Otherwise known as baking with one good eye.
I will be the first to admit I am not much of a baker. My Mom who taught me how to cook holds the view that if you can buy it from the shops, why bake it yourself. As a result, I sadly lack the knowledge and experience in baking but I do know where to buy the best cakes and cookies. It does not help matter that I have several aunts who are fabulous bakers so we are never deprive of homemade goodies for festivals and special occasions. With relatives like these, who needs to bake?
When Jennifer at The Domestic Goddess announced that IMBB 10 was to be a holiday cookie swap, I knew this was going to be my most difficult IMBB yet. Never one to shy away from a cooking challenge, after all, the worst that can happen is inedible food.
The holiday cookie I have chosen to make is a variation of the ricciarelli which is a Tuscan almond paste cookie and a Christmas classic. I love macaroons of any kind and thought this will be a good recipe to try out. If I am any good at making them, I can even give some cookies to my friends and relatives this year.
Life has a funny way of intruding. On IMBB cookie baking day, I had to go for an urgent but very minor surgery which left me with a bandaged eye. Was that going to stop me from baking? No. After a nap, I was energized and ready to go. I needed a little help measuring the ingredients but other than that, baking with one eye was no different from baking with both eyes.
The problem turned out to be the baking time. I should have known something is not right when the recipe says to bake the cookies for 40 to 45 minutes. The cookies started to brown after 20 minutes. Instead of trusting my eye and instinct which was telling me to remove the cookies then, the inexperienced baker in me decided to follow the recipe's cooking time. As a result, my biscotti di mandorle were golden brown instead of the pale yellow as they should be. They were still soft and chewy, smell and taste wonderful of almond and honey, just not the right colour. Ugh!
Biscotti di Mandorle (Almond Biscuits)
1 egg white
pinch of salt
¼ cup Castor sugar
1 tbsp honey
250g ground almonds
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 tbsp self raising flour, sifted
¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
icing sugar for dusting
Add pinch of salt to egg white. Whisk egg white until soft peak forms, gradually add Castor sugar and honey, beat until sugar has dissolved and reaches a melted marshmallow like consistency. Add ground almonds, lemon rind, sifted flour and vanilla extract, mix well to form a hard paste.
Shape tablespoonfuls of the mixture into lengths about 4cm long and 1½cm thick. Put biscuits onto greased or lined baking sheets. Bake at 160 degree C for 15 to 20 minutes. Original recipe calls for 40-45 minutes. I have since found out, the hard way, that the time is too long. Monitor the biscuits closely and remove them from the oven before they brown. The final result should be a pale yellow, slightly cracked biscuit that is soft and chewy.
When cool, dust with icing sugar. Makes about 20. The biscuits keep well in an air tight container.
I have to thank Jennifer for hosting and organizing SHF 2 and IMBB 10 for I would not have been baking so much in such a short span of time if not for her. My family thought I was quite crazy, insisting on making cookies even with one eye bandaged. Despite the less than satisfactory appearance of my biscuits this time round, I am quite sure I will be making Biscotti Di Mandorle for Christmas as I love the marzipan like taste and they are really not hard to make after getting the baking time right.