* Been a few days since my last post – I was forced by circumstance to the sidelines, as they say. Recently, Verizon skipped out on us here on Oregon’s south coast, and transferred their operation to Frontier Communications – of which we know nothing! But there is a glimmer of hope in sight, as Frontier is offering us something that Verizon either couldn’t, or more likely, wouldn’t. We have just been upgraded from 1 mg DSL to 3. And like thirst quenched animals, as soon as the offer was made, we eagerly accepted.
However, an upgraded modem/router was required, and the voice on the phone promised it was in the mail, and would be delivered post-haste – and in the meantime, our old service would remain in place until we called to say we had the modem. Of course, they shut off our old service immediately and we waited 4 days for the modem to arrive.
Amazing how simple they design these new modem/routers – they arrive with only the barest of instruction, on the assumption that Windows will intuitively sense the new unit, and connect with the mother site back home, to provide all the needed installation drivers, etc. And without even letting you know what’s happening, all the required work is going on out of your sight. Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to work – but sometimes … as in our case, things don’t go so well. And so it took an additional 2 days of tinkering to get everything in proper order.
But we have now reached the Promised Land – and all without having to make a call(s) to “Support” – Don’t you love having to call Support? It’s like God’s punishment for us thinking how smart and inventive man has become. I don’t know about you, but I’ll do almost anything not to have to call Support – and luckily, in this case, I was very lucky. I can now watch a two minute Y-Tube video in two minutes, not the usual six it used to take – it’s like a whole new world!
OK – I’m glad to be back but none of that is getting my next post done, so let’s move on.
* There’s lots of cookie talk going on right now on the food blogs, so I guess I’m not alone in thinking about getting ready for the upcoming holidays. I always do a few boxes of cookies for my girls, but my past tendencies have been to lean toward the delicate, tender little buttery gems which one thinks of when Christmas rolls around – but they don’t travel well. However, Celia’s recent discussion of biscotti got me thinking of an old classic almond biscotti that we have loved, especially when we took the time to dip them in chocolate – so I pulled one of my old books out and found that time honored recipe – and it’s sure good enough to share with all for the holidays.
The book is Susan Loomis’ Farmhouse Cookbook (Workman Publishing Co., 1991), and is one of those cookbooks that reads like a travelogue, which in a real way, it is. Loomis gathered her material and recipes by visiting personally all the family farms represented in her book over a two year period – from one perspective, it represents a sad picture of a disappearing way of American life – in the thirties, there were more than 6 million farm families in America; today, less than 2 million – and if one has seen the excellent documentary, Food, Inc.. it’s apparent that few of today’s farm families are independent farmers, but mostly subservient to corporate contracts for survival.
But the book is also a celebration of good traditional American eating as well, and I think it contains some of the best family recipes I’ve ever come across – it’s worth getting your hands on a copy if you can! And the discussions the author has with the many farm families gives us a hope that we may be entering a new era for the independent farmer – one which may bring together enlightened consumers with dedicated farmers whose goal is to once again produce real food with real taste.
With fingers crossed in hope (for the American farmer, not the cookies), I offer you,
Greg’s Favorite Rusks (Almond Biscotti)
(Adapted from Farmhouse Cookbook, by Susan Loomis)
Makes about 80 biscotti
- 2 cups whole almonds
- 2 cups sugar
- 5 1/2 cups AP flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup (8 ozs) unsalted butter, at room temp
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 large eggs
- Toast the almonds in a 350 degree F oven in a flat pan in a single layer – stirring once – for about 10-15 minutes or until you can smell the toasted almonds.
- Turn oven up to 375 degrees F – Line two medium size baking sheet pans (or one large) with parchment.
- Combine the almonds and 2 Tbs of the sugar in a food processor with the metal blade, and grind to a fine powder.
- Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda together onto a piece of waxed paper.
- Using a stand mixer with the big bowl, cream the butter and the remaining sugar in a large bowl until a soft yellow and light. Add the sour cream and mix – add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each egg. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and add the flour and almonds by thirds, mixing just until incorporated.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and pat it out to form a 13 x 4 inch rectangle that is 3/4 of an inch thick. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, so you have two pieces of dough measuring 13 x 2 inches, and carefully transfer them to the prepared baking sheet pans (I actually had enough dough to make 3 logs 13 x 2 inches – I was using half size baker’s pans with a 1 inch lip (18 x 13), and my 3 logs fit well on that single pan, even when they spread a bit during baking.).
- Bake in the center of the oven until golden, puffed and firm – about 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven, slide the parchment paper onto wire racks, and cool until they are lukewarm, about 15 minutes – lower the oven temp to 300 degrees F.
- Slice the strips crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices – lay them on their side on the parchment. Return the parchment to the baking sheet pans, and bake until the slices are golden – about 15 – 20 minutes. Turn them over and bake until golden on the other side – another 15 or 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven and transfer the slices to a wire rack to cool. Makes about 80 biscotti.
My Notes: Do yourself a favor and if your nuts are leftovers from last year, don’t use them – get fresh ones. I’m convinced that nuts and oils are two things we home-cooks hang on to much too long – and I’m really bad at this, because I buy in bulk, and I hate to throw anything away – but I’ve learned through many inferior bakings involving old nuts that had lost their flavor. Test them by taste, and always toast raw nuts to bring out their max flavor before using.
One last caution- this is a large recipe! You’ll need large bowls in the process. Without even thinking, I made a double recipe and had to use a huge brining tub to make the final mix – so make sure you’ve got big bowls before starting – or just bake up a half batch.
Yup, these are some of the “Oh, maybe just one more” type of holiday cookies – even Santa will try one.