I haven’t, around this time of the year, had the chance to be somewhere bright and sunny and erm… pleasant. The Middle East is plenty bright and sunny alright but June is also when the thermostat is set to ‘hell.’ If you happen to find yourself in that corner of the world, then most likely you’d wish your days and nights are exclusively spent indoors. (Yes, even the evenings are hot and humid.)
In Third-World tropics, June is the beginning of the monsoon season. There is no searing sun in sight but neither is it pleasant. (Yes, it is equally hot and humid.) This is the time when power outages become frequent, too, due to heavy downpour and if you’re lucky to have a generator, chances are that it produces just enough power to provide you with light and keep your fridge alive.
So how do I prepare for those days when I know at some point I’d be inevitably trapped indoors as I go through June in either of these places? I make an insane amount of cookies. The kind that stores incredibly well in the pantry and can keep anyone happy during extreme weather conditions as heat-stroke inducing sunshine or tropical thunderstorms.
Biscotti (pl.) are a Tuscan invention and are twice-baked (bis – two; cotto – cooked). They were originally created as durable staple food for Roman soldiers. I prefer to make them during the first couple weeks of the month, doing a double-batch of vanilla and another of chocolate which in total yields a little over eight dozens. Using no fat in the recipe and only eggs to bind the ingredients, the cookies are drier and do not soften as easily. In fact, they travel so well you can lug them around with you for half a year without worrying about spoilage.
You don’t have to eat them on their own. You can slap some peanut butter or Nutella on the vanilla biscotti then top with sliced bananas to go with your morning drink or if you’re adventurous enough, break some pieces into a bowl and drown with milk as you would with your favourite cereal.
For a speedy afternoon nibble, take some chocolate biscotti and top with good raspberry jam and a sprinkling of flaked almonds. Or if you’re feeling a tad indulgent, soak some briefly in espresso, break into pieces and layer in a glass goblet alternately with lightly sweetened whipped cream for a scrumptious tiramisu-inspired dessert.
You can make a number of variations of this basic recipe by adding in your favourite mix-ins like chocolate chips or dried fruit but I find that the plain ones are more accommodating to whatever ingredient is available in your pantry or fridge. (I once smeared some Danish blue cheese on chocolate biscotti and trust me, it was goooood!)
So here I am, braving June. Enjoying the great outdoors is something I’ll look forward to doing come September, when the weather becomes a bit more tolerable. In the meantime, I’ll happily hole myself up in my apartment, jar of biscotti in hand, carefully designing that trip somewhere bright and sunny and pleasant!
Vanilla and Chocolate Biscotti
Makes about 25 biscotti
|1 2/3 cups||plain flour|
|2 tsps||baking powder|
|1 cup||light brown sugar|
|2||eggs, beaten lightly|
|1 tsp||vanilla extract|
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Sift flour, baking powder and sugar into a large bowl. Add eggs and vanilla. Blend until mixture just comes together. Knead on a lightly floured board until a firm dough is formed. Divide into two equal portions and shape into 30cm logs.
Place in a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 30 minutes or until firm. Cool completely on tray.
Using a serrated knife, cut logs into 1 cm thick slices. Lay slices on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake in a 350-degree F oven for 5 minutes per side or until the surface of the cookies feels dry to the touch.
Remove from oven and cool completely on racks.
Store in airtight containers.
Note: for the chocolate biscotti, simply replace 1/3 cup flour with cocoa powder.