Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Basic Biscotti Recipe - The Possibilities are Endless


The first time I made biscotti for my in-laws, they thought I'd bought it at a bakery. They were highly impressed when they found out that I'd made it myself. Just between you and me, biscotti is actually really easy to make (and it is a good recipe to impress your friends and guests!).

There are a lot of different variations on the recipe, some using butter, others using oil. I prefer the oil method because for one, it's more authentic, but also because I can't have anything made with cow's milk because Little Bird is sensitive to it. Traditional Italian recipes use olive oil (of course) but if you are not a big olive oil fan you can use canola or vegetable oil or substitute half of the olive oil for something else.

I always start out with a basic recipe, and then add whatever nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate chips I happen to have on hand at the time. Experiment! The varieties are endless.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
2 tsp. extract of your choosing (vanilla, almond, lemon, anise, combo)
1/4 cup of olive oil
1-2 cups of the mix-in of your choice (You can play around with how much you want in your biscotti, just keep in mind that the more you add the harder it is to slice!)

Mix-in Ideas
Almonds, Pistachios, Walnuts, Pecans, Pumpkin seeds, Dried cherries, Dried cranberries, Dried apricots, Chocolate chips


First, pre-heat your oven to 325°. Or, do like I do and forget this step until your dough is finished and then spend ten minutes shooing the cats away while the oven pre-heats. Your choice.

In a large bowl, mix the sugar, oil and extract until they are blended. No need to get fancy with a mixer here folks, I just use a fork for the whole recipe. Then beat in your eggs.

In another bowl, combine the rest of your (dry) ingredients and give them a good stir. Get out a clean fork to do this. That is common sense to me, but I just imagined Jeep using the wet fork to stir up the dry ingredients so I decided I'd better be specific.

Pour your dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and stir until you've got a well combined (and fairly sticky) dough. If you're doing some mix-ins, stir them in now. I just made a basic batch with vanilla and walnut extracts. Divide the dough in half and turn each portion out onto a parchment lined baking sheet. I like the sprinkle some flour on the parchment first, but that step is optional. I do recommend dusting your hands with flower before forming the dough.

You're going to form your dough into two rectangular logs, about 2" wide. The width of your logs will become the length of your biscotti. Don't panic if it looks really small and sad. Stay with me.

Bake your logs in the oven for 25-30 minutes until they are lightly browned. The pull them out and reduce the oven to 275°. Let the logs cool for at least 10 minutes, then slice them diagonally into 3/4 inch strips. Eat the ugly corner pieces. You know you want to.

Lay the slices on their sides back on your parchment lined sheets and bake for another 5-10 minutes. The longer you bake them the crispier biscotti you will get. I tend to cook them a shorter amount of time because I like them a bit soft still. This is a personal choice. You could also adorn your biscotti with some melted chocolate and coconut flakes.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Birth of Mason

On January 17th, 2013 I had my 40 week prenatal office visit. I was due the next day (a friday). I was at that point in the pregnancy when you can't get comfortable no matter what you do, you spend more time than you'd like to admit googling natural ways to induce labor, and you're dying with the anticipation of finally meeting this little person inside of you. It's like being a kid on Christmas eve except that you don't know when Christmas day is going to come.

So I go to the doctor hoping for some progress and she tells me that I am barely a centimeter dilated. I get a prescription for a non-stress test (you have to get these after you've gone overdue), and I will get a call the following week about scheduling an induction. I leave the doctor totally disappointed and resigned to the fact that this little guy is not coming for a while.

So we are at home that evening; Daniel is already in bed. I decide to play Bioshock 2, because hell if I'm going to get any sleep anyway. Chris plays on the computer for a while but eventually goes to bed. I stay up. I'd had a few mild cramps since dinner but nothing I gave much thought to. Around 10pm the cramps start to come more regularly. After about an hour I decide maybe I ought to start timing these. And since we live in the digital age, I download a contraction timer app on my phone (ha) and start recording them. I try to remember the rule my doctor gave in their childbirth class. "5-1-1" I think? Five minutes apart, one minute long, continuing for an hour. So I finally wake up Chris at midnight, "Uh honey, I think I might be going into labor. Maybe?"

I was so utterly convinced that this baby was not coming for days that I had a hard time believing I was actually in labor. I reluctantly called the doctor, "I'm in labor, I think?" and she tells me to come to the hospital and they will check me out.

We start gathering some last minute things together to put in our hospital bag. It goes something like this:

Me shoving things into bag, "I hope this isn't false labor. I feel so dumb calling! I don't want to drive all the way to the hospital just to come back home!"

Then a pause, "Ow... ow... OWWW!"

Contraction passes. I turn to JChris, "Do you think I'm in labor? Is this it?? IS IT?!?" Like he has any idea what I am or am supposed to be feeling, "I'm going to be so pissed if we have to come back home!"

My poor husband looks at me with a mixture of cluelessness and fear in his eyes, "I don't know honey, probably?"

So he loads all of our stuff into the car and we are just about to leave when I feel a "pop." I don't know how else to describe it, because it is probably the weirdest thing I've ever felt. Then a small gush.

"Honey... I don't think we're coming back home."

My water broke at 1:45 in the morning. We get to the hospital around 2:30. I hold out until 6 in the morning trying to do the natural labor thing and I look at my poor, exhausted husband who I can tell is terrified to leave my side even though I'm probably close to breaking his hand. At this point I'm like screw it, give me the epidural.

Forget the wheel. Forget electricity, the printing press, the automobile. The epidural, my friends, is the greatest invention ever. Now, believe me, I hate taking medicine. I hate anything invasive. I am two Birkenstocks shy of being a tree-hugging, granola eating hippie. But after being awake all night, in all sorts of crazy horror film pain, getting the epidural was like finding the promised land. I swear I heard angels singing. I took a nap. A nap! In the middle of labor!

I started pushing around 11am on Friday, January 18th. What a relief when my son's head comes out (which my husband later lovingly referred to as "a gopher popping out of a hole." Thanks honey), then his shoulders, then a strange question from the doctor and nurses.

"Do you want to pull him out?"

I am so disoriented, and I remember pausing and blinking for a minute like, "What? I can do that?"

"Ok." I say. And at 11:45am I reach down and grab him under his arms, and I lift up my little boy for the first time. This was probably the most surreal moment I've ever had in my life. It is so strange having a baby. Even after carrying him for nine months, feeling him move inside me, and pulling him out myself, I still look at him and wonder, "I really did that? Me? I grew him and he came out of me?" Yet through all the disbelief, I was so elated and in love with this pink, slimy, crying baby.

And, yet again, my world is forever changed.