A work in progress. That is how I often describe us and the myriad of unfinished projects we have around the house. Whether it’s a home improvement project, a decorating project, or some kind of craft project, you can generally find us in the middle of something. We are either contemplating how to finish it, evaluating our options, or debating how it should be done.
There is one project that our daughter has been “reminding” me we have not finished and questioning exactly when we are going to get to it.
For the last month my sewing machine has been taunting me from our dining room table. I’m not a sewer.
My mother taught both my brother and I the basics of how to sew and read a pattern while we each made our names out of letter pillows. Although I can’t remember what fabric I used, I remembered I loved them. After I got married my mother bought me a sewing machine. I’ve taken it out of the box now and again over the years, but it is generally an exercise in frustration. The bobbin doesn’t wind properly, the needle breaks, or the tension is off.
Last summer I told our daughter we could make aprons. I took her to the fabric store and we found a “Sew Easy” pattern (that is a misnomer…there is nothing easy about it), picked out fabric, and some ribbons for embellishments. We took our supplies home, cut out the patterns pieces, and dug out the sewing machine from it’s box in the basement. And there it sat, mocking me like a schoolyard bully every time I walked past it. When I was finally determined to start sewing, the tension was off and I couldn’t fix it. I promised our daughter that I would get to it.
But eventually the sewing machine made it’s way back into the box in the basement. The patterns and fabric made it’s way into a plastic bag that was stowed in the box with the sewing machine. And for a while it was all forgotten.
For a while she was distracted by other projects and goings on. But soon again the “reminders” to finished the apron surfaced and after a year I realized that if we didn’t get her done, it would probably be too small for her when he did. So this past weekend, I finished it.
And while she loves it, I know that the stitches aren’t even. If you look closely you’ll find plenty of mistakes and lose strings. I didn’t follow the pattern exactly. I basted when I should have hemmed. I folded instead of surged. But overall, it at least looks like an apron. I make everything with a bit of “character” as I like to call it. Nothing ever comes out perfectly. It is a sign that it has been handmade…at least that it what I tell myself.
In order to commensurate the completion of such a monumental task, our daughter suggested we make biscotti. She desperately wanted to wear her smock, as she calls it. So, we decided on Lemon Dill Biscotti with Almonds. The dill is from our garden. We left it out to dry on the counter overnight before adding it. We used an Asian lemon oil, which would also work well with basil rather than dill if you prefer one over the other.
As we were mixing and kneading, our daughter looked down at her apron and then up at me. “Can I get it dirty?” she asked. I laughed. “Of course. That is the sign of a good cook!” I think it will be used a lot.
The pattern was for matching aprons. Luckily she hasn’t asked yet when I am going to finish mine.
Lemon Dill Biscotti with Almonds
YIELD: approximately two dozen
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for the topping
1 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 heaping tablespoon chopped dried dill
2 eggs and 2 egg whites
1 teaspoon lemon oil
zest of one lemon
½ cup roasted and salted almonds, 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, salt, and dill.
3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, lemon oil, 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 almonds. Sprinkle your hands with lemoncello and knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.
6. Separate the dough in thirds. Form three logs, approximately 2 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. Sprinkle to top of each log with a generous helping of 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.
What to do with the ends #79: Use the ends to help hold your fabric in place on your next sewing project.