Muffy Vhay: Biscotti time and giving thanks
For the Nevada Appeal
With Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, thoughts turn to people and to things we appreciate in our lives: The obvious, of course – family, friends, food in the pantry and a roof over our heads. Running water, and electricity. The color of aspens, fire in the woodstove on a chilly night. In addition, most of us have some special and often unspoken things we are most thankful for. For my husband and me, we are thankful for the improvements that modern medicine has made in our lives. David has a new hip courtesy of Dr. Martin Anderson, and I have had the sight restored to my right eye by Dr. Steven Friedlander. A huge thank you to both of them. Because of their skills, we can carry on with our lives.
Another very special person in my life has been Kay Winters, whom I think of as my “other Mom” – the one who taught me to iron and sew on buttons, and who made the best sugar cookies for our school lunches. In fact, the aroma of cookies baking always reminds me of having milk and cookies after school, with my friend VernaLee Winters, at the long table in the Winters’ kitchen. I love to cook and dream up recipes. Maybe that’s where it all started.
I learned about biscotti – the twice-baked, crisp dunking cookie from Italy – from my pottery teacher in Boulder, Colo., Betty Woodman, who had brought a recipe back from Florence. It was the classic biscotti – full of nuts and bits of candied fruit, and flavored with anise. Since I’ve never particularly cared for the flavor of anise, during the years I’ve experimented with other taste combinations. At holiday times, my preference is to make “fancy” biscotti such as chocolate drizzled ones, or maple frosted ones to give as gifts, serve to bed and breakfast guests, and to have for holiday guests. One of our favorites, both at the holidays and for the rest of the year, is a simple, pine nut studded biscotti, spiked with a bit of coffee in the dough. Since the pinyon (with its pine nuts) tree is the state tree of Nevada, this is a very appropriate biscotti for our area.
PINE NUT BISCOTTI
This easy-to-make biscotti recipe makes 3-4 dozen, and will keep in an air-tight container for up to two months, longer in the freezer. However, you probably won’t have any left after a few days, unless you hide them, which is what our daughter does.
1 cup shelled, toasted pine nuts
1⁄3 cup margarine (not “light”) softened
1 cup white sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
2 large eggs
21⁄4 cups unsifted all purpose flour
11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon instant coffee crystals, dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water
Toast pine nuts in a shallow pan, 350 oven, for about 3 – 5 min, until faintly brown. Set aside.
Cream margarine and sugar in a large bowl.
Beat eggs, vanilla, and the coffee mixture in a small bowl, and add to butter mixture. Beat on low until well mixed.
Mix in a large bowl (or just measure into your sifter) the flour, baking powder and salt.
Combine dry and wet mixtures in largest bowl, then add the pine nuts.
Turn out on a floured board and knead lightly – just until mixed – dough will be a bit sticky; that’s OK.
Form into two “logs” about 3⁄4″ high, 2″ wide. Put on greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with extra sugar.
Bake in 325 degree oven about 20-25 minutes, until just barely brown.
Remove from oven and place on cutting board. Cut into diagonals about 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 inch thick. Turn them on their sides on the same cookie sheet, and return them to the oven for 10-12 more minutes. Remove from oven again and turn them over for 10 more minutes. They should be nice and crisp but not too dark.
Cool and store in air tight containers, or freeze for later use.
These are great dunking cookies for coffee or hot chocolate, or to serve with ice cream.
Muffy Vhay is the co-owner of Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast.