I feel powerless in the face of senseless violence. Tragic news of the Newtown school shooting starkly reminds me we do not live in a safe world and a few selfish violent people among us can take away all that we love and cherish. I long to hold on tightly to my loved ones and do not let go. It is merely a game of chance that we do not fall victim to such horror.
I seek solace in the kitchen. Holiday baking suggests spreading cheers and somehow that does not feel quite right. However, just using my hands to create something tasty lightened the heavy feeling in my heart. My mind was distracted momentarily when all that mattered was making sure the cookies turn out successfully. I chose to make biscotti, something that I’ve only baked once in my life back in culinary school. Biscotti is an addictive treat to me but I absolutely loathe to make them. Every time I pick up a biscotti recipe, I have visions of the half-baked log crumbling to dust when I slice it to individual pieces.
Finicky recipes normally don’t appeal to me but I wanted to keep my mind off the news. These Almond Dried Cherry Biscotti gave me the escape I needed. I adapted America’s Test Kitchen’s Pistachio Dried Cherry Biscotti recipe from their Christmas Cookies 2012 cookbook (available at the newsstand now). Toasted almonds stood in place of pistachios and the dried cherries were plumped with Amaretto instead of orange juice. The dough was not the easiest to work with when I tried to form it into two logs. Yes, I was sufficiently distracted.
When the log came out of the oven after the first bake, I was faced with the task of slicing the cookies using a serrated knife instead of ending up with a pile of crumbs. It was exactly as hard to manage as I feared. For that blissfully brief moment, all I could think of was the delicate balance between sawing and chopping. The world appeared so simple and peaceful. Alas, the feeling did not last long. Despite my clumsiness, all the biscotti were eventually sliced without falling apart too much. I was almost disappointed it was not as messy as I anticipated.
The second bake crisped and firmed the biscotti into their addictive texture. Although the baking time was long, none of the cherries were dried out. They maintained a juicy bite thanks to steaming and soaking in Amaretto. This is a biscotti that is soft enough to eat out of hand yet sturdy enough to withstand a short dunk in coffee. In other words, it was everything I hoped for.
The world is still a scary place but living in fear does not make my experience any better. Instead, I remind myself to be extra good to those who matter to me. Spoil them, hug them, kiss them while I still can.