Nutty Bitters Biscotti

Bitters 3

Cravings: eager desire or yearning.

We all have them, food addictions or cravings.

Some cravings are constant. For example, I can’t see tiramisu without my mouth-watering and I can think of nothing else until I have some. So why torment myself? And I crave my coffee in the morning. Without it, I’m useless.

Some cravings come and go. Like a favorite dish at a restaurant or ice cream during the warm summer months. Maybe it’s some weird food during a pregnancy or perhaps it’s the undeniable urge for salty snacks.

Maybe it’s not what you eat but when you eat. Maybe late-night food cravings drive you to pillage through the cupboards while everyone else is asleep.

Right now we are addicted to Spiced Bitter Bar Nuts, from Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-all.

These nuts are amazing, best served warm, and the entire four cups never last more than two days in our house. I fear we may all actually turn into nuts at the rate we are shoveling these into our mouths, just like Burger Boy who will only eat burgers, eventually turns into a burger, and is chased all over town by people who want to eat him. I wonder who would want to eat us if we turned into nuts? We have plenty of squirrels in the backyard…I think that is a children’s book just waiting to be written.

While these nuts taste good on their own, we thought they might taste just as good in biscotti spiced with some additional Bitters and rosemary. We were right!

Spiced Bitter Bar Nuts

4 cups unsalted and raw nuts, pistachios, pecans, almonds, and walnuts

1/4 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary (We used dried rosemary, cut and sifted.)

1 teaspoons cayenne pepper (We used only half this amount to keep it tolerable for the kids.)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon Angostura bitters

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

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1. Preheat the oven to 350.

2. Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes (shake the nuts around on the pan halfway through.)

3. Combine the brown sugar, butter, rosemary, cayenne, cinnamon, honey and bitters in a large bowl.

4. Add the nuts to the bowl and mix thoroughly so they’re nicely coated.

5. Add the salt and mix again.

Bitters collage 2

Nutty Bitters Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup finely ground cornmeal

1 cup granulated sugar

1  ½ teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoons dried rosemary, cut and sifted

2 eggs and 2 egg whites

1 tablespoon Bitters

1 teaspoon Spiced Bitter Bar Nuts

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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, salt, and rosemary.

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

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 Spiced Bitter Bar Nuts. 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 # 83: Keep them in a bag, close at hand, and hide them to satisfy your next craving!

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

cranberry 3

Happy New Year!

Along with a new year comes a whole lot of “firsts.” First big snow storm of the year…first baby born in 2014…first day of not being able to find a parking spot at the gym.

Right now, our house is mostly preoccupied with our son prematurely losing his first tooth. Over a year ago, he thought pretending to be a seal while diving off the couch would be a good idea. He has had a black front tooth ever since. A few days ago while I was tickling him on the very same couch, he slid down the side in what was a temporary fit of giggles, only to get his tooth caught on the couch, yanking it loose. With tears and blood streaming down his chin, he started streaming, “Is my black tooth gone?” He hasn’t stopped asking us since.

A quick trip to the dentist reassured us that it will likely fall out and he will remain toothless for quite some time.

He has depleted our tissue supply trying to pull it out and has persuaded my husband to attempt the same. I think he knows better than to ask me. I cringe at the idea.

Along the lines of “firsts,” these Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti were the first we made in our tiny kitchen many years ago. With my father-in-law looking on, trying to offer his sage advice, and me mostly ignoring him, they were a very mediocre oddly shaped batch of biscotti. I’d say over the years we’ve improved immensely. The traditional combination of cranberries and pistachios, which mimic not only Christmas colors but those of the Italian flag as well, are hard to beat.

 

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti 

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

½ teaspoon cranberry flavored oil (We used LorAnn Oils.)

½ cup shelled pistachios

1 cup dried cranberries

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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 salt.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and cranberry flavored oil.

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 pistachios and cranberries. 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. Press tops with sugar.

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 #61: Tuck the ends inside the Christmas tree at the curb to create a food maze for the squirrels.

Nutty Biscotti

nutty 3

Christmas is over. Inglemauker, our elf, has returned to his family at the North Pole. Our stockings are folded and packed away for next year. And, our Christmas tree is losing its pine needles all over the living room floor.

The kids opened and are enjoying their gifts. Our son has been through three sets of batteries in his remote control fire truck, which he paraded around the neighborhood Christmas day at a snail-like pace, spraying the neighbor’s mailboxes to put out random fires we found on our travels. Our daughter went straight for the bag of books we traditionally give the kids each year, commenting on whether each book was a family favorite and relishing the new books she can’t wait to read.

And Big Biscotti Bake received its first piece of custom artwork by a local, yet somewhat undiscovered, artist. Thank you! We love it and will prominently display it, always thankful to have such inspiring people in our lives.

art

Soon we will take down the lights outside, pull the tree to the curb, and pack away the decorations. Our house will return to whatever normalcy we can manage.

When I was a kid there was one thing that always outlasted the holidays. Every year well before Christmas, my parents would put out a bowl of nuts and a nutcracker. That little pick that comes with the nutcracker was always carefully hidden away because I am quite sure my parents thought we would accidentally poke our eyes out with it. My brother and I were always ready to crack a nut for anyone who requested one. But we were not always strong enough, grunting like Olympic weight lifters and often handing over the nutcracker to the closest adult after conceding our defeat. Eventually we got strong enough, but by then the nutcracker lost its appeal and bags of already cracked nuts were more common on grocery store shelves. Even then I loved the almonds best.

So as a nod to family tradition, we made these Nutty Biscotti with four of our favorites, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and cashews. Sometimes we spoon melted dark chocolate over half of these biscotti, but they are perfectly delicious on their own.

 

Nutty Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½cup almond meal

¼ cup finely ground cornmeal

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ cup roasted walnut pieces, roughly chopped

½ cup whole roasted almonds

½cup roasted and salted pistachios

½ cup roasted cashews

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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, almond meal, cornmeal, 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 nuts. 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 #60: Use the ends to crack nuts.

Lemon Pistachio Biscotti

pistachio 2

Why do things always seem to take much longer than they should? We went to the Christmas tree farm yesterday and the kids picked out our tree, which took three hours. Apparently everyone was out doing the same thing before the weather turned bad around here. It’s our biggest tree yet. We had to cut it down to fit it in the living room. We had high hopes of decorating it last night, but after dinner, baths, and Rudolph’s New Year movie extravaganza, we were lucky just to get it in the stand.

So we had high hopes of getting the tree decorated this morning. However, our daughter knows how to sleep. While we were all waiting for her to wake up my husband and I managed to get the lights on the tree, which in our house in no small task and took much longer than it should after we untangled the lights, fixed loose or missing bulbs, and manged to agree on a way to simply put them on the tree. Apparently I don’t stretch them out enough. I’ve been told I have a tendency to cluster them in order to give them a more random look as compared to a certain someone’s preference for the appearance of a straight line winding itself around the tree. Who knew!

As we waited for our sleepyhead so we could decorate the tree, we also managed to make breakfast, assemble another Lego airplane, play a game of Uno, do the dishes, wash the laundry, and take out the garbage. While we were still waiting for her to wake up, my husband decided to go to the gym.  So, our son and I decided to make some biscotti. We actually had enough time to make three batches. Over twelve hours after first laying her head on the pillow, have I mentioned she knows how to catch some winks, our sleepyhead emerges and we loaded on the ornaments. We had plenty of close calls, but only one casualty…a moose loss its antlers. Mission accomplished.

Cracking the pistachios in these Lemon Pistachio Biscotti was a good stress reliever after hanging the lights. And now we have a little something to share with our friends and snack on the next time we are waiting…for anything really.

pistachio collage

Lemon Pistachio Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup finely ground cornmeal

1 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for the topping

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

Zest of 3 lemons

1 teaspoon lemon flavored oil

1 cup roasted pistachios, plus ¼ cup ground pistachios for the topping

agave

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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 salt.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon zest, and lemon flavored oil.

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 pistachios. 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. Drizzle the top of each log with agave.

8. Mix 1 tablespoon sugar with ¼ cup ground pistachios. Sprinkle the sugar and pistachio mixture onto the top of each log and press down firmly with your hands to ensure the mixture sticks to each log.

9.  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 #53: Use the ends as buttons on a snowman.

Rosewater Cardamom Biscotti with Pistachios

roasewater 4

I am a firm believer in lifelong learning. Anyone who knows me can tell you I’ve participated in my fair share of educational endeavors. Long before kids, I spent my weekends sitting in front of a computer with my head buried in books, synthesizing information, answering questions, and typing papers, while my husband slid food under the door. Since we’ve had kids, my educational endeavors consist of personal interests like writing for kids, cooking authentic Indian food, or learning how to knit funky socks. As an educator, I see value in both. But most importantly, I see the value in knowing that our kids are watching me learn something new.

When I first told our kids I was going to take a class, not teach one, they were amazed. “How will you fit into the desks?” “Aren’t you too old to go to school?” “If you are a teacher how can you be a student?” The first few made me laugh, but the last one got me. I think teaching is one of the best ways to learn. Even though the subject matter may be the same, no class is ever identical to another and every semester I learn so much from my students.

I get frustrated and struggle at times, but I always remember that it is about how I react in those situations that makes for teachable moments. In fact, we were at the table working on a project and our son was starting to have a meltdown because he didn’t like the way his project was turning out. “Just roll with it. You are the artist so it can be anything you want,” my daughter says, as I smiled hearing my own voice echo in hers. I think they are getting it.

No matter how old I am, my kids will continue to see me learning. As Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” I really need to stay young.

This past weekend I completed a two-day food writing workshop. Our instructor and accomplished writer, Nani Power, did a fabulous job of not only broaching the subject of mining our personal histories to enhance our writing, but shared with us some innovative methods for looking at our emotional connections to food. Now don’t expect miracles, but I’m working on it.

So with the idea of learning in mind, we decided to experiment with an ingredient we never used before, rosewater. We all agree that this one was worth learning. 

 

Rosewater Cardamom Biscotti with Pistachios

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cardamom seeds (We used a mortar and pestle to grind the seeds then sifted them into the flour mixture.)

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

3 eggs

2 teaspoons rose water

1 cup pistachios

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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, cardamom, and nutmeg.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and rose water.

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 pistachios 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 #37: Push the ends through pre-drilled hole in a pumpkin to make an edible resting spot for the birds.