Friday, August 25, 2006

cashew ginger biscotti, a work in progress

Thank you Nana. You have been gone since I was in second grade, but I think of you whenever I find myself even thinking about biscotti. From your mother to you, to Grandma, and then to both of my folks, was passed on the tradition of making biscotti. Anise cookies were what we knew them as when my sis and I were little. They were crumbly, nutty, mildly licoricey, a touch sweet, and associated with holidays or special occasions. I ate as many as I could whenever I could get my hands on them. Now, I've been making them for at least ten years, during the holidays and maybe for a birthday or two. I have loved biscotti my entire life, so while I was pilfering some of the candied ginger from our jar the other day, and I heard my brain play a bit of a conversation from a few weeks ago: J saying, "Biscotti? I've made em' before.....with some candied ginger bits....tasty!" I imagined how I could alter the family recipe and accommodate what my salivary glands were suddenly demanding.

It took about 3 minutes to assemble the ingredients here. This photo includes the mortar because the flax seeds needed a thorough pulverizing. Raw cashews, candied ginger, and lemon zest are on the plate, vegetable shortening and canola oil represent the fats, all backed by canisters of flour and sugar, plus the baking powder can and fertility symbol salt-keep.

Once again, these ingredients here are NOT those involved in the anise cookies. But I could not talk about making biscotti without talking about Nana's and Grandma's cookies and my original encounters with such. Now that I make them for myself and others, I can choose to create somthing to suit my tastes. Think about it. When given a plate of thirty cookies to choose from, your brain usually starts looking for little details: that ones a little more done, or, hey this one is bigger or has more frosting, etc.....So, overall, I make mine drier, and maybe a little harder, but you can dip it in coffee, tea, or vin santo, and most of it comes back out of the glass (granted we really didn't dip them much as kids so this was of no concern back then) I guess you could call me downright discerning at times, but come on, biscotti aren't just any ol' cookie. I'm not looking to get a sweet-tooth craving sated when I consume one. I'm looking for the comfort-food eating experience that only a good biscotti can satisfy. Considering this, when I experiment with biscotti, the odds are stacked against me, for I'm prone to being overly critical. It was with all this in my head that I embarked on this adventure.

I ground 2T flax seeds into more or less a powder and added 6T of water. This sat and soaked while I worked with the rest. I put 2.5c flour and .75c sugar with 1t baking powder and .5t salt in a sifter, and sifted together 3 times. I melted 5T vege shortening and combined it with 2T canola oil and the flax seed mash in another bowl. This was then combined with the dry ingredients and mixed by hand. When the dough started coming together I added 2/3c chopped cashews and 1/4c chopped candied ginger. This was the result. I covered it with wrap and put it in the fridge to chill for a few hours before shaping into a loaf and doing the initial baking.

Biscotti are the shape of the inside of your hand, so the next step is quite easy. Using your hands, form a loaf about a foot long and a middle finger wide. Bake this for 30-40 minutes at 375, on as light of a pan as you have. Remove from the oven and put on a rack to cool like this.

When cool to the touch, cut at a diagonal, into individual cookies, about as wide as your pinky. Lay back on the cookie sheet and put back in the oven at a lower heat, say 325, and bake them even more. After about 10 minutes, flip over the cookies and put back in the oven. You will probably have to do this several times more if you like them like I do. When the cookies are taken out, do not eat any (these aren't anything like chocolate chip cookies, there is no benefit to eating them warm, unless you like burning hot pieces of cookie-shrapnel embedded in your gums.) Hopefully, you are left with something along these lines:

And, if you manage to not eat all of them, and some make it to see the light of day, you can enjoy them with some nice strong coffee. Lord knows a few of my relatives over the years have started their day with a breakfast similar to this.....Ciao!

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