As kids we spent quite a bit of time on the road in the back of my parent’s blue full-size conversion van. It was outfitted with two benches facing each other, that my parents constructed out of plywood, and covered with homemade rust colored velour cushions. A table in the middle would come down and turn the whole thing into a bed. My mother adorned the windows with rust, tan, and dark blue curtains as well. As kids we loved that van! We spent countless hours playing cards and telling ghost stories around that table. While we were driving, we were allowed to dash from the back of the van to the front, only when we were on a straightaway just to be safe, in order to grab snacks from the cooler my parents kept on the floor in the middle of the two front seats.
Mind you seat belts were nowhere to be found in that van. I’m not sure we were actually introduced to seat belts until we were in high school and the driver’s education teacher made us wear one. His foot hovered over the large looming emergency break on the floor of the passenger’s side, which he did actually use a few times. I never truly knew if the insistence on seat belts was for his safety or ours. I think having to wear a seat belt made me think what I was about to embark upon behind the wheel was more dangerous than actually merging onto a freeway full of cars speeding along at a whip roaring 55 mph, which is still the speed limit on most Pennsylvania highways.
Yet every time I think of that van, I am reminded of Chris Farley’s famous Saturday Night Live skit. I see Farley all disheveled warning someone not to be like him, “35 years old, eating a steady diet of government cheese, thrice divorced, and living in a van down by the river!”
On many of our road trips in our unconventional transportation, my father would bring along his favorite snack, burnt peanuts. Now you may be thinking burnt anything doesn’t sound that appealing, but if you never tried burnt peanuts I encourage you to search them out. These peanuts with a bright red crunchy candy shell were a constant on our long drives, coveted by my dad and usually not shared.
Years later when my father-in-law brought us a bag of burnt peanuts, I shared with him my dad’s love of these crunchy and savory treats. Since then, he regularly brings us a bag on his visits. The candy coating on burnt peanuts does not melt. They never melted in our hot van in the summertime, which while it had many of the comforts of home lacked air conditioning. This also meant we knew they could stand up to the heat of the oven if we incorporated them into biscotti. With a bit of extra peanut butter, these Burnt Peanut Biscotti have an over the top salty peanutty taste.
Burnt Peanut Biscotti
YIELD: approximately two dozen
2 ¾ cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup extra crunchy peanut butter
1 1/2 cups burnt peanuts
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, vanilla extract, and peanut butter.
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 burnt peanuts and knead 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. Press sugar firmly on top of the biscotti logs.
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 #24: Slide the ends under the door and use as a doorstop.