Cacoa Nib Almond Biscotti

January 26, 2013 § Leave a comment


I woke up this morning, after a day of fighting off the stomach flu, to snow-covered ground. I dizzily made a slow trek to Small World Coffee for my first food in over 30 hours, and have been here ever since. A hot chocolate and a plain croissant and a couple of endless hours of listening to people’s pithy conversations while I distractedly write my thesis. A couple of the hockey team boys are sitting across from me at one of the teeny tiny tables — if you’ve ever been to Small World, you know they’re about big enough to fit a laptop and a plate — drinking cappuccinos, and for some reason that makes me giggle though, I suppose, everyone has the right to drink a cappuccino. Two older middle-aged women are next to me, complaining about how their last dinner party dragged on too late, how some other woman has the same job title though she doesn’t deserve it (though she has a lot of past work experience), and saying how the only things they can cook are chili and meatballs (ham is a Dean and Deluca thing). A couple little toddlers are teetering around the cramped spaces between the tables, and in the background you can hear the one barista banging out used grounds as he struggles to keep up with the line. I’m not sure why I’ve stayed so long, though it might simply be that I’m afraid I’ll pass out if I try standing up.

Since the semester ended, I’ve been doing a lot of sitting. And thinking about the future more than occasionally. Right now it mostly consists of future travels as I’m generally trying to avoid thinking about the real life. I have trip to England coming up to see my boyfriend — the same boyfriend who recently received these almond cacao nib biscotti in the mail, about two weeks later and probably stale (though he won’t admit it), and who has been insisting that I go see a doctor all day, yes apparently I have only one — and then plans are in the abstract works for the summer. For some reason, I’m struck with the belief that the world will end in August, or maybe just that a new life will start and I better have done everything, and gone everywhere, I wanted to in this old life before the new one starts.

On the subject of the cookies. I packed half of them up in a box, and put the rest of them out at the end of a little neighborhood cocktail party the night before winter break ended. They’re studded with a delightful little chocolately crunch, without the sweetness of chocolate chips; twice baked (obviously); delicately flavored with both almond extract and chopped almonds; and so, so easy, it makes me wonder why people are so impressed by homemade biscotti. If only they knew, there would be so much less hate for the cookie which generally grows stale in the glass jar at your neighborhood coffee shop.

I followed this Smitten Kitchen recipe structurally, but got a bit lost in the flavorings, as you can probably tell.

The family secret

November 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

I didn’t realize how much I had settled into a routine in this strange foreign country until I left it for an even stranger foreign country and returned, very early one Sunday morning to a light rain, misty skies and wet streets. Quite soon after I returned, I was forced to bundle myself up and run a couple blocks to the closest convenience store because my shelves were empty and it being Sunday, every grocery store in the area was closed. As I walked out of the door, in a sleep-deprived educed haze, I stumbled into stands and stands of furniture vendors, French women selling vintage hats and men trying on classic suit jackets in the middle of the street. I thought for a moment I had turned down the wrong street, and wondered if I had forgotten my neighborhood that easily, until I spotted the couples dancing at the fountain at the base of rue Mouffetard, clustered together tighter than normal under a white awning, and I knew I was home.

Since my return, I have been trying to force myself outdoors but find it increasingly harder to leave the warmth of my bed and my apartment’s heater, which may or may not work consistently. Walks home from work are enjoyed only with the first gingerbread cookies of the season, but even then with the longing for the gingerbread men I used to make in my kitchen in San Francisco — the French boulangeries it seems, are not champions of the baked goods not requiring pounds of quality butter. But the spice, even if the cookie is a bit too hard, is much appreciated, as is the simple sugar glaze that never ceases to make me quite content.

And then I’ve been baking some things as necessity arises. For instance, I made my mother’s famous chocolate torte for a class party, which resulted from no one knowing what they were supposed to bring to accompany wine tasting and thus bringing whatever they could think of. My mother makes this quite a few times a year, for family birthdays, for dinner parties with close friends. This is the cake I would invariably wake up to sitting on the kitchen counter a couple times every year whenever the family had somewhere important to be or someone important to celebrate. It has never been perfectly smooth on top (and I confess my ganache-making that morning left much to be desired), but it never ceases to impress. As a child, I found it much too strong and chased it properly with an exorbitant amount of whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. But now I can enjoy it as is, with its simple chocolate ganache on top. I am convinced that French alcohol is much stronger than its American counterparts as this cake tasted decidedly of rum this time I made it. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as my (French) professor declared it the best chocolate dessert she had ever tasted.

Chocolate Torte

6 tablespoons or 75 grams butter
6 oz. or 150 grams semi-sweet or dark chocolate
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup or 120 ml sugar
1/4 cup or 60 ml flour
6 T or 90 ml ground almonds
1/4 cup or 60 ml rum

Preheat the oven to 190/375 degrees (C/F). Butter and flour (I use cocoa powder for the “flouring”) a 8-inch pan. Melt the chocolate over the stovetop. Cream together butter and sugar. Add the melted chocolate and run. Beat in egg yolks. Fold in flour.
Beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
Fold the egg whites into the batter, minimizing stirring. Some egg whites can remain unmixed.
Bake for 30 minutes.

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