April 17, 2011

Almond Anise Biscotti

My elementary school art teacher taught me the word "kick". No, she didn't kick us... but she did teach about "short-lived obsessions." This is the best I can do to describe a "kick" if you haven't heard it in context. She was a little wacky as all fantastic elementary art teachers should be and she would announce each time she had a new kick. Her kicks were ever changing and comprised of colors, animals, or even words. But my kicks tend to revolve around an ingredient, or type of food. I've been on muffin kicks and homemade bread kicks, but not until recently have I been dreaming of biscotti. I'd say it's a kick in the making.

I had this biscotti recipe bookmarked for a really long time. I'm guessing about a year. Strange as it seems, I was a little perplexed by biscotti. They are basically twice baked cookies if Italian origin and you enjoy them with your coffee. It's like an adult version of cookies and milk. M really likes biscotti, especially if it has a hint of anise. I have not had many biscotti in my day which may be the reason I never made them until now. I used a recipe only slightly adapted from Dorie Greenspan. They have cornmeal, which gives them a chewy factor along with the crunch. When I make the next batch, there are some proportions I should follow versus following the recipe so closely. The cookie should be a little higher and thinner. I argued that I followed the 3/4 inch direction, but M says higher and skinnier. I'll also try a completely different flavor combination too.

Short and fat, or tall and skinny, they taste nice.  They are not overwhelmingly anise-y or I'd have left them all for M. I think I'd take it up another two notches or use anise oil next time for a more intense flavor. Dipping in chocolate is a necessity, and M found by accident they are delicious frozen. I hope to share more biscotti recipes with you soon... especially if this kick really evolves into something tangible.

Almond Anise Biscotti
adapted from Baking from My Home to Yours

1 1/2 C  + 2T flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 C yellow cornmeal
1/2 C butter
3/4 C sugar
2 tsp anise seed
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
3/4 C sliced almonds
1 drop anise oil (optional)

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Mix flower, baking powder, cornmeal, salt in a medium bowl.
In a mini food processor or blender, mix anise seed with half the sugar. Blend until the seeds are broken up and the sugar starts to smell faintly of anise.

Cream butter in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and anise sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and make sure to scrape the bowl a few times. Add extract and mix in. Mix in the flour on low speed until almost incorporated. Add the almonds and mix until incorporated.

On a silicone mat lined baking sheet, form the dough into a 12" long log. Alternately, you can make two 12 inch logs side by side. Log should be about just over an inch high. Bake 15 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and place on a cutting board. Slice the dough into 1/2 inch pieces - no need to discard the ends! Set them back on the baking sheet with a little room in between each (top should face up). Bake for 15-20 more minutes or until the edges are golden and firm. Cool on a rack and store airtight.

For the Chocolate
Melt 6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave.
Dip half of the cooled biscotto (singular) into the chocolate and set on a silicone mat or parchment to harden. Store in an airtight container or freeze. You can also leave them out if you really want them to get crunchy - they will last a week or so without freezing.

April 6, 2011

Rosemary Focaccia

I recently planted an herb garden in window boxes on our deck. We get fantastic sunlight in our neighborhood and there were some leftover hangers begging me to use them. (If you didn't know, San Francisco has crazy microclimates and it can be foggy in one neighborhood and two blocks away really sunny.) Finding boxes that were the correct size was quite a feat. I think it took me two trips and M one trip to find one that fit the width and length of the ancient hangers. I planted Rosemary, Italian Parsley, Cilantro, Sage, Thyme, Mint, and Oregano all from little starter plants. So far I have only managed to kill the Oregano and I'm crossing my fingers on the rest which are no where close to plant death. I also planted basil from seeds and they are beginning to sprout!

While M's parents were here they also helped us clear out the backyard (shared by 4 units and not actually used by anyone) and build a raised bed. This is going to be an interesting learn-to-garden experience. At most, I've grown peppers and tomatoes in pots, and helped my grandpa harvest tomatoes when I was little... maybe this previous experience will inspire my green thumb.... 

Our yard was really really overgrown. One side has pavement and tons of leaves, the other has a mixture of weeds, overgrown shrubs, and hidden flowers. The weeds and grasses were reaching almost 18 inches in height. We would have received a "notice" if living anywhere where the backyard was visible to the public... thankfully we have an 8' fence surrounding us! Oh, and I should mention we just rent so maintaining the yard is technically not our responsibility! So, while my in-laws were digging around in our backyard, they found a healthy, mature rosemary plant (among other treasures I'll share later). This is where the rosemary for the focaccia came from.

I know I posted about Rosemary Focaccia once before, but that was long ago when I was new to the blogging world. I actually used the same basic recipe as before, but changed the ingredients slightly. I'll add the new recipe to this post. I can't wait for more fresh herbs this spring/summer. Do you have any great recipes for herb bread? Or herbs of any kind, I'm hoping to have enough to share. 

Rosemary Focaccia
adapted from a recipe by John Ash, From the Earth to the Table

1/4 C olive oil - good quality (plus more for the top)
1 1/2 C warm water (110˚-115˚F)
1 T + 1/2 tsp yeast
3 3/4 C a.p. flour
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 T chopped Rosemary

Stir the yeast into the warm water in a large bowl. Let it stand for about 5 minutes until it gets bubbly. Mix in the oil, flour, and salt. Knead until smooth (about 10 minutes). Coat another clean bowl with olive oil and coat your dough too. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm area for 1 1/2 hours (or doubled in size). Punch down the dough and prepare a 12x17 pan with olive oil. 

Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Stretch the dough across the entire pan making sure to keep it even. Dent the dough with your fingertips and cover with a tea towel. Let it rise again for about 15 minutes. Dent the dough again and add about 1/2 C more olive to the top making sure to spread it evenly. Use a pastry brush to spread the oil if you need. Pooling in the dents is welcome, your rosemary will have a nice hot tub. 

Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and sprinkle the rosemary on top. Bake for 10-12 more minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Enjoy warm! 

Additional topping ideas: Sliced black olives (one of my favorites in Italy), Rosemary + Garlic, Kosher/Sea Salt, Pizza Sauce, Golden Raisin, Green Onion   

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