losing a tooth.

My husband will pull them out for her if she asks. When they are barely hanging on by the root and just dangling there, it makes my stomach turn. I grimace and look away. Yet he is right in there ready to yank it out. She has swallowed two teeth while she was eating. Tears ensued because she was quite certain the tooth fairy wouldn’t come if she didn’t have a tooth under her pillow. Although there was some discussion about “waiting” for it to return to us, we eventually convinced her that if she wrote a note to the tooth fairy she would still leave something under her pillow. Another tooth was lost at the beach, which also required a significant amount of drama because she was sure the tooth fairy would not be able to find her at the beach house. There was some discussion about magical powers and comparisons were made to Rudolph and Santa, and a calmness came over her.

I’m not sure what the going rate is for teeth these days, but the tooth fairy has left one dollar gold coins, a five dollar bill when the fairy bank ran out of gold coins, a Brianna The Tooth Fairy book, nail polish with “fairy dust” in it, and a one dollar bill folded into what has become known in our house as the “fairy fold” but was used by my husband the next day to teach the kids how to play paper football. Our daughter thought that maybe the tooth fairy would also like something, so she left her a sun catcher she had made. The tooth fairy left her a note saying that her sun catcher is the first one the fairies ever had in fairyland. She was very excited about that.

With her gaping smile she is finding it difficult to eat some foods. So we are always on the lookout for soft foods or chopping everything on her plate into tiny chewable pieces, which is exactly what we found ourselves doing at breakfast this morning. We’ve come to realize most breakfast foods are relatively soft or bite-sized…cereal, museli, yogurt, fruit, eggs, pancakes, waffles, and french toast. But crispy bacon isn’t as easy to eat for someone who is gumming the majority of her food. But, she loves bacon. I mean really, what’s not to love.

As much as we love bacon, we don’t eat it too often. But when we do we buy good quality thick-cut bacon from the local Amish Market, which makes all the difference in our sweet and savory Candied Bacon and Rosemary Biscotti. I wish we had some bacon left over for the photos, but we finished it off with breakfast.

 

Candied Bacon and Rosemary Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

8 slices thick-cut applewood smoked bacon or approximately ½ a pound of thick-cut bacon

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup finely ground cornmeal

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar, plus 1 cup for the candied bacon

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup chopped fresh rosemary

4 eggs

zest of a lemon

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Candied Bacon

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Line a baking sheet with foil, wrapping the foil over the sides, so you can easily pour the bacon grease out of the pan as it cooks.

3. Place the brown sugar in a medium bowl. Dip each strip of bacon into the brown sugar and coat both sides. Lay the bacon in a single layer on the foil-lined baking sheet.

4. Cook for approximately 30 minutes, flipping the bacon over halfway through.

5. Remove bacon with tongs, the melted sugar will be very hot, and place on a backing sheet covered with parchment paper to cool and crisp.

Biscotti

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, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and rosemary.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs 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 chopped candied bacon and 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 # 44: Use the ends to hold open a cookbook while making dinner.