A Cookie To Tempt Santa

*  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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Process:

  • 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.

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About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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10 Responses to A Cookie To Tempt Santa

  1. Hey Doc – Glad to see you’re back! I’m pondering making rusks also. I see your golden biccies have butter in and sour cream, unlike the other biscotti recipes, Celia’s and Paul’s. Do you reckon they’re better with dairy? My instincts say I’d prefer them….but I don’t know which sort to try… help! And I’m wondering if your whole almonds with skins on or blanched? I’m guessing blanched…

    I’ve heard other people talk about the Loomis book as well, sounds excellent.

    I would love to rant about the joys of ringing Support, but will spare you on this occasion. My ISP has a clever wheeze, it has a help and support forum as well, where lost and battered souls go and rant and rave together, offer each other erroneous fixes to waste even more time – Support watch from on high and laugh at us writhing in torment.

    My favourite Support was always the train service in London. There was one guy at Wimbledon Station, a multi platformed cross over station in South West London, who on the days when it all went to pot, would chat away to us freezing and shivering on the platforms. He would begin something like, “Hello, I know you are all unhappy” a sigh would go up from the station in response and he would just chat away, saying there were no excuses and he knew we were tired and fed up. We loved him.

    • drfugawe says:

      Yes, Celia is correct about the biscotti with dairy being less rock hard – however, my experience is that there are two kinds of rock hard – one is the intended hard Italian biscotti type that’s supposed to be dunked to be eaten – the other type is more cookie-like and can actually be eaten out of hand w/o too much trouble. But if one leaves these almond biscotti out long enough, they will become stale, and therefore hard again (they are quite hard right out of the oven, but soften up in 3-4 days). Whether one actually wants to do that is another question!

      No, these almonds are used with skins on – so no silliness about removing skins. Personally, I like this type of biscotti more than the rock hard type because I think it has more flavor and a richer mouth feel. But, there are times …

      Re Support, Ha! Here in America, there is a comical trend in place where all Support personnel are now residents of India – there are no American support techs, because the US corporations would then have to pay them more than than the techs in India. This results in hilarious exchanges – while the Indian techs are probably more technically savy than would be their American counterparts, they simply do not understand American accent or idioms, and most often the discussion involves two parties who simply don’t understand what the other is saying. However, when you get a good one, they are often far better at their job than any American support tech I’ve ever talked with.

      This is all in the process of changing however – American corporations -along with the able assistance of The US Congress- are hard at work moving our economy into a third world status. And when we arrive there – no doubt quite soon – our wages will then be lower than the wages of the Indian support techs – or any other nation – and we shall once again have all those wonderful jobs back on our shores!

  2. Doc, your biscotti look magnifique! Jo, from what I’ve read, biscotti with butter/fat in them are less rock hard than those without it. So choose on your preference for texture, I think! Dorie Greenspan and Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes both have butter in them.

    I would love to join you in the whinge, but I’ve recently had such fine service from WordPress Support that I feel that would be ungrateful of me to denigrate Support in general. 🙂

    • drfugawe says:

      You are a very kind person, Celia – thank you.

      Yes, I too have had good experience with WordPress support, but isn’t that a volunteer based support system? I’ve never had to go any higher than that level. Maybe volunteer support is just inherently better than paid support! I’m sure that’s at lease sometimes true.

      Now, I must own up to something here – I have kin in the support business – my daughter works in fraud support for Citi Bank here in the US – and she is a trainer of those support techs in India, which she tells me, happens via telephone, or computer link-ups. She herself has some hilarious accounts of how bad things can go wrong in the business. I think hearing her talk has flavored my own attitude and opinion of support services.

      May the support gods continue to watch over you.

      • Can I just say……Me too! Me too! I LOVE WordPress support, I wasn’t talking about them..I didn’t know they were volunteers. They are completely on the ball every time. Just wonderful 🙂

        I was trying not to mention my ISP by name but mine too has a centre in India. We usually have conversations in which they claim that everything is working perfectly and it must be my hardware or my OS and they make me do various meaningless sub routines which do nothing. Then I go on to the souls in purgatory forum to check and yes, a hundred other people have the same issue as me, so at least I know I am not going mad. It’s not Support’s fault that they are not updated fast enough with system fault reports. It’s just the way it goes.

  3. amelia says:

    These sound delicious…something to dip in coffee on a chilly morning.

    Have you tried storing nuts in the freezer? I’m not sure about a whole year, but it us known to slow the oils in the nuts from going rancid.

    • drfugawe says:

      Hi amelia,
      Thanks for visiting – yes, the freezer is the proper place to store nuts, but as a gardener, baker, and someone who can’t stop cooking meals for 4 when there’s now only two of us, our freezer is already popping open to relieve itself.

      Hope to see you again.

  4. Tupper says:

    You know, for the amount of $ telecommunications companies charge us, you’d think their customer support would be better. I could share my stories, but that’s another topic for another day….

    Cookies look great! And we don’t need a frezer here to store our nuts-it was 15 below last night-my nuts are frozen!!!

  5. Tupper says:

    You know, for the amount of $ telecommunications companies charge us, you’d think their customer support would be better. I could share my stories, but that’s another topic for another day….

    Cookies look great! And we don’t need a freezer here to store our nuts-it was 15 below last night-my nuts are frozen!!!

  6. Dr I had to smile yesterday. I was trying to work out a bready issue I had and after much searching your name popped up to lend a helping hand via ‘The Fresh Loaf’ I think it was from last year some time. I knew you were a bready boy and so could happily trust what you had written. Got to love the world of the internet, (it was about bigas)
    Biscotti I love, and have been playing around with them lately too. They are such an easy biscuit and the fact that they last for so long is very appealing. Yours with the chocolate look delicious!

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