Christmas Eve, and More Biscotti

Back into the new year, hello '07, and back into the swing of things with cooking! Hoping you all had lovely holidays . . .
Though Christmas is now past, I can’t let everything go by without putting up some of the food memories.
My family’s big on food, family and tradition at the holidays, and though it’s evolved some to accommodate my numerous discovered allergies and my parents’ recent adoration of South Beach, Christmas Eve dinners have remained relatively the same since my childhood. I wouldn’t have it any other way - there's something so comforting about the familiarity, and in having the family traditions.

For appetizers, there’s smoked salmon with red onion and capers, herring, shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce and in more recent years breaded calamari (it took so long one year to do hand-cut, hand-breaded that we’ve caved to sensibility and sanity and just buy Contessa frozen – it works for me well enough). This year I brought along the leftover black pepper parmesan biscotti: draped with smoked salmon, it’s a thing of beauty.
Every year, my father relates the story of going home with my mother back in college when they were dating, and helping her mother, my grandmother, grate the potatoes for potato pancakes. He now uses a Cuisinart to do the dirty work, but this marked his 34th year of helping or making the pancakes. They’re never quite the same year to year, but they’re always phenomenal. Dinner is broiled flounder or shrimp scampi and potato pancakes. Vegetables, while always there, are sort of an after-thought to our stars of the show.Dessert this year was phenomenal, above and beyond. My mother puts out whatever goodies she gets from her students, my father makes miniature mince tarts in a muffin tin. This year my friend Sara, who joined us for festivities, brought home an absolutely delectable bread pudding with cherries in port and white chocolate sauces from Mumford’s.
It’s been my job since high school, when I received a copy of Williams-Sonoma’s Cookies and Biscotti, to bring chocolate chip biscotti. Last year I worked with a bit of a chocolate drizzle on top and was feeling the need for something different, a new tweak, and came up with these: they’re enhanced by cinnamon and employ one of my latest baking favorites, cacao nibs.
Christmas Day, whatever there is for dinner at my aunt's, there is leftover scampi and kielbasa before. It is simply not quite Christmas without kielbasa. Preferably, real Polish kielbasa. Sometimes they will travel an hour or more out of their way for the kielbasa. We’ve had some poor ones before, not quite up to par, but this year’s came from my mother’s cousin, possibly by way of a farmer’s market somewhere. It was excellent: honest real smoked kielbasa, actual chunks of pork, peppery and garlicky, cooked my mother’s way with tons of dilled sauerkraut. I’m hoping we’ll score some more of it for Easter, which is the other big kielbasa occasion during the year.

Between everything else in the course of the days, I can also say I’m now a proud owner of the it book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, and given everyone else’s raves can’t wait to break it in. Next year's biscotti might come from there; for now, I'll leave you with these.

adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library: Cookies and Biscotti

2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp vanilla or regular salt
1/2 c unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 c firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1 12-oz bag (about 2 c) dark/bittersweet chocolate chips
3/4 c cacao nibs
cinnamon sugar (1/4 c sugar mixed with 3/4 tsp cinnamon)

Preheat an oven to 325 F and butter two baking sheets.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl; set aside.
Combine the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl. Mix on high speed until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, and beat until light and fluffy.
By hand, mix in the chocolate chips and cacao nibs. Add the flour mixture and mix by hand just until incorporated.
Divide the dough in half. Place each half on a prepared baking sheet. Lightly flour hands and form each half into a log, about 3" wide and 3/4" high. Sprinkl;e the loaves well with cinnamon sugar; press gently into the top.
Bake until firm to the touch, 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Leave the oven set at 325.
Using a spatula, carefully transfer logs to a large cutting board. Use a serrated knife to cut on the diagonal into slices about 1/2" thick. Arrange the slices cut-side down on the baking sheets and bake until bottoms are brown, about 10 mintes. Remove from the oven and carefully turn slices over. Bake until the bottoms are brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Yield: about 3 dozen.


Post a Comment

<< Home