22 January 2008

My biscottious story

I’ve been known to have been searching (these tense forms excite me so!) for my own tranquillity sources for quite a long time. The source of all sources for me is creativity. Inspired by beauty and bounty of nature. By trial and error in my kitchen I learnt how relaxing and inspiring baking can be*. I know it’s not a novel discovery. But could I possibly call it my baking epiphany? You take starting ingredients, spell a cast on them using your magic whisk (you’ve got one, haven’t you?) and here we go – something absolutely new and different in texture, looks, smells…A newly-born, in other words.

But my baking story isn’t at all rosy. It’s like in relationship between man and woman - that proverbial first time counts so much. My first (errr, well…second, third and fourth) attempt to bake something delicious left me heartbroken. Baking and me didn’t seem to match at all. Why, why, why? – I kept exclaiming. Who did I have to blame: me or the flour? Was there the third part between us? And then it dawned on me: of course there was the recipe (as the third part) I’d sheepishly followed all those tearful times. I was naïve, I trusted the recipe completely, I didn’t want to question it. As a result, broken heart and inferiority complex. *sigh*

Time passed by. I acquired cooking life experience. I got mature. I learnt to trust my intuition. And eventually I got rewarded.

As a budding baker (both then and now) I chose a very simple and yet much promising recipe of classical pistachio biscotti. According to my research biscotti loosely means ‘twice baked’ in Italian, these are traditional italian cookies often containing nuts or flavoured with anise. The recipe I relied on initially featured one part flour, one part sugar, one egg, a zest of one lemon and shelled unsalted pistachios. One part sugar and one part flour and one egg!! You see??? People, I’m telling you it will never be formed into dough! Never!! You need two parts flour, two!!!! (I’m sorry I’m being a bit too emotional). But one has to get mistaken first to learn a life’s lesson, right? So today I’ve passed the test and got a degree of a biscotti maker. Officially! *a proud smile from ear to ear’*

And here is the recipe of the aforementioned biscotti that really works and yields many crispy fellas.
Pistachio biscotti

You’ll need:
One part sugar (100 gr)
Two parts plain flour
2 medium eggs
1 lemon zest (or more/less to taste)
1 Tbsp baking powder
50 g shelled unsalted pistachios

(I didn't actually count, but if i am correct the recipe yields about 25-30 fellas)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix flour, sugar and baking powder well. Add eggs (one at a time) into the flour mixture and mix them in. Add lemon zest, nuts and mix the flour mixture thoroughly to create stiff batter. Once the batter is ready, make a long slab (or two) and put it onto the baking sheet covered with baking paper. To avoid the misery of stuck to the paper biscotti later, I sprayed the baking parchment with a bit of olive oil. Put them in the oven. After 20 minutes take biscotti out (yes, set them free, please) and let cool. Once cooled cut them into thin slices and reheat them to dry them out (low the heat to 150°C) for about 5-10 mins. The longer the second baking is, the harder the cookies will be. You can eat them right away (but make sure you don’t burn your lips and palate) or later when they are fully cooled. The latter is more preferrable while then all the flavours will find their place in biscotti to be distinguished and appreciated. Though the former is more desirable, I agree. *smiles*

My alterations (as always): instead of one part of sugar I used 1/3 cup cane sugar and 2 Tbsp melted honey. I didn’t have pistachios on hand, thus I made my biscotti nutless this time (what didn’t diminish their taste and looks). As to nuts I think it’s absolutely agreeable to use any variety you like (or even a mix). I also added 1 tsp each rose water and vanilla extract to the batter. Sherry is a nice option as well, but I restrained to add it as too many flavours at once may just kill each other. Sorry, Sherry, I promise to reserve a place for you next time!
When something turns out to be really good, especially something baked, it’s really so inspiring and relaxing at the same time. I was pretty much excited to watch my babies grow in the oven. If you entered my kitchen then you’d see me sitting on my knees and peeping through the oven window all those 30 mins. Oops. *wink, wink, wink*

*Note: baking is inspiring and relaxing when the result of the process is good, otherwise…*nervous giggles *

P.S. Right now as I'm posting this entry, I've been enlightened by the idea to make savoury biscotti...if there is such a thing. Will report on the results shortly.


Astra Libris said...

I just discovered your blog via CookieMouse, and I'm so glad I did! Your blog is fantastic! I love how you describe baking - you capture the baking experience perfectly...
and I can't wait to hear about the savory biscotti!
May I add a link for your blog to mine, please please? :-)

anya said...

Dear Astra Libris,

Thank you so much for your supportive and really inspiring comments!! I'd be very much pleased if you add a link for my blog to yours! Acually you even didn't have to ask! *smiles*

Julia said...

!! Oh, I adore baking!! :-) Great recipe! It deserves to be baked. :-)

Cookiemouse said...

Anya, I know what you mean. My mother was a passionate baker and cook but my first attempts at baking were also a disaster. Cooking came easier somehow. It was learning to bake bread that got me to love baking. There is something magical about how a sticky piece of dough becomes a delicious warm loaf of bread.