Lost Among Europeans

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A culture of biscotti

Mom and I have been making biscotti for a few months now. We took the recipe from a platter of figs by David Tanis, my favorite cookbook, and we have made adjustments to our process. We have it down to a science.

The recipe in the book is already a fantastic starting point. The ingredients are: a stick of butter (unsalted,) half a teaspoon of almond extract, 3/4 cups of sugar, 2 large eggs, 2 cups all-purpose flour, one-and-a-half teaspoons of baking powder, a pinch of salt, and 3/4 cup of sliced almonds.

The first couple of times we made them, the taste was already good, but the salt required adjusting. The biggest issue we were having was in shaping the dough into 3 round “logs” for the oven. The procedure was messy and frustrating and time-consuming.

I watched videos of people making biscotti. Most would also get messy when making the logs. But in the video from Cooking Italian with Joe, it was all done quickly, cleanly, and without fuss.

We got to work. Two changes to our process have gotten us to easy dough shaping with basically no kneading:

  1. Using a non-stick silicone mat to roll the dough on, placed over our wooden cutting board. Even with flour sprinkled on, the wooden board would stick to the dough. We thought of getting a marble cutting board, but the silicone mat was more than good enough.

  2. Beating the dough mixture long enough: the book advises to keep beating the mix for one minute after all the ingredients have been incorporated. This is key, and easy to overlook on a first reading. It seems to lead to a sturdier dough.

We also decided to make two logs, not three, and that makes things even easier. We’re honing the amounts of salt and almond extract, iteration after iteration.

This is the meaning I like of the word culture. The gradual refinement of a living craft, the accumulation of knowledge for practical use. Not the accumulation of knowledge to differentiate oneself from the populace.

A culture of basketball; a culture of movies; a culture of biscotti.

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