Friday, October 10, 2014

Biscotti d'Italia! (Italian Biscotti!)

Island of Spargi
in the Archipelago of La Maddalena, Sardinia
Our umbrella is the watermelon one!  
In celebration of my birthday today, I thought I’d share one of my favorite Biscotti recipes.

I spent a few years during high school living in Naples, Italy.  Then I returned to Naples for another year or so in the mid-1980s, and then finally spent a few years on the Italian island of LaMaddalena, right off the coast of Sardinia (Sardegna). I loved Italy….almost everything about it.  Well, actually, everything about it -- the food, the gorgeous vistas, the crazy drivers, the tiny and charming shops, the beaches, the markets, the earthquakes, and the people.  It took me some time to get used of the “haggling” over a price/item, but after my time in high school and learning the “ropes” from my Mom, I became an awesome haggler.  (Side story- I bought my guitar in Music Alley, in downtown Naples, for an awesome price AND with an awesome case thrown in!—at least it seemed awesome to this girl, who was 17 at the time!  J    )
On the ferry to Corsica, France. Not very far from
LaMaddalena, Italy
My experiences in Italy varied over the years, but I loved talking with the locals in Italian. It was such an adventure just to get information exchanged. Of course, the people love children and mine was no exception. They loved my oldest daughter, who was 2 yrs old at the time. In LaMaddalena, we would head downtown to the Piazza every evening for “la passeggiata” (stroll). Sometime we’d see folks we knew, other times not.  It didn’t really matter.  They eat supper late, and would spend time mingling in the Piazza (square) before going home to supper.  We frequently ate early, and then would head out to the Piazza before returning home to put Kristin to bed. There was no TV there, so reading or spending time with friends was how leisure time was spent.
Once they've baked, slice them and turn on their sides

One of my favorite snacks that I loved to get was the Italian graffe (sugar donut). We would occasionally get one on Saturday morning when we headed to the Piazza for a morning passeggiata!  J (In typing this I’m realizing I did a lot of walking!  I also ran around the top perimeter of the island everyday with Kristin in the jogstroller!  No wonder I was able to eat all that great food and not really pay the price! Ha! There’s that, and I was younger!)

Now to the point of the blog – Another favorite of mine was Rococo, an almond “biscotti” type cookie that was featured mostly during the Christmas season. I loved it in high school so much that Mom remembered, and sent me a care package when I was at college in New Hampshire (late 70s)! It was called Rococo, because it was almost like a rock…..twice baked sometimes has that tendency!

They are awesome dipped in chocolate
AFTER the second baking!

So, in honor of Rococo, I will share with you my Biscotti recipe.  It’s not hard like a rock, but it still brings back memories of happy times, not happier time, just happy times!  I hope you enjoy it, too.

1/3  cup salted butter/margarine
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Blend in the egg and vanilla.  Mix flour and baking powder.  Stir in the orange zest and almonds.  Chill for 10 minutes.
Divide the chilled dough in half and roll each half out into a slab about 2 inches thick.  Place the slabs on lightly oiled baking sheets (or on parchment paper without oil) and flatten slightly.  Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees F.
Charlie on the wall around our patio. A fierce day in November,
with storm clouds building over the islands of the Archipelago.

Let the slabs cool for 10 minutes, then cut each slab into 1/2 inch wide slices.  Place the sliced biscotti on their sides on an ungreased baking sheet and bake until crisp and dry, 8 to 10 minutes.  Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container, where they will keep for several days.

As an exciting extra touch, melt chocolate in a double boiler or microwave and dip in one end of each biscotti slice, approximately 1/3 of the way up the slice.  Let chocolate harden on wax paper. Then store in container.

Wrapped and ready for finishing touches.

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