I took so many pictures in Italy that it’s become a labor of love to sift through the photos and write about our adventures each day of the trip. Lately Jim and I have been consumed with projects around the house and traveling around Texas that I haven’t had that much extra time to continue the posts about our honeymoon in Italy or post about the dinners I’ve been cooking. Rest assured we are well fed, more post about week night dinners to come soon.
One of the treasures we found in Italy was a distinctive after dinner wine beverage called Vin Santo. While in Florence we had a superb traditional Italian meal that ended with an espresso (of course) and then a complimentary glass of Vin Santo served with house made biscotti. This “holy wine” is a style of Italian dessert wine traditional in Tuscany, made from white grape varieties. They vary in sweetness, but the one served to Jim and I resembled a dry Sherry. The traditional food and wine pairing for Vin Santo is with biscotti cookies that may be dunked into the wine.
I am absolutely THRILLED that my guest blogger today is demonstrating homemade biscotti – what an indulgent treat with my morning cappuccino or paired with an evening digestif as it is served in Italy. I’d like to introduce you to Janet, who has a wonderfully charming blog called From Captains Daughter to Army Mom and has cheerfully agreed to share her baking skills with me. I now turn it over to Janet!
Hello! My name is Janet and I author the blog, From Captain's Daughter to Army Mom.
I have been married to the love of my life for twenty-five years, (this December) and we have two sons. I was first a Captain's daughter, and now a United States Army Ranger calls me, Mom. My wedding story is quite different from Mandy and Jim's story... You see, mine pretty much qualifies me for entry into Ripley's Believe-it-or-Not, considering I was only nineteen when I met my husband, knew him only 48-hours before he proposed and married him three months later while we both lived on opposites coasts. Now that we are parents of sons old enough to run off and do the same, (while we wish them the same happiness in marriage we've found) we sure hope they don't!
I've been following Mandy's wonderful blog for a little over a year now. It's funny how you know right away whether or not a new blog discovery will hold your attention... And, my connection to Mandy's blog was instant. HWM's been on my list of favorites since the very first day. Why? Well, first of all, Mandy's day-job just happens to be my dream job. Every time I visit, I secretly hope that she'll have some tidbit to share about one of the fabulous events she's planning. Secondly, Mandy became engaged last April, during a camping trip turned very romantic, and on Good Friday, no less! So of course, I had to stick around for the wedding and honeymoon! But most of all, Mandy is a terrific cook who reminds me a lot of myself as a newlywed who worked hard to make her way deeper into her man's heart, one delicious dish at a time.
When Mandy asked me to guest host her blog I was very flattered, and sort of perplexed. I mean, Mandy seems to have this blogging and cooking thing down. I had to wonder what she imagined I might add to her already amazing and inspiring blog. So I asked her. Turns out that although Mandy enjoys cooking, she doesn't bake so she wants me to share a desert recipe. I can so identify with being a bit intimidated by baking. Speaking just for myself, unless it was a complete recipe I could dump out of a box, I avoided baking for far longer than I should have. Mostly because the wonderful women in my life that taught me how to bake as a little girl, my mother and Oma, instructed me using German recipes, which I, (a) hardly remembered, and (b) didn't convert very well to American-standard units of measure. Most of what I did attempt flopped. Badly. You see, unlike cooking, where a dash more or a little less of this and a dash more or a little less of that might improve a dish, baking is science. Science which requires exact proportions and careful attention that must be paid to following all steps in their proper order.
Nevertheless, after I married and committed to tackling the art that is baking, I found it to be well worth the effort required. I derive great pleasure and satisfaction from tackling both sweet and savory baking recipes, and I enjoy the challenge of perfecting techniques I never imagined were within my ability. And truth be told, I'm always delighted when my finished recipes turn out the way they're supposed to, or better!
So for Mandy... Because I know she aspires to bake sweet deserts and savory breads for her sweetheart, and because she and Jim spent their honeymoon in Italy, I want to share my very first attempt at chocolate biscotti.
Now, biscotti has never been on my radar because it usually contains almonds, to which I am allergic. Additionally, since I don't drink coffee, I have very little use for a cookie that requires dunking in order not to chip a tooth. Fortunately, I am not allergic to chocolate, quite the opposite! And, the recipe I've chosen proves that homemade biscotti doesn't have to be as hard, (dried out) as commercially baked biscotti.
Biscotti, more correctly known as Biscotti di Prato is a twice-baked cake originating in the Italian city of Prato. This particular biscotti recipe was shared with me by, Farmgirl Susan and it is so easy and so adaptable to your own add-in desires and decorating whims that you'll want to make it again and again!
I sent Mandy and Jim some of this biscotti, which I hope they are enjoying right now! So let's make some Biscotti, shall we?
Melt 4 ounces of chocolate, (I prefer Guittard bittersweet disks) and 1 stick of butter together.
Beat two eggs and one cup granulated sugar until it is a light color. Then add your melted butter/chocolate.
Mix chocolate/butter mixture with blended egg and sugar and add one teaspoon vanilla.
Add two cups of all-purpose flour, 1 and a half teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa and mix until just combined. Your dough will be soft, but not sticky.
I dropped my dough out onto plastic wrap and used it to form a ball. After I cut the dough into two pieces, I added dried cranberries to one of the loaves. You might like to add nuts or other fruit, such as dried cherries, raisins or oranges.
Form dough halves into two loaves measuring 3 inches wide by nine inches long. Brush the tops with beaten egg white.
Bake in a preheated, 350 degree oven for twenty-five minutes or until tops are set.
The rich, heavenly scent of chocolate will fill your home, I promise!
Transfer loaves to a rack to cool. The longer you can allow your biscotti cakes to cool, the easier they will be to slice.
After the biscotti has cooled, slice it into 1/2 inch pieces across the width, and place them back onto your baking sheet. Lower the temperature on your oven, (or preheat if you turned it off like I did) to 275 degrees.
Bake your Biscotti cookies for 20 minutes, turning half-way through. After it is baked, allow your cookies to cool again.
At this point, you could just enjoy your homemade biscotti or store it in an airtight container or even freeze it. However, I love to embellish my baked treats so I melted a bit more chocolate and spread it onto one side of my cookies. Then I added pearl sprinkles. Just because...
I would have preferred to use white chocolate and sprinkled Heath toffee chips over it. But for today, for my first attempt, this will do!
How will you decorate your Biscotti?
I wish to thank Mandy for inviting me to join her and for introducing me to all of her readers too.