Hallelujah to the powers that be, Miss Amana has been fixed. She’s been a real high-maintenance belle, this one.
The repair involved two weeks, some fast action on the part of the United Parcel Service, lots of swearing on the part of the repairmen, and lots of patience, on my part. The first guy told me that if he had to make a list, in order of preference, of the ovens he’d put in his own house, he’d put Amana at the very bottom. (He bought himself a Viking.)
While it was happening, I didn’t feel so confident. Seeing my oven door on the kitchen floor felt like watching a doc slap one of my kidneys on an operating table – I’m sure I can live without it if absolutely necessary, but why the fearmongering? Put that thing back on!, I kept wanting to shout. He did, eventually. Tighter than ever, so no air could escape, and with a brand new oven brain.
In celebration, I’ve been making cookies like it’s Christmas – cinnamon almond butter cookies, cutely forked and frozen for my friend Hilary, for when she’s up in the middle of the night with New Baby in the months to come and desperately needs a cookie.
Five dozen lemon cookies, from that secret recipe I’ve been meaning to try since February of 2007. I scooped and frosted for a gaggle of girls at Hil’s baby shower, then snuck them into a movie theater in a bag disguised as Indian food. (The leftover cookies went to my sister’s dorm room, and to my neighbors, and to a friend, and to my stomach. Five dozen is a very big batch.)
There have been other celebrations inside that oven, too:
A nice boneless leg of lamb, butterflied and stuffed with dates, pine nuts, currants, herbs, and lemon zest, and roasted to a fragrant, juicy medium rare.
A baguette, reheated lovingly – wait, make that overlovingly – into an overgrown breadstick with textural and perhaps operational similarities to a baseball bat.
Spinach and black bean enchiladas, made with all the conveniences the world has to offer, because that’s what we felt like making.
A sister-made raspberry-nectarine crisp (her first, I believe), bubbled up in a regular pie pan, which was good enough to let me forgive myself for shattering my very first Le Creuset casserole dish – the one I used to always use to make crisp.
All this, in a weekend.
Then Julie, a writer friend and fellow blogger, wrote to ask if I knew Deborah Krasner. She’s a cookbook author and cooking instructor, among many, many other things (kitchen designer, potter, artist, mother, writer, the list goes on. . .).
I said yes, I’d written a story on her cooking school in Vermont a few years ago, and oh yes, I’d loved it. I started leafing through her olive oil book in my mind, and as always, I settled on the chocolate chip orange biscotti recipe. Perfectly oranged, perfectly crisped, and ohso angelic with the inclusion of olive oil instead of butter, they’re the epitome of alternative biscotti. They’re always happy on my floured counter, where I pat and squeeze them into logs for the first round in the oven – the dough is never overly sticky, like some recipes we know. And whenever I make them, I’m guaranteed to have forgotten a dinner party, or a birthday, or something for which biscotti turn out to be the most appropriate emergency response. It’s your birthday? I mean, Yes, your birthday! Happy birthday! I made you some. . .biscotti! Just let me wrap them up.
I couldn’t think of a birthday I was about to miss, but ages ago, my friend Steph requested a gingerbread biscotti recipe – requested a remake, actually, of a gingerbread-macadamia nut biscotti she’d had in the house of a certain Seattle coffee empire she knows I avoid, as a general rule. They’d been dipped in white chocolate, and served up right around the holidays. Steph wanted to be sure she had a recipe come December, and I told her I wasn’t too proud to attempt an imitation, despite the fact that I’ve never tasted them (and probably never will). And what better way to thank Miss Amana for working again than by making something that has to be baked twice?
I slid Deborah’s book off the shelf, and started tinkering. The path twisted, as it always does, because those macadamia nuts I’d been so sure I had were really hazelnuts, and despite my deep desire to satisfy Steph’s request, in the end, nothing could convince me to shelve my distaste for white chocolate. For once, I skipped the chocolate altogether.
They may not be just what the mermaid ordered – perhaps hers were softer, or longer, or more chewy. Mine have just a drizzle of molasses, for good gingerbread flavor and a color that’s darker than the usual biscotti, but they aren’t so soft that they’ll fall apart in your latte.
Yesterday, I ate the biscotti warm, right off the baking sheet. Today, I’m dipping them in ginger tea. Tomorrow, I’ll send some to Steph, so she can coat them with white chocolate herself.
In The Flavors of Olive Oil: A Tasting Guide and Cookbook, Deborah Krasner puts our favorite kitchen elixir into the expected – chickpea soup, pasta with oven-dried tomatoes and gorgonzola, polenta – but also into a few things I first found surprising. Take the Orange Chocolate Chip Biscotti: Not something I’d associate immediately with olive oil. But with the flowery, herbal touch of the right oil, they quickly became my go-to recipe. It’s not just that they’re delicious – the batter just takes a few quick stirs to pull together, and I always find it easy to deal with on the counter, regardless of whether it’s a wet or dry day. Plus, the second round in the oven is at the same temperature as the first, which means it’s much harder to forget to turn the oven down (something I used to do all the time).
Here’s a gingered version of Deborah’s biscotti, made with whole wheat flour. A touch of molasses gives them a hint of gingerbread flavor, but don’t be fooled – these will stand up to a good dunking much better than a gingerbread man. Of course, if you’re feeling festive, a dip in chocolate – white, milk, or dark – couldn’t hurt.
TIME: 35 minutes active time
MAKES: About 3 dozen biscotti
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 large eggs
Zest of 2 oranges
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more, if needed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 cup finely chopped, lightly packed crystallized ginger
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Whisk the first six ingredients until smooth in a large mixing bowl until smooth. In another bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients until blended. Add the dry stuff to the wet stuff, and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl – if it’s still sticky like a batter, add all-purpose flour in 1/4 cup increments until the dough comes together (it should still be quite soft).
Transfer the dough to a clean surface dusted with flour, and pat into a log. Divide the dough into 3 equal parts, and dust each part with flour on all sides. (I find it’s easiest to work with the dough if you flour your hands, too.) Using your hands, pat and squeeze each section into a smaller log about 10 inches long. Transfer the logs to the baking sheets (two on one sheet, one on the other), and flatten the logs a bit with your palms, so the dough is a little less than an inch tall and about 3 inches wide.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the logs are lightly browned and just beginning to crack. Transfer to a cutting board (leave the oven on), and let cool for a few minutes. Using a serrated knife, slice the logs at an angle into roughly 1/2” slices.
Arrange the cookies one cut side-down on the baking sheets, and bake another 12 to 15 minutes, rotating sheets and flipping cookies halfway through, until lightly browned on both sides and firm. (You can leave the cookies on the softer side, if you’d like, but they won’t last as long.)
Cool cookies completely on wire racks, then store in airtight containers up to 2 weeks.