12/18/12

Baking to Beat the Band


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This is what I awakened to this morning.  We had about three inches accumulation and steadily falling snow. It continued to snow all morning, and by the time I left to take Matthew to the train station, we had about six inches accumulation.


The temperatures warmed up some this afternoon, and it is now melting and falling off the trees, but there is still a lot of snow on the ground...wet, slushy stuff that makes driving difficult.  We're supposed to get more as the week goes on.

This is how Smitty spent most of the morning.  So funny.  He really wanted to go out, but he was very suspicious of this stuff.  He decided to keep his options open, and hung in the kitty door half in and half out, rather than go completely outside with both front and back legs.  


When I went outside, I could see his paw prints where he'd leaped to one of the rhododendrons and then leaped back in the same tracks, venturing only about five feet from the door.

As for me, I spent the morning baking, and I'll just say right here that it is ill advised to measure out baking ingredients prior to having one's full complement of coffee.  Here's what happened:

The morning began with me trying a new recipe for Gingerbread Biscotti.  The recipe called for 1/2 cup of butter, which in my morning fog, I translated into two sticks of butter.  Now just think about that for a minute while I continue on with my story.  So I mixed all the ingredients, noting that the batter seemed awfully sticky and difficult to form into the logs necessary for the first stage of baking.  Nevertheless, I formed the logs onto a cookie, and then put the whole shebang into a 375° oven.  Then, I went upstairs to read the notes I'd made about how to slice the half-baked biscotti loaves into pieces for the second stage of baking.  This took approximately five minutes or less.  

As I headed back downstairs, I distinctly smelled something burning.  When I looked into the oven, the biscotti logs had melted into liquid cookie and were in the process of sliding off the cookie sheet onto the hot oven interior.  OMG, OMG, OMG!!!  (That's three exclamation points for the three OMG's I uttered.  Actually, I used a different word.)  Quick thinker that I am, I turned off the oven and yanked the biscotti out of the oven and threw the whole mess into the sink before it could do any more damage.  Needless to say, I had quite a mess on my hands.  Then, and only then, did I realize what I'd done.  I didn't even need to look at the recipe to know that I'd used twice as much butter as I needed.  Oy.

Oh well.  Times like this call for buckets of tears ordinarily, but since Matthew was in the living room, I decided to forego the tears and get on with the rest of the process.  Also on the agenda were two loaves of Cherry-Almond Bread with Amaretto Glaze.  This is a bread I've made before, and so I was pretty sure of the recipe.  That went off without a hitch, fortunately. 


It's really such a tasty bread.  It can be made with dried cherries, almonds, and amaretto, or it can also be made with cranberries, orange zest, and Grand Marnier.  I hadn't tried doing it with the dried cherries, and so I wanted to try this variation.  It's really quite tasty.  The cherries are tart and counteract the sweetness a little.  The almonds give it a nice crunch.  The glaze is a rather hefty glaze, and so the top has a nice little crunch as well.  While it's still warm, you poke holes in the top and pour the glaze over so that the moisture runs down inside the bread.  Very nice.  



You can find the recipes for both breads here:  Cranberry-Orange Bread with Grand Marnier Glaze and Cherry-Almond Bread with Amaretto Glaze. If I were given truth serum, put under the lights, and forced to choose, I think I would say I prefer the cranberry version.

So while the bread was baking, I determined that I had enough ingredients to give the Gingerbread Biscotti another try.  And I'll just say right here that I am so glad I have double ovens.  If I didn't, I would have been sunk for my day of baking.  That would have been a tragedy because these items are gifts for a friend and mentor who helped me through a life transition.  Each year, I take him some baked goods even though our professional relationship ended long ago.  We are meeting up tomorrow so that I can give him his annual Christmas goodies.  It's also an opportunity to catch up a little bit.

In any case, I'm glad I didn't let the earlier failure deter me because these are just wonderful.  They contain half a cup of chopped crystallized ginger and a full cup of chopped almonds.  The recipe calls for whole almonds, but in my experience, whole nuts make it difficult to slice the half-baked biscotti into pieces without breaking them.


They are also supposed to have their ends dipped in the white chocolate, but I opted for drizzling instead.  I've never had much luck dipping them.  The chocolate seems too wet and clingy, and it takes too long to harden afterward.  If you like biscotti, I can recommend this recipe with the changes I made; i.e., use slivered almonds, roughly chopped, and drizzle rather than dip the chocolate.  Aside from those changes, I made the recipe just as you see it here:  Gingerbread Biscotti.

Also, want to know my secret for slicing the biscotti without breaking it?  First, don't leave large pieces of fruit or nuts in the batter.  Regardless of what your recipe tells you to do, chop fruit and nuts into fairly fine pieces.

Second, biscotti logs become brittle if they cool too fast when you take them out of the oven to slice.  To avoid this, cover the logs with a tee towel and allow them to cool for ten minutes before attempting to slice them.

Third, don't use a serrated blade, and don't saw back and forth as most recipes will instruct you to do.  Instead, use a sharp butcher knife and cut straight through leaning into the blade as you go.  I managed to cut these without breaking a single one.  Ta-Da!

So once these were out of the oven, I needed to take Matthew to the train station.  He's heading back to Klamath Falls to rent a U-Haul truck and move his belongings to Portland.  He should be back with the sum total of everything he owns on Friday.  I'm so happy he'll be coming back to Portland.  It occurs to me that these past few days he's been staying with us may very well be the last nights he'll ever spend under our roof.  He's our youngest, and with this latest chain of events, I think it's fair to say that he's launched into his life.  It makes me happy, but it also makes me sad.

As we drove off our hill, this is what we saw:


At our elevation, there was six inches of snow.  Down in the valley, clear, sunny, and green.  No snow.  It was clear that they'd had snow earlier, but it was melted at all but the highest elevations.

So with all of that, no sewing for me today.  Nevertheless, I'm all finished with the top-stitching, and I'm ready to make the borders for my December Folk Art Cat block.  Here's what I have so far:


He's looking pretty smart in his Santa duds, don't you think?  He still needs his checkerboard border and I will also need to make two pieced cornerstone blocks.  Once I have him finished, I'll be ready to move onto the last of the challenges for the Free Motion Quilting Challenge.

So, phew!  I'm tired.  How did your Tuesday go?

19 comments from savvy and entertaining friends:

Lyndsey said...

Oh poor Smitty ... but that photo is so funny. Our cat hates the snow but the dog will play in it for hours. We have already had a small amount of snow here in London which is quite unusual but I wish we would get a good fall for Christmas.

Vicki W said...

That bread sounds amazing! I wish we had snow here.

Leah said...

Woke to snow here today... about 1" first thing, but by 11AM there was 4".... Supposed to be more tonight.

Your baking looks great... and I'm sure your house smells wonderful. I was sewing!

Quilting Babcia said...

About an inch this morning here. We're at about 650 feet elevation, from your photo I'd say you're quite a bit higher. So, with snow on the ground and in the air, and only one more day being ambulatory, I opted to get out all the red currants we'd picked and carefully frozen this summer and (finally) make jelly. Our bush yielded twice as much as last year: 6 jars. Then it was baking time - today spicy Mexican chocolate macaroons - double batch - yummy! No sewing today, alas.

Teresa in Music City said...

My goodness! You should be tired!!! You wore me out just listening to all that you did today. Everything looks so yummy - I think I gained a pound while I was drooling :*)

Poor Smitty! Cats just do not understand about weather do they? They think we do that to them on purpose. Gypsy just gives me a dirty look as if to say, "You think that's funny? Put it back the way it was!!!"

LynCC said...

Smitty just CRACKS ME UP. :D I'm glad your second batch of biscotti behaved. It's gorgeous drizzled. And speaking of gorgeous - Love your snow shots! We're awaiting a blizzard right now. S'posed to move in during the next couple of hours. Marissa is hoping for her first "Snow Day," and at 15 thinks that's double cool being as it will swamp tomorrow's finals if they cancel. She doesn't have the experience yet to realize it'll be a real pain having to take them the first day back after break! lol :) But I'm half rooting for the Snow Day just so I can see her face sparkle up! Much better than the handful of Hurricane Days she's had.

Mego said...

OH my goodness! Is this PORTLAND? Up in Seattle we didn't get one flake! My girlfriend is in Multnomah but she's in Mexico right now so she's missing the mess. Hope all is well!

sophie said...

One of my cats, Johnny (who looks like he could be Smitty's big brother), is having a similar experience with snow and ice. He cries for me to open the door to the roof deck, but when I give in and let him out, until today, he sat in the open doorway. today he ventured out on the deck, but only to the edge of the snow and ice and no further.

The gingerbread biscotti looks delicious. I think I'll be making some of my own soon.

ytsmom said...

I made biscotti and sliced the raw dough and baked it! Couldn't figure out why it was so sticky! DUH! Love the santa cat block.

Judy1522 said...

Thanks so much for the tips for the biscotti. I have a chocolate one that I make and it always breaks now I know why.

Dana Gaffney said...

I get it, 1 of 2 sticks of butter, that's pretty much how I bake around here, Christmas baking almost always finds me sitting on the floor crying, it's tradition. I love the picture of Smitty, I find our dogs like that all the time, sometimes both of them stuck like that.

Jeanne said...

That biscotti catches my eye -- it may become a baking day here :)
Jeanne

Diane Wild said...

My arteries clogged just reading about your baking. However, the Cookie Monster visited my house earlier so I have tempting treats. Tues. I cut out a bear and today I'll sew it.

Loretta Thomas said...

This happens to the best of us so don't dispair...you made up for it with this bread...sound amazing and looks delicious! Lots of snow...but it is soo pretty!

Hugs & best Wishes!

Patricia said...

The snow is so beautiful. Smitty reminds me of how I feel when I can't make up my mind about something.

Denise :) said...

I'm so *totally* jealous of your snow -- and all that baking, too!!! I have a hard time getting into too much baking in the RV. I used to love it, but I had a kitchen with the space for it! It makes a difference! :)

Angel and Kirby said...

Smitty, we had a beagle that hated to get his feet wet. When it rained or snowed (which is seldom in North Texas) he would tiptoe out to the closes spot he could find to do his business. Once I caught him just hanging his rump off the edge of the patio!

Your baking looks wonderful! I do not bake much anymore. My husband has Diabetes so I try to keep the sweets to a minimal!

quiltzyx said...

I was laughing out loud so much I almost couldn't read!!! Love the shot of Smitty in the door - reminds me of an old Sylvester the cat cartoon where he's stuck thru' a wall(?), and his nephew comes up to talk to him...on the, um, tail side. And says, "Oh my, THIS is not the talking end!"

The bread & biscotti look very tasty. I know where to come looking if I ever decide I need to bake!

Carrie P. said...

another blogger led me to your blog because I made Biscotti for the first time yesterday and was having trouble with the mine breaking off little pieces. I am going to try the kind of knife you suggested and spread my dough out a bit. My instructions make short biscotti. I want long one like yours pictured.