My 10-year hiatus from lap swimming ended abruptly when I decided to start training for a triathlon. It was on my life list and I was feeling fitter than ever, and so this winter I put my ideals into gear for a dose of cold hard reality. And cold swimming pools on early snow-dusted mornings.
Not long after that I started this blog. Now that I think about it, this intersection seems perfectly obvious. As I have newly discovered, almost nothing makes you hungrier than 45 minutes flailing around in a pool. (Someday I hope to call it “swimming.”) I don’t know why swimming causes such a specific type of hunger, considering the loss of appetite that occurs after running or cycling. Maybe it has something to do with body temperature, but I’m content to roll with blissful ignorance.
I love the cool shock of jumping into the water, the gulps of breath, surviving in a new element. And then there is the onset afterwards of a hunger felt from the toenails to the ears. Naturally, when I finished today’s swim I wondered if I’d even eaten breakfast this morning. Oh yeah, porridge. And an orange. And a latte. More, give me more. This was an argument I was happy to lose.
Recent cravings for biscotti inspired me to augment my post-swim lunch with a little dose of la dolce vita. And this one I can promise you is truly a slice of the sweet life. Not only is this recipe simple, it’s actually healthy and traditional. With no oil, butter or shortening, it mirrors the traditional Italian technique.
Don’t let biscotti’s bad rap for being dry stop you from trying these. (I blame their tragic fate on big coffee companies who pedal varieties done so poorly no one would feed them to their dog waiting outside.) Sorry guys, but even your $6 lattes can’t redeem those plastic-wrapped logs of petrified dough. Thanks to the Wednesday Chef, the true biscotti fairy paid me a long overdue visit this afternoon. Full of just-chewy centers edged with crispness, our acquaintance was renewed with gingery vigor.
And then I was ready for lunch.
yields 20-30 biscotti
1¼ cup all-purpose flour, more for dusting (I used ¾ all purpose and ½ white whole wheat flour…my new obsession)
½ cup turbinado, Demerara or granulated brown sugar (the really granular, coarse stuff makes these!)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup made up of: finely chopped crystallized ginger + small handful of finely chopped dried cranberries
1/3 cup chopped pecans
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large mixing bowl.
- Remove 1 tablespoon of the egg to a small dish and reserve. Add vanilla to the rest.
- Make a well in center of dry ingredients. Pour in the egg-vanilla mixture and using your hands (a large rubber spatula will do too), work flour into eggs. It will be crumbly at first, but will eventually form a soft dough. Stir in the ginger, cranberries, and chopped pecans, and allow to rest 10 minutes. (Think of it as dough savasana.)
- If you don’t own a silicone baking mat, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, flatten or roll dough into an 8-inch square. Roll the dough up tightly and cut the resulting log in half. Press and roll each half into a log measuring about 9 inches long. Place the logs on your lined baking sheet, brush with the reserved egg, and bake about 20 minutes, until firm to the touch and golden (like a perfect roasted marshmallow).
- Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Using a sharp, thin knife, cut log(s) at an angle into ½-inch thick slices. Place slices an inch apart on baking sheet and return to oven for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how crisp you want the final product. (You can also omit the second bake for a chewier, eat-immediately type of cookie.) Cool completely before serving.
adapted from The New York Times, where it’s presented as an accompaniment to rye whiskey!