Bitter-Sweet Tears & Biscotti

Bittersweet Almond Biscotti

Bittersweet Almond Biscotti

Recently a friend asked if there were any days when I just sobbed the kind of tears that took one’s breath away? She was worried about another friend who seems to not have grieved at all over the loss of her son because she never sees her cry. Surely, we all grieve differently. Surely, her friend is crying. There are just times we are desperate to pretend that we are not the poor moms who have lost our children. We just want it to be the way it used to be. We deal with the devil bargaining to get our children back; to go back to normal. We don’t want to cry.

The lack of tears in the public eye helps to shield those around us from our pain; a kind of mothering protective effect. Maybe there is a fear that if we are crying all the time then no one will want us around. There is a real fear of isolation and abandonment by all the others in the world we love. I totally remember my “poised” days when I did not cry in front of others only to retreat to the privacy of my bedroom to scream my head off and punch pillows. It was only me, myself and I in my weakest and saddest moments. It’s just the way it is. It is sometimes easier and safer to cry alone.

It’s been 2 1/2 years since I lost my son. I still cry. It is normal. Any little trigger that reminds me of William can set me off. I thought I got through Thanksgiving unscathed. However, the morning after, while walking the dog on the beach, there were construction workers fixing a house ravished by hurricane Sandy playing country music on the radio. William and I shared a love of country music. It was the Rodney Atkins song, “If Your Going Through Hell” and the lyrics, “Used the needle of your compass, to sew up your broken heart”……….. it made me think of William and how he gave me the call name “broken compass” because I have no sense of direction and can’t find my way out of a box. I spent the morning crying on the beach. Just me, myself and I…and the dog who loves me no matter what.

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“But the good news is there’s angels everywhere out on the street Holdin’ out a hand to pull you back up on your feet”. It seems to take less time to recover from moments like those on the beach. There is a neighborhood holiday cookie swap tomorrow and baking cookies helps me snap out of my funk.  Inspired by a bottle of Bella Gusta blood orange EVOO I decide to create a biscotti. It’s a lightly sweet, crisp almond cookie with just a touch of orange and chocolate bitterness. It’s great for dunking in your favorite holiday beverage.

Bitter Sweet Almond Biscotti

  • Servings: 2 1/2 dozen
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2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

finely grated zest of 1 orange

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup blood orange extra virgin olive oil

2 cups sliced almonds, divided

1 egg white, lightly beaten

4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate, melted

Heat oven 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Reserve 1/4 cup of flour. In bowl, whisk remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In food processor, combine sugar, zest, eggs and almond extract until blended. With food processor running, add the oil. Reserve 1/3 cup of almonds. Add remaining almonds to mixture in food processor; process until almonds are finely chopped. Add the flour mixture; process just until the dry ingredients are moistened. The dough will be sticky. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Add reserved flour and knead to make a soft, non-sticky dough. Divide dough n half. Shape each half into a 8 x 2-inch rectangle; place rectangles 2-inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with egg white and sprinkle with reserved almonds. Lightly press almonds to adhere. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting surface and with a serrated knife cut into 1/2-inch slices. Lay slices back on baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, turn cookies over, and bake another 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Cool and drizzle with melted chocolate.

 

Following in his light with Cookies

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Once the news got out the food started arriving almost immediately and in enormous amounts. Neighbors arrived with hot coffee and bagels. The local grocers hand delivered pans of baked ziti, large trays of deli meats and cheeses all rolled into neat little packages. There were decorative trays of salads with tomato roses and steaming aluminum containers of chicken marsala. Next came those beautiful edible arrangements of fruit and even the florist got involved showing up with an herb garden. Let’s not leave out the UPS man and his near daily visit over the next month carrying boxes of cinnamon scented coffee cakes, buttery cookies and more gourmet gift baskets of goodies than can be counted. It was an amazing outpouring of love and sympathy from family and friends, but I could not eat a single bite. In fact, in the first week, after the tragic news was delivered, I lost 11 pounds. I suddenly lost my child. I was shocked, confused and had absolutely no appetite.  I wondered what was the deal with all this food?  How could anyone think I could eat at a time like this? Chef Art Smith helped me understand. In his book, Back To The Table The Reunion of Food and Family, he sums it up nicely:

     Food As Love

     Few of us think of food only in times of celebration.

     We also think of it in times of sadness and need.

     Cooking for others is a way to extend your heart.

my sweet William

my sweet William

It has been 2 1/2 years since I lost my son. I have vowed to follow in his light, to celebrate his life rather than mourn his death and with this blog step out of my comfort zone much like he did throughout his life at home and in the military. He encourages me to write about the sad experience of losing one of my life’s most precious gifts. From my heart to yours enjoy this recipe inspired by my sweet William.

Sweet William's Fancy Inspired & Spirited Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sweet William’s Fancy Inspired & Spirited Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sweet William's Inspired & Spirited Chocolate Chip cookies

2 1⁄4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

12 tablespoons (11⁄2 sticks / 6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temp.

1⁄2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 large egg, at room temp.

1 large egg yolk, at room temp.

2 tablespoons good bourbon or whiskey (William liked Jack Daniels)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 (12 oz) bag Ghirardelli double chocolate bittersweet chips

Heat oven to 325° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, cream butter, both sugars and corn syrup on high. Beat in egg, egg yolk, bourbon and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and mix the flour mixture in gradually until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop onto prepared sheets in 2 tablespoon (1 oz.) cookie scoops, leaving 2-inches between each cookie. Bake until cookies are lightly browned on the edges (rotating pans halfway through if baking two at once), 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Makes 3 dozen.

Note: Once you’ve scooped the dough into balls, you can freeze them like this on the trays. Transfer the frozen balls to a freezer-safe zippered bag for up to 1 month. Do not thaw before baking.

Thanks to my friend Debbie Vanni for the Art Smith Book from her culinary cellar.