When I started writing the blog, I didn’t realize the full extent of why the way I post my pictures could be helpful to you, the reader. Monday night I came face-to-face with the reason- because, for example, a log is not a log.
If a recipe tells me to roll the dough into a log, I roll and pat down- left hand side, while my friend (and now partner), Jen Olson, rolls and stretches. I have rolled and patted down for this particular recipe at least twenty times until Jen looked surprised and asked, what is that? You are supposed to roll it into a log. I was, I thought.
While I agree now that her log is more of a log than mine, it turns out that even the most precise directions in a recipe are subject to interpretation and variations among these interpretations can be pretty serious. A visual always helps.
More than once I thought, if I could only capture this smell or that taste! Sometimes my house smells so incredible from cooking and sometimes the taste of a dish is so unbelievable that words seem not to do justice. But pictures do. They break some of these barriers and I have tried to provide as much aid with them as my very low tech Canon can hope to provide considering my severe technical handicap.
My pictures were fine, about as good as I could do, but I knew the visuals on the blog can be much better and when Jen talked to me about photographing my food, I was thrilled, ecstatic, and overjoyed all at the same time.
If you read my first post, you know that I might have a thing for dates (02-01-2010 for launching the blog!), which is why I chose today, May 1, to start a new chapter on the blog, a chapter of captivating imagery, kindly and skillfully provided by my friend and favorite food photographer, Jen Olson.
I have met Jen one Sunday morning in April of 2008 when I was running late to a yoga class she was teaching. She was new at the studio and was not entirely pleased with my tardiness. I tried not to think much of it, but something in her attitude intrigued me. So much that I came back to her classes again and again.
At one point, she mentioned she was a photographer and that she was writing a book, a cookbook. Now I was really intrigued. I wanted to know more about Jen, the book, and the process behind it. And when I found out more I realized that Jen and I had to be friends. We had too much in common not to be friends.
Two years passed since I met Jen; she published her beautiful book, Colorado Organic: cooking seasonally, eating locally; I started this blog and while we formed a friendship, we now found an opportunity to work together, to cook, and laugh, and pull through longer-than-anticipated projects and be able to make the imagery on this blog more exciting.
Our first project together had to do with Jen’s beautiful cookbook, but I wanted a twist, something that made it ours, not just hers. So, I decided on the Frasca Almond Biscotti recipe, with pistachio instead of almonds and just a bit of dried cherry to add a bit of sweetness and a texture variation.
Pistacchio Cherry Biscotti, inspired by Frasca
Ingredients: ½ cup unsalted butter (room temperature); ½ cup sugar; 1 large egg; 1 ¼ plus 2 tablespoons flour; ½ teaspoon baking powder; a pinch of kosher salt, ¾ cup pistachios, shelled and chopped finely; 1/3 cup pistachio, shelled and chopped coarsely; ¼ cup dried sour cherries, chopped coarsely.
A side note- I broke one of my very strict rules in baking- I swapped ingredients- pistachios instead of almonds then to add insult to injury I added dried cherries. I am not a baker and the thought of flour combined with baking powder generally frightens me. But, this recipe is the easiest thing for anyway to make, even for the baking-challenged.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
In a large bowl, cream with an electric mixer the butter and sugar until it begins to stick to the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the egg and mix well. Scrape the bowl with a plastic or wooden spatula.
Over the butter/sugar mixture, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. Bring it all together with your hands without actually working the dough. You may think that sifting is not a big deal. It is. And sifting in a sifter is different than pouring the flour through a regular strain.
If you have a sifter, use it. If you don’t, consider buying one. Ultimately, not sifting won’t destroy your biscotti, but doing it will for sure make them better. Add all of the pistachios and cherries and knead by hand until just incorporated.
Place the mixture on a lightly floured surface.
Here’s the fun part- the log! You are supposed to divide the dough into two halves and shape the dough into 2 small logs that get rolled to fit the entire length of a sheet pan. Clearly, my idea of a log (Jen called it the Romanian log) was different than hers as you saw. But, as it turned out, both the American and the Romanian log yielded successful and delicious biscotti.
Transfer your logs whatever variation you choose for them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Because the cherries have a tendency to burn quicker, if they are sticking out of your dough, gently press them back in.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool until slightly warm, about 20 minutes. Adjust the heat in your oven to 300ºF.
With a bread knife (or if you’d rather, like me, a large straight sharp blade), cut the biscotti diagonally at a 45 degree angle into ¾ inch pieces.
Return the biscotti to the baking sheet leaving a little room between each piece.
Bake for another 15-25 minutes until they are golden brown. Eat the casualties right away- those pieces that broke and store the rest in an airtight container.
Enjoy and come back soon!
Andra & Jen
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