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.

Corn Nut and Old Bay Biscotti

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We love food festivals. So the date for the 43rd Annual Old Fashioned Corn Roast Festival at the Union Mills Homestead just outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was on our calendar months in advance. We attended the festival for the first time last year and vowed to return. The festival is held on the grounds of an old grist mill established in 1797. There are tables upon tables set up on the grounds, each adorned with vases of wild flowers and mugs filled with melted butter and paintbrushes, ensuring every ear of corn is covered with buttery goodness. The piles of corn stacked up next to the grills start out over six feet tall and slowly dwindle throughout the day. On one of two enormous wood-burning grills, the corn is cooked inside the husk, covered with wet wool blankets, and doused with water every few minutes to steam the corn to perfection. A local boy scout troop carries old metal tray after tray of corn to the tables, each one emptied within minutes.

It really is quite a production and my husband is adamant it is the best corn he has ever eaten. And boy can he eat. He finished off twelve ears of corn last year, which he claimed was only a snack. This year he boasted he would beat that. I swear he could have been a competitive eater. We would see him on TV stuffing Nathan’s hot dogs into his mouth on the fourth of July or burying his face into a pie at some state fair during the summer.

As virgin corn festival goers, we were unprepared last year. Butter ran down our arms (you only get one napkin) and corn kernels were stuck between our teeth (which turned the kids into raging maniacs).  However, this year we came armed with supplies…wet wipes, Old Bay, and dental floss. We dug in. My husband broke his record, eating fifteen ears of corn this year. Yet as we were leaving the festival, he proclaimed he could have eaten more. Likely story…although part of me believes him.

Driving home we started talking about all things corn and my husband mentioned corn nuts. The idea for Corn Nut and Old Bay Biscotti was born. I didn’t eat corn nuts as a kid, but apparently my husband loved them. After searching for them at half a dozen stores, we finally found roasted corn nuts at an Amish market. We experimented and created these Corn Nut and Old Bay Biscotti to mimic the flavors of the corn festival. As with all experiments, some are more successful than others. We thought there needed to be more Old Bay and that the corn nuts, an already crunchy treat, were made even more crunchy in the oven. We think they are keepers, but need a little tweaking. 

 

Corn Nut and Old Bay Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 cups flour

½ cup finely ground cornmeal

½ cup granulated sugar

1 ½ teaspoons double-acting baking powder

½ tablespoon Old Bay seasoning

3 eggs and 1 egg white

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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, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and Old Bay.

3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg white (save the yolk for the egg wash to top the biscotti logs).

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 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.

6. Whisk the one remaining egg yolk and brush the top of the logs.

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.

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 # 17: Make an edible necklace.