Friday, March 13, 2009

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Breakfast of Champions

My new job consists of a lot of things that make me uncomfortable: asking people for work, public speaking, "networking" (I hate that word, but it's not nearly so offensive as "interfacing"), and being addressed as "young lady" by certain colleagues of an older generation. But I 've recently discovered the secret to making at least the first three things a little easier for me: homemade biscotti.

I knew this recipe was a keeper the first time I followed it. Success on the first try is rare for me, a notably absent-minded baker. But the first batch's results -- a super crispy, almond-y, tart breakfast treat, ideally dipped in coffee -- were so good that I presented them as part of a housewarming gift to my friends Brigid and John. Placed in a colander with a pound of coffee, the whole package was very well-received.

Less than a week later, I was brainstorming what kind of "leave-behinds" (another stupid term, like "interface," that I picked up when I worked for the ad agency) my company should bring to client presentations. It seems everyone has more pens, mugs, and stress balls than their desks can handle. Plus, my new company is a start-up, still deep in the red. A homemade leave-behind seemed just the thing!

And sure enough, it was a hit, to quote the client himself. To say the presentation itself was a bit rocky is an understatement. But the silver lining came when the client sent me an email later that day, raving about the biscotti and including a forwarded email from his coworker who wanted the recipe. I have a few other big client presentations lined up over the next couple weeks, and I will be sure to try to win 'em over again in the same fashion. Because it's not what you say, it's how it tastes. Or something.

Recipe: Cran-Almond Biscotti
Adapted from Bon Appetit's Dried Cranberry and White Chocolate Biscotti, via Epicurious. Makes about two and a half dozen cookies.

2.5 C flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1.5 C sugar
1 stick butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 t almond extract
1 C dried cranberries (the original recipe calls for 1.5 C, but I used less for cost-saving purposes, and found the results still cranberryish enough)
1 egg white (optional, in my opinion -- but it creates a pretty, glazed look on the crust)
6 oz. white chocolate, chopped (optional: I also omitted this, and didn't miss it)
Handful of sliced almonds (not in the original recipe, but I added these the second time I made them, and I think this batch was even better than the first!)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, butter, eggs, and almond extract till well blended. Mix in the flour mixture to form a fairly stiff dough, then fold in the cranberries (and the almonds if you are using them).

Pick up the dough and divide it into two halves. With floured hands, shape each dough ball into a log measuring 3" wide, 9.5" long, and 1" high. Transfer these to the baking sheet (you may also shape the log on the baking sheet, which I found easier and more efficient). Whisk the egg white and brush all over each log. Bake till golden brown, 35 minutes.

The "logs" before baking -- I forgot about the egg white this time, and it didn't seem to matter too much. Just a less shiny crust.

Cool completely on a rack, keeping the oven on. Transfer the logs to a cutting board and discard the parchment. Use a serrated knife to cut them on a diagonal into slices about a half-inch wide. Arrange each biscotto cut side down on the baking sheet (you will probably need to get out another baking sheet, unless you want to bake them in shifts). Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven, and flip each biscotto. Bake until they are just beginning to color, 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a rack.

Optional: melt the white chocolate in a heat-proof glass bowl in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between intervals, until completely melted. Drizzle over the biscotti and let stand about 30 minutes.

Addenda: This recipe is a great template for other biscotti. You could skip the almond extract if you want and add the zest of an orange for Cran-Orange biscotti. You could also use the zest of a lemon, which I think would be great with dried blueberries. You could also add a teaspoon of anise seeds or a half teaspoon of anise extract for a licorice flavor. You could use dried currants instead of dried cranberries. You could drizzle dark chocolate instead of white chocolate. You could replace the dried cranberries with chocolate chips. You could use vanilla extract instead of almond extract. You could add dried cherries, cocoa powder (maybe a half cup? Better look this one up), and hazelnuts. You could use pistachios. Ooh! I want to try lime zest, shredded coconut, and pieces of dried mangoes for a sort of tropical biscotti. The possibilities are endless!


Sara M. said...

tropical biscotti? delicious!

Brigid said...

I'll vouch for it. These biscotti are DELISH!