Saturday, April 16, 2011

Biscotti Spoken Here

I was waiting for the cops.
I was sure they would be knocking at the door any minute.
That they didn’t was one of three pleasant surprises this day.
We had quite a party going after all. Clouds of flour dust everywhere. Eggshells strewn about. Laughter and bickering over rights to the mixer blades. Welcome to biscotti baking day at my house. Of course my biscotti recipe always includes Sinatra, Martin and Louie Prima crooning on the sound system. Loud is good.
And on this particular biscotti making and baking day, the two sisters were in town. Let’s call them Em and Zee. Nine and eight years old respectively. Being thespians in residence, they are a traveling party all unto themselves.
They are my two Southern California granddaughters. They call me Popi.

The second pleasant surprise was receiving my very first “new to me” Kitchen Aid Heavy Duty Mixer. After having used wooden spoons and burning out hand mixers through the years making biscotti, I had always wanted to get a Kitchen Aid. Upon learning of my need, a friend “gifted” one to me. A win-win for both of us. I have the mixer, she has lifetime biscotti. Here’s a BIG thank you, my friend.

And here’s the third surprise. I had a chance to exchange “heart thoughts” with the girls from So Cal. We all know that food is a language. It soothes and comforts; it accents our celebrations and it expresses our affections for one another. In our house, biscotti is its own regional dialect. Making biscotti for me is an experience where baking, eating, talking, singing and dancing can all take place. Sometimes profound thoughts emerge.
So amidst singing ear splitting strains of “Oh, mamma zooma zooma baccala'” with Louie Prima, Zee looks up at me and asks a totally out of the blue question.
“Popi, did you like my daddy when you first met him?”
Out of the blue. I met her daddy in Costa Rica when he was first dating our oldest daughter. Both were studying abroad at that time in San Jose when we visited. You know, fathers intuitively hesitate to embrace a daughter’s new boyfriend, for indeed it is like one entrusting a Stradivarius violin to a guerilla. But I was fond of him.
“Yes sweetie. I did like your daddy when I first met him. Very much. He is a very likeable guy”, I answered.
She looked at the cookie dough left on the mixer blade that she held and said,
“I liked him too when I first met him.”
Biscotti spoken here.

A Little History
They say the origins of this cookie go back to Roman times when the Roman Legions would take it with them on their campaigns. Through the years it became a staple for travelers who could count on it not spoiling quickly. Christopher Columbus reportedly never left home without it, making it a favorite while on his new world jaunts.
"Biscotto" in Italian means biscuit or cookie. “Biscotti” is the plural. So it acts as a more generic word there. Here, it means those wonderful dipping cookies we like. The word appears to have come from the Latin word 'bis coctum', meaning “twice baked”; once to cook them and once to dry them out. Hence, the perfect traveling cookie for plundering armies.

It was Tuscany where later biscotti emerged as a baker’s treat, the dry, crunchy cookie was served with a local sweet wine to dunk.
My own recipe was originally adapted from somewhere. It has evolved according to my tastes and responses from friends and family.  I like a softer cookie that doesn't break your teeth. This biscotti eats well alone, or dunked in coffee or dipped in red wine.  Immerse the cookie in a moscato.  Like a baptism. Enjoy.

Popi’s Biscotti
1 Cup Butter                                                       
1 ½ Cups Cacao Nibs
1 ½ Cups Sugar
6 Tsp Baking Powder
6 Eggs*
2 Cups Toasted Sliced Almonds
6 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
2 Tbls Anise Seed
2 Tbls Almond Extract
2 Tbls Vanilla Extract
A little Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Nestlé’s Toll House Chocolate Chips

Heat Oven to 330 degrees
Get the mood right. Make sure you have a “Martini Lounge” mix playing that includes Sinatra and Louis Prima.
Toast Almonds in a frying pan with butter. Throw in a handful of Brown Sugar until caramelized. Set aside to cool. You are making enough to snack on while cooking, so be generous.
Cream chilled butter and sugar until light and fluffy
*Beat in eggs
(You’ve heard of Free Range Chickens? Well, what about Free Barrio Chickens? A friend of mine houses about 30 chickens who all started from 11 stray hens and an overactive rooster. They were running wild in the industrial barrio until caught and penned. We used their eggs. Mille Fleur eggs. They are smaller and have harder shells. The girls had a great time cracking them)
Add flavoring and cacao nibs
(Here’s a secret. Keep it on the down low. Anise seed is expensive. In the baking section, at least. I go to the Mexican Food section of our grocery store. There you can find anise seed in packages and at a bargain)
Add baking powder, almonds and flour. Mix until a dough forms.
Lightly knead on a floured board and separate into two loaves.
Take the olive oil, pour some into your hands and rub the loaves.
Roll loaves to shape and until about ¾ thick.
Place on a cookie sheet with parchment paper
Bake for about 30 minutes. Check them periodically.
Remove from oven and cut into finger shapes. Don’t cut the fingers.
Return to oven and continue to bake now at 200 degrees for about 20 minutes until lightly browned.
After cooled, ice with melted chocolate.
Servings: It makes a lot
Note: Thanks to my wife who really cleans up after I “clean” up.
And all photos taken by the 2 sisters. Watercolor is my original.


adorasbox said...

Your biscotti party sounds like a lot of fun! I was lucky to be "gifted" with a Kitchen Aid on my last birthday after many, many disregarded hints. Have been having a blast using it. I'm sure you'll have so much fun using yours. Love your biscotti recipe. Where there's almonds, there's always deliciousness.

Anonymous said...

That's a lovely painting, Mario!
Biscotti are so good and I am fascinated by your recipe- I've never heard of adding olive oil but I think that sounds fantastic!
I will certainly try these soon!

Cheers & happy blessings,

Beth said...

I love everything about this post! I want to come to Biscotti making day. I love love love that you listen to Loui Prima and Sinatra while you cook, they are on my list along with a little Buddy Guy and Ella Fitzgerald and maybe a little Curtis Mayfield thrown in! Ive never made biscotti before but I love it!

Jocie's Mom said...

Great party! I too want to go to Biscotti making day :) Sounds like an absolute blast. Thanks so much for sharing!

BeadBag said...

Hi Mario - your biscotti look lovely - I will be trying these out. Yay Poppi! :)
Shirley I.

Nicoletta Palmas said...

Hi Mario!!! Thank you for your visit to my blog...It looks like you have lots of fun while baking!!! And I'm so jealous for your new Kitchen Aid heavy duty, That my dream!!!! It will be very nice and interesting to follow you blog!!! By the way...delicious biscuits!!!

Nicoletta Palmas said...

Sorry so many mistakes... I need to improve my typing skills...and need to read what I write!!!

María R. said...

Ciao Mario!Bellisimo blog!mmmmmmmmm...¡cuantas cosas ricas!!!!Los biscotti se ven súper tentadores!Mi nonna hacía biscottis, crustolis, y cullurelles. Cuando vaya a California me convidás con un capuchino con biscottis!

Un abrazo! Te sigo!

Christine's Pantry said...

Biscotti sound great. Love the post. I will try this. Thanks for sharing.


GmiK said...

Hi Mario, how are you? oooohhh I want to go to Biscotti making day!!

Andie said...

Hello Mario, lovely story n.n you know? I've never ever tried biscotti. I think it's because I wanted to buy one at Starbucks one day and my mom said it would break my teeth. I had worn braises for too long to take that chance lol
Making biscotti sounds delicious and loads of fun, so I will give them a try n.n
Give my best to Em and Zee next time you see them. Aaand I will let you know next time I go to Cali, I would never miss out on sushi AND a homemade Biscotti hahaha just as long as I get to bake or cook something for you as well n.n
Cheers! Andie

Franklin from Dine Delish said...

I love this post. I don't really like biscotti, but I wouldn't mind trying to make some home made ones.

Catherine said...

Biscotti bring back so many happy memories...they are one of my favorite desserts. One of these and a cup of coffee- what else could you ask for?!
Wonderful post, Mario!


misa said...

Hellooo Mario!! I really enjoyed reading this post, and now I'm obsessed about Biscotti! I've never made them before but I have a great home made Biscotti recipe here! I can't wait to make them : )

Noelia said...

Hola , Gracias por la visita, muy buena la receta, aquí se llaman biscottini. hay unos típicos de italia que llevan vino tinto y son fritos , esos son ricos también.



Ellen ♥ said...

wow! sounds yummy :) good thing you can have fun while making biscotti :) have a great day!

Claudia said...

Hello Mario. I'm sure it would be delicious.

I wish you a peaceful and blessed Easter.

Unknown said...

Hi Mario! I love your blog; thank you for sharing the very special family stories! I remember when Ellen and you went to visit your daughter in Costa Rica. Time flies!!!

gratziela said...

Hi Mario.
Thanks for visiting the blog.Glad you visited Romania. I do not think I'll be able to visit California.I'm afraid to fly the plane. So I walk alone through Europe.Your recipes are interesting and attractive.And I blog recipes, but no meat.
If you do not mind, I'll correct you with what you know in Romanian: "Dumnezeu te iubeste" or in English: God loves you.
You're welcome to my blog without meat recipes,
A very good day and Happy Easter!

Maíra Dias said...

Dear Mario, i'm very happy with your comment.No problem you don't speak portugues, because i understand you. I'll be following your blog and reading the post's. I hope not to get lost the contact.
Happy Easter! xoxo
excuse the grammar spelling mistakes.

MeLikeyUK said...

Your Biscotti sounds bliss!
I am a big fan of almonds so will definitely be trying your recipe!
I love the way you incorporate your family stories in your blog. It's very sweet!
Happy Easter!

Unknown said...

Yum, yum, yum! I've never been the biggest fan of biscotti but this got me in a real mood to go try some! Good stuff!

Brewed Coffee said...

Food and cooking/baking is a good way to bond with our loved ones. Grand party you got there in the kitchen. I am sure you enjoyed making your biscotti with your lovely granddaughters. Kids do ask the most out of the blue questions which makes you really think most of the time. But they are always amusing when you think about it.

Maíra Dias said...

Hey Mario =]
I was reading your last post and i found it very interesting, i agree, that food is a language. I love cooking, i hope to make one of your recipes. Our blog's remind me of the movie "eat,pray and love". When I'm cooking, i forget the other things. About my english,I make an english course three years ago. =] That's it! Kiss

Andie said...

Mario n.n I just read your comment on my honey tuna. Thank you so much for the writing compliments.
There is another post in my blog, if you want to check it out soon. Also, you should know I am anxiously waiting for another heartfelt post from you!

Anonymous said...

Ciao Mario!!!
Come stai??
è bellissimo come sempre il tuo racconto..e quei biscotti devono essere deliziosi!!!;-)
Un abbraccio a te e famiglia,spero avete trascorso una bellissima Pasqua:-*

Kelly | Eat Yourself Skinny said...

Ooo I LOVE biscotti and your recipe looks incredible! Thanks so much for the sweet comments on my blog :) So glad to be your new follower!

Domestic Fits said...

Mario!! SO nice of you to stop by my brand new blog! And thanks for the feedback, I could learn a thing or two from you! Great blog, I love it =)

emilie said...

mmm... I love homemade biscotti. Thanks for the recipe!


Brad Davis said...

The cops usually leave you alone when Louie Prima is playing in the background--especially when you are known as "Don Mario" around town.

I just love your posts. Reading about the beautiful marriage of food and relationships seems to satisfy a craving for a hunger we never knew existed.

LUCIA said...


Alma (Susurros Mortales) said...

Habra que probar esas galletas ;)

mary said...

This blog is awesome!

Karolina said...

I often wonder when I am going to get my head around the idea of making my own biscotti? ;)

Anonymous said...

Loved the history bit, and your biscotti look terrific!

Silvia Teresa said...

Since a few day ago I wanted to tell you that you really mixed so well story with history.

greetings from Aguascalientes, México