Archive for Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Shouts and Murmurs: The double joy of holiday baking

December 22, 2004

Baking biscotti is much like babysitting a toddler.

You can't take your eyes off either one.

This weekend, my husband and I experienced both pleasures -- babysitting granddaughter Ella and making two batches of biscotti to deliver to neighbors.

The weekend included our first visit to the Kansas City Toy and Miniature Museum. For us, it was an outing with our granddaughter. And for Ella, it was a chance to gleefully say "Ho ho ho" every time she saw a Santa Claus doll -- or any other kind of doll that remotely resembled the jolly ol' elf.

At home, Ella had the run of the house, taking ornaments off the Christmas tree, chasing our kitten, playing with a telephone (unplugged, of course), and having the most fun it seemed, rolling an empty ribbon spool back and forth across the floor.

She's a true delight -- at that wonderful age when language lets you know what they're thinking -- when every moment is a potential adventure.

About the time Ella's parents, Carrie and David, came to get her, Grampa watched Ella while I started the biscotti.

The mixing of the ingredients takes a good 30 minutes by the time you toast the almonds, beat the eggs and sift the flour. Then you pat the mixture into a pan and bake it, watching closely so that it gets brown, but not too brown. Then you remove the whole piece from the pan, slice it into strips and put it in the oven again, turning every so often until the bottom and sides brown as well.

That's just the first pan. Each batch makes four pans, and you can bake in most ovens only two pans at once.

Ella had long since gone home with her parents and was tucked in for a nap by the time we realized one batch wasn't enough.

So we started in again. I thought about going downstairs to use the treadmill while the biscotti was baking, but knew it wouldn't be wise to leave the biscotti on its own -- not even for a minute or two, lest it cook too long. Finally, a couple hours later, all the biscotti was baked, cooled and ready to be tucked into bright packages to deliver.

And of course, we kept a few pieces at home -- to those who appreciate the treat, there's nothing better than biscotti dipped in coffee.

So that Mirror readers, if they desire, can treat themselves to homemade biscotti, here's my recipe.

If you decide to make it, remember it will take a couple of dedicated hours -- but the results are worth it.

Almond biscotti

2 sticks unsalted butter
10 eggs at room temperature
4 1/2 cups sugar
15 drops anise oil
1 teaspoon almond extract
8 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
6 2-ounce packages of sliced almonds

Melt two sticks unsalted butter in microwave, set aside. In a mixing bowl, whip the eggs and sugar at high speed for 10 minutes. Then add 15 drops anise oil and 1 teaspoon almond extract to egg mixture and mix till blended.

Sift 8 cups flour with 4 teaspoons baking powder. Sift three or four times and place in very large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, place 1 cup of sliced almonds on a cookie sheet and bake in 350-degree oven till lightly browned. Stir occasionally.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Fold in the egg mixture, trying to incorporate air into the batter by turning the bowl as you stir. Then add melted butter. Then add almonds.

Spread part of the mixture on cookie sheet in an area about five inches wide by the length of the pan. Wet hands and pat the mixture down till smooth and about 1/2 inch thick. Use spatula to straighten edges.

Bake at about 350 until center is set and overall biscotti is golden brown. Carefully slide baked mixture onto large cutting board. With edge of long spatula, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips.

Carefully slide strips back onto cookie sheet and heat in oven at about 300 or 250 degrees, turning over each piece at least once, till all sides are golden brown. Store in airtight container. These keep forever. One batch makes from 60 to 70 biscotti. Enjoy!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.