“Everybody’s a mad scientist, and life is their lab. We’re all trying to experiment to find a way to live, to solve problems, to fend off madness and chaos.” This quote by David Cronenberg accurately described our day, particularly the madness and chaos part. Schools were closed due to “inclement weather.” Inclement, with regards to weather, is defined as severe, rough, or harsh. As I looked out the window this morning, I didn’t particularly notice any weather matching that description. We’ve lived in our fair share of cold weather cities, Chicago, Anchorage, Pittsburgh, and Misawa in northern Japan, where we would get up to three feet of snow overnight. Yet each of these cities knew how to handle the accumulating snow, ice encrusted roads, and slippery sidewalks. We’ve spent winters driving with chains on our tires, thankful to have them in the snow and cursing the clickety sounds they made on the roadways without it.
As mad scientists in our kitchen lab, our daughter and I first experimented with Milk Duds a few years ago. Milk Duds were and remain her favorite candy. We added them to the biscotti dough whole. Yet, as we pulled the biscotti out of the oven after the second bake, we noticed that most of the caramel inside the Milk Duds had seeped out, riveting the biscotti with little chocolate craters. Although they tasted good, half of them fell apart. We knew we’d try again someday.
While these Salted Caramel and Chocolate Biscotti with Butter Toasted Pecans aren’t studded with Milk Duds, the combination of caramel and chocolate is a classic. The salted caramel sugar we used in this recipe is from The Spice and Tea Exchange. However, you could always use 1 cup of granulated sugar and replace the vanilla extract with caramel extract. When we kneaded in the sea salt caramels, it created ribbons of chocolate and caramel throughout the dough. We simply melted some more of the mini sea salt caramels into a thick paste that we slathered on top before sprinkling each with some chopped butter toasted pecans. While our Milk Dud experiment was literally a dud, our daughter and I both think our attempts to fend off the madness and chaos today were well worth it. We are expecting more “inclement weather” tomorrow, so I expect the madness and chaos may hang around for a bit.
Salted Caramel and Chocolate Biscotti with Butter Toasted Pecans
YIELD: approximately two dozen
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup mini sea salt caramels, plus ½ cup for the topping
¼ cup butter toasted pecans, roughly chopped
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 salt.
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 sea salt caramels. 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.
9. Put the remaining ½ cup of the sea salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 15 seconds and stir. Continue microwaving for 15 seconds until the caramels turn into a paste, similar to the consistency of butter. With a small spatula, spread the chocolate and caramel mixture on the top of each biscotti and sprinkle with the pecans.
10. Transfer the biscotti to the refrigerator for 10 minutes to set.
What to do with the ends #54: Use the end as a conductor’s wand.