Tuesday, September 9, 2008

11. Lemon-Anise Biscotti - Sweet Rocks

Date Cooked: September 4th, 2008
Recipe: 11
Page: 804

Up until this point I thought I had been making progress. This time though I barely earned my moniker of the Mediocre Cook. I was probably closer to the Unfathomably Bad Baker. I had seen several biscotti recipes recently on food blogs, most recently by Cecil at FoodCraze. I was really craving them and wanted to try and make some. There are three recipes for them in the ‘Best’ book and I figured the Lemon-Anise ones sounded tasty and reasonably simple. After re-reading the recipe they still are reasonably simple but yet I managed to f--- this one up pretty good. This is my story.

I made the trip home from work and was in a reasonably good mood and as usual for the past few weeks I was thinking about what recipe to try tonight. I was also thinking I need to start planning out the meals and recipes better so I can make more efficient use of my time and ingredients which would cut down on travelling to the grocery stores every day which is becoming a habit. Ok, so I get home and decide that regardless of what I eat for dinner I was going to make biscotti. Dinner was a simple one dish casserole that was quick to throw together allowing me ample time to play with this biscotti recipe.

The first hurdle to this impending disaster that I had to overcome was that I did not have a zester. I considered using a cheese grater but considering the size of the lemons I had, which were small, a single pass on the grater would have cut through to the pulp. In other words I would have had all mess and no zest. So in a moment of desperation I grabbed the peeler and my chef’s knife. Have I mentioned my knives yet? With peeler in hand I undressed the lemon and minced the crap out of the peelings. Turned out not too bad and the lemon aroma was nice. This was the hardest part of making the biscotti if you can believe. So how could I have gone so wrong? Let’s continue.

I added all the dry ingredients to one bowl and whisked eggs, sugar, anise seed and the lemon zest in another. Slowly mixing in the dry ingredients I combined the two and folded until I had a batter. But something was terribly wrong. This batter was pretty dry and wouldn’t hold together very well. The directions say to stretch it out into long rolls about 13 x 2 and place them on the baking sheet. How can I put this… stretching the batter was like trying to shape playdough… that was left uncovered… for a week. I struggled to mold this mess into some kind of log shape and press it down to give it that biscotti look. I gave up and threw it in the oven while doing a mental calculation of how much money I wasted on this dish. I figure less than three dollars.

I went back to the recipe to figure out where I went wrong. It was very obvious. Two biscotti recipes are found on page 804 of the ‘Best’ book. One calls for more flour, and it wasn’t the one I was making. But apparently that didn’t stop me from using the greater amount in my recipe.

The aroma wafting out from the kitchen was pleasant and I started thinking there was some hope for salvaging the biscotti. So, when the first bake time was up, I took it out to cool before slicing it up for round two in the oven. When cooled these things were rigid and the crust on them was hard. I wasn’t sure my knives were up for the task of slicing this. I had to bear down on these pretty hard to get the first knife stroke to score the surface and begin cutting through. I felt like a lumberjack as I sawed through these mini logs. I was supposed to cut the biscotti loaf on more of a diagonal but for some reason they didn’t turn out that way. I think the loaf was too narrow and didn’t spread out any during baking.

I placed the mini bricks on the baking sheet for their last tour of duty in the oven. I was a little hesitant about this step since these things were already close to rock solid but I went with what I was told. And those pieces of biscotti went from almost rock solid to industrial strength building material.

When I went to take my first bite of the finished product I had to maneuver it to the side of my mouth so I could actually use my molars to break a piece off. When the biscotti cracked my heart skipped as I believed my tooth had given way to the unyielding biscotti brick. Of course for all the textural problems they had, the flavor was really nice.

Most people who have tried them politely tell me biscotti are supposed to be hard and that they taste great. I usually only watch them struggle through one piece. At least my five year old son was honest. He asked me if I was playing a trick on him and was trying to get him to eat a rock. I was laughing when I told him ‘no’ so I don’t know if he believed me. He didn’t finish it.

So I have a handful of these things left and I’m either going to use them to repair some of the brickwork on my house or eat them myself. Will I make these again? Probably not, but only because I have two more biscotti recipes to try from the ‘Best’ book. I’ll be very careful about ingredient measurements for the next time though.


  1. Oh NO!!! I don't know whether I should be laughing or crying then laugh! Especially when your son asked whether it's a trick. Awh! Now you make me all curious about the differences in recipe.

    Is it a lot of differences between the Best and ahem..the Sobey's free calendar recipe? (Btw, thanks for mentioning my blog!) I am gonna check out both recipes one of these days. Brick Biscotti!! Crush 'em up and use it for pie shell? :)

  2. Dunk them! If you drink coffee or tea, dunk them for a few seconds (or maybe a few minutes). I think that's how they' are traditionally eaten, although I think traditionally they're dunked in wine. Which could work too. Lots of wine

  3. cecil: there isn't much difference in the recipe other than the one I used looks like it makes a smaller batch. 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar, 2eggs. Obviously the flavorings are different. I'm still trying to figure out where I went wrong and I think the baking powder I used may not have been the freshest and I am only beginning to learn the important role it plays. SO I think too much flour and bad baking powder are to blame... and me of course.

    liz c: I'm not much of a wine drinker but I wonder if you could pair biscotti with beer...


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