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biscotti baggie

Sometimes people ask me if I feel afraid when Eli goes rock climbing out west. The short answer is no, but it's a little more complicated than that. Simply put, climbing is something Eli loves to do, and I want him to do what he loves. I have the choice either to spend my time fearing, or not. I choose not. There's also the fact that Eli and his climbing partner, Rich, are well-trained, highly skilled climbers, not fool hardy thrill seekers. Their approach is anything but reckless. Eli enjoys the sport because of the intimacy with nature it affords him, the fitness it demands, and the truly awesome views he gets to take in from on top of the world. (He loves all the cool gear, too.)

I usually leave it at that. But there's something else. When I say that, no, I am not afraid, I am actually answering a question different from the one posed. The question, as I hear it, is whether I am any more frightened by the thought of losing Eli when he is hanging off the side of a cliff than, say, when he's driving to the grocery store or, for that matter, folding laundry on our sofa. The truth is - although I don't dwell on it - losing him is among my greatest fears. It's just that I fear it the same whether he is chopping an onion in the kitchen or making his way up the face of a 1500 foot wall. I think that when we sign up to live in big, fat love, this fear comes with the territory. And so we track flights, say "drive safely" and, yes, I do breathe a sigh of relief when Eli comes down off the mountain exhilarated, tired, and in one piece. We love and we love, we recognize that we cannot protect the people we love with our love, and then we love and love some more.

And speaking of love: More than I fear it, I love that Eli is at this moment climbing higher and higher, thousands of feet in the air, a continent away. When Eli and I were first dating, he once said to me, "It's as if I have an extra set of eyes now, like I can take in twice the amount of world." I know what he means. I may be sitting here munching biscotti and tea, but I'm also with him way up there. I could look down, but I prefer to look up and out.

[Happy birthday, dear Rich! And welcome home. Thanks for keeping Eli from plummeting to the ground on climb after climb. I, um, really appreciate it.]

biscotti breakfast

Almond biscotti
Adapted from David Tanis's A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes

The best thing about these biscotti is the texture. You get a nice crackly crunch on the outside, and a soft, buttery center that you can sink your teeth into even before you dunk 'em. Despite the rich ingredients, the overall flavor of these biscotti is mild. At first I thought they were, perhaps, a little too mild. But after eating four in a row it was clear that I had no serious complaints. Next time, I'll try the following tweaks: increase the almond extract, add another generous pinch of salt, and toast the sliced almonds before mixing them into the batter. I'll update this recipe once I have tried it with the changes. In the meantime, the recipe is worth making just as it is. [Recipe updated June 25, 2009]

Oh, and by the way, you could also dip these in chocolate if you're into that kind of thing (ahem, hello, Hoffman family). I prefer them as they are.

8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 t. almond extract
2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
2 generous pinches of salt
3/4 c. sliced almonds (not blanched), toasted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the almond extract.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar mixture until full incorporated. Stir in the sliced almonds.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide it into thirds. Roll into logs about 2-inches in diameter. Place the logs on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the logs and allow them to cool slightly.

While the logs are still warm, slice them on the diagonal about 1/2 inch thick. Use a sharp knife to avoid crumbling. Arrange the slices on two baking sheets and bake for approximately 7 minutes, until they appear barely toasted. Turn the biscotti over and allow them to toast for another 5-7 minutes, until lightly brown. Cool on a rack.

Biscotti will keep for several weeks in an airtight container.

Makes about 30 biscotti.


Holly H. said...

Good wife. You're cool with rock climbing AND you make biscotti.

Jess said...

All in a day's work, dear Holly! (Thanks for making me smile this morning.)

EEJ said...

Yeah, this is all so true. I was honestly never a worrier until I met Dan. Unfortunately, I haven't quite reached your level of zen about the whole thing (thank goodness he doesn't have any hobbies more dangerous than guitar-playing) and find myself pretty sure all the time that something awful is going to happen. I feel the same way about my puppy. Maybe a big, fat biscotto would help me. :-)

Jess said...

EEJ - May Dan never get even the slightest blister from those treacherous guitar strings! And yes, a big, fat biscotto would no doubt help you out.

Blondish said...

This is beautifully written, Jess. Very thoughtfully expressed and meaningful. Brava.

Jada Ach said...

This is so beautiful, Jess! Your narratives are inspiring the hell out of me!

I'm currently on an almond-kick, so I'll have to give these babies a whirl...

megan said...

The hero keeps flying higher and higher - is a guest post in our future to bring him back to earth?

"there are two journeys in every odyssey, one on worried water, the other crouched and motionless, without noise. For both, the 'I' is a mast; a desk is a raft for one...while an actual craft carries the other..."

koshercamembert said...

[sigh] How lovely! The sentiment. The biscotti (and i'm with you on no need for chocolate -- if absolutely necessary, maybe a fine drizzle, but not a whole dunk!). I love almond biscotti's sweet simplicity.
- Zahavah

Jess said...

Blondish and Jada - Thank you. Really, thank you so much. And Jada, whirl away, but I do believe you have some corn cherry scones to attend to first...

And oh, Megan. Thank you for that gorgeous, perfect excerpt from Walcott's Omeros. I'm not sure I'm quite worthy of it appearing in this humble space, or of the comparison it implies. But for the chance to read a few lines today from this beloved poem, I am very grateful.

Zahava - Thanks for your note. We're on the same page then, with both the sighs and the biscotti.

Rivka said...

Jessica -- Can't believe it took me this long to realize that we know each other -- tell me you already know this, and I'll stop here! You've got a lovely, lovely blog and I'm thrilled to re-discover it. Also, I'm completely with you on the biscotti: no chocolate needed. Anyway, cheers -- love the blog!

Rich Draves said...

Jess, thanks for the birthday sentiments. I truly enjoy reading your blog.

Jess said...

Hi, Rivka - Yes, thanks to a little help from some mutual friends, I realized it. I just wasn't sure if you remembered me! I've been meaning to write you to officially make the connection, but you beat me to it. Thanks for your kind words. Means a lot coming from the blogger behind the fabulous Not Derby Pie!

And Rich - You are very welcome. I hope that by now the biscotti have made it safely to your door.

bluejeangourmet said...

so lovely, and rings so true for me. my partner does a lot of international travel, some of it to pretty dodgy parts of the world. it's something you learn to make peace with, right?

and, like you, I always find myself feel grateful that I have someone I love so very much, so much that I'm paralyzed at the thought of losing them.

one of my favorite Rilke quotes is "love is guarding the other person's solitude"--I've always taken that to mean that, not just solitude, but your loved one's passions and desires are to be guarded as well. it's what we sign up for, like you said, and it's those things they do that terrify us that are a big part of why we love them, yes?

thank you for sharing this, and the biscotti.

Jess said...

bluejeangourmet - Thank you for your beautiful comment. You captured the very heart of it, really. Thank you, also, for bringing Rilke's brilliant voice into this space. And for sharing your lovely reading of his words.

Somerset Wedding Gal said...

Good luck to Eli on his travels, it sounds like a mean feat! And thanks for the biscotti recipe thrown in, absolutely love that stuff!