Monday, March 24, 2014

Chocolate Chip Biscotti

So I think the moral of the story is to try not to overthink and psych yourself out of something awesome.  Maybe I should back up...

 Above is the "junk room" at my church. It's actually one of my classrooms, a former computer room that, once it wasn't needed anymore, became a place people tossed things they didn't want to throw out. When I started my job at the church I cleaned out the room and found enough supplies to stock our advent workshop that year. Amazingly, it needed to be cleaned out again the next year.

One of the high schoolers at church did his eagle scout project in my classrooms, painting them amazingly bright colors and making them fun and kid friendly. New carpet was installed and the whole place felt shiny and new. Except for the junk room. It was decided that nothing could happen until the leak in the roof was fixed. So it sat and not so slowly filled with junk again.

Inspiration struck one Sunday morning when I offered a parent, taking shelter in an empty classroom while their preschooler tried choir for the first time, a more comfortable chair from another room. They declined saying they were happy just to be able to grab a few minutes of quiet. We had several parents doing this every Sunday, why not make them more comfortable? Wouldn't it encourage them to come more consistently if they knew they had a quiet retreat for 45 minutes while their kids begin choir or are being introduced to the nursery, or even if they need a quiet comfy spot to nurse? I decided to create a parents lounge. My boss approved. My committee approved and encouraged.

Did I mention I had no budget? Someone else wanted my room so I had to keep moving! My friend Beth helped me secure an amazingly generous donation of gorgeous furniture. The head of our custodial staff helped me take extra paint from past projects and blend together a calming neutral color as well as give lots of helpful advice and guidance. I scrubbed the walls and spent three days painting and cleaning. We moved the furniture in and BOOM! A parents lounge just like that.

We still need to patch the hole in the ceiling but what a difference! I sent a quick e-mail to a few of the parents I see sitting on tiny plastic chairs every Sunday and told them they now had a comfy lounge and that it was ready for them and there would be hot coffee and homemade biscotti on Sunday.

I have never made biscotti before. I've wanted to try it but it always seemed kind of complicated and intimidating. Why would I say I was making biscotti? Didn't matter, I said it and they were due the next morning. Don't think too much, just do it!

I was pleasantly surprised, even when staring at dough that looked too moist to form into a log, it worked. They turned out beautifully. I'm no longer intimidated by biscotti. In fact I think this is the perfect thing to make for Christmas cookie exchanges, group brunches, bridal or baby showers, or to bring to friends who've just brought home their new baby and are exhausted and could benefit from a hot cup of coffee and some delicious biscotti.

Chocolate Chip Biscotti
by Mark Bittman
Yield: about 3 dozen / Time: About 1 1/4 hours

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pans
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the baking sheets
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 or 2 tbsp milk, if necessary
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375º.  Use an electric mixer to cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until well blended. Add extract.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the dough a little at a time, beating until just incorporated and adding a little milk if needed to bring the dough together. Fold in chocolate chips.

Butter two baking sheets and dust them with flour, then turn them upside down and tap to remove excess flour. Divide the dough in half and form a 2 inch wide log on each sheet. (If your dough is too sticky to handle just scoop it on to the sheet in a line and use your fingers to gently shape it into a log. It will smooth out as it bakes!)

Bake until the loaves are beginning to crack on top, about 30 minutes; cool the logs on the sheets for a few minutes and lower the oven temperature to 250º

When loaves are cool enough to handle, use a serrated knife to cut each loaf on the diagonal into 1/2" thick slices. Put the slices on the sheets and return them to the oven to bake another 15-20 minutes. Flip cookies once during baking to make sure both sides dry out.

Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

These beauties really are eating cookies for breakfast but because they're biscotti you can totally get away with it. Not to mention the buttered cookie sheets smell AMAZING when they're in the oven. Paul and I were salivating as I waited for the timer to go off.

So I guess the moral of the story is to not overthink and psych yourself out of doing something you want to do just because it might be intimidating. The results could be delicious...

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