i don’t have much of a sweet tooth. it makes sense, since i’m not a particularly sweet person. i’ve always reached for salty snacks, sour candies, bitter coffee…and of course, i love savory items like beef and pork. sweet is usually last on my list – if people around me want dessert in a restaurant, i’m the one who rarely will even try things that are ordered. i’d always rather have a good cheese course and another glass of wine, or a cup of espresso.
but now, i’m taking a baking course. and while i’ve been lucky in that both classes have featured desserts that weren’t particularly sweet – graham crackers, biscotti, applesauce – i know my grace period is going to end soon. before i know it, we’ll be creating chocolate ganaches, cheesecakes, and who knows what else. i figured while i was in a safe zone with pseudo-sweets, i should practice some of these goodies to perfect them.
i played with crepes, struggling with my non-stick pan and basically doing everything wrong while making them. i normally can make beautiful crepes, but not this time. my new crepe pan is on its way, and i’ll give it another shot after it’s seasoned, but until then i’ll be practicing with my little calphalon frying pan. this time, i made a chilled layer cake, stacking crepes with blueberry filling and lemon whipped cream, then popping it into the refrigerator for a few hours.
now let me be clear – this is not an “impress the boss” dessert, or a “suck up to the in-laws” treat. this is a late night, eat off the plate, messy, sticky, disaster of a dessert that happens to be completely delicious. if you want a little treat to impress somebody with, skip the crepes (or do something else with them – there are only a million possibilities or so) and try almond biscotti instead.
what gives biscotti its delicious, crunchy texture is the double baking process that’s used to create the simple cookie. it’s pretty basic – mix ingredients, shape into flat loaves, bake once, let cool, slice, and briefly toast the slices. then make again and again and again. the following recipe was given to us in class by our professor, janine sciarappa, though i tweaked it a bit – my additions are a bit more cinnamon and a splash of almond extract. this biscotti is easy, quick, and absolutely scrumptious.
cantuccini – almond biscotti
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups raw, unblanched, unsalted almonds – whole or sliced
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
preheat oven to 350 degrees. line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
in a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. stir in almonds. in another bowl, whisk eggs with vanilla and almond extracts, then use spatula to gently stir into dry ingredients. stir until stiff dough forms.
place dough onto floured work surface and divide in half. roll each half with palms into a cylinder, a bit shorter in length than your baking pan. place each log on the baking sheet, then use your palms to flatten logs. bake for 25-30 minutes – the logs should be firm to the touch and spread to double their size. let them cool completely. then slice diagonally with serrated knife, into 1/3-inch thick pieces. arrange biscotti on same pan with parchment paper, cut size down. don’t worry about giving them space – this stage just toasts them. bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. cool and serve with tea, coffee or wine.