Each year, for the last six years or so, I have baked biscotti over the course of the first weekend in December. This year was no different.
Pictures of the finished product would look pretty much the same every year, so this year I tried to snag a few "in process" shots.
My big blue bowl, which I use for the wet ingredients, shown here after I've molded and scooped a loaf's worth of anise-flavored dough out of it. Of course with my bare hands! I was the kid who begged to be allowed to mix up the paper maché in art class!
Here's our small kitchen table, transformed into my main work area. The dry sifted ingredients for a batch of cocoa/ cranberry/ almond biscotti are in the red bowl.
Here's a batch of anise biscotti cooling down, and a loaf of cocoa/ cranberry/ almond in the midst of being sliced and arranged for a second round of baking.
Multiple batches of these biscotti are now making their way to New York, Maryland, North Carolina, Michigan, Massachusetts, Florida, and California. Would you like to hear the story of how this tradition got started?
When I was growing up, my Oma spent hours and hours in the kitchen during Advent, sending out batches of special Christmas cookies and her special Stollen to everyone in the next generation.
Only one problem.
I don't actually like Stollen. And after a while, knowing how much work it took, I started to feel bad about the work Oma was putting into my Stollen. "Maybe I should just tell her I don't really like it," I said to various family members, all of whom reacted as though I was considering bashing my Oma over the head with a frying pan.
"You CAN'T tell her!" they exclaimed. But my nagging sense of guilt persisted, and finally the right moment presented itself. I thanked my Oma for all her hard work. And praised the lightness of her Almondkuchen. And finally, with a gulp, confessed to not be the world's biggest fan of Stollen.
There was a brief pause. "Ja?" asked my Oma. "Zen vhat should I make for you?" And that was the end of that. Extra Almondkuchen for me every year until she finally passed away.
Around this time, a friend told me about making biscotti, and I had an epiphany... people whose heritage is not Italian can still make biscotti. I asked a wonderful baker who did happen to be Italian in my then-office at TCNJ for advice, and soon I was making creditable biscotti.
So now, in honor of my grandmother and in the time-honored "food is love" tradition, I send biscotti out to my family every December. The only rule? If they don't really like biscotti, they have to tell me!
(Hat tip to Auntie Nish, who made biscotti seem possible, Aunt Stacy, whose food blogging inspires me, and Mr. D's fabulous aunties, who tucked him under their wings this weekend.)