4.15.2009

A very good laugh

When your grandmother turns 91, there is really only one way to honor the occasion. You bake.


Hopefully you bake her something she likes, but sometimes, you have to take a risk. Things Grandmothers Like don't always fit in gussied up old Verizon boxes. And often, they're prone to terrible breakage, like the sugar cookies my grandmother so desperately loves. That's when you have to go out on a limb, and turn to a new recipe: one for cornmeal and lemon biscotti.

Biscotti, you understand, are much heartier than sugar cookies. The mailman can toss them around, play ball with them for a while, and even stand them on their head mid-transit, and they will still survive perfectly in tact. They also aren't very moist, which means they can keep for a few days without going all stale on you. They're hard and dry by nature, these ones. They make an excellent shipping gift.

It will be nice when your grandmother calls to tell you she likes them, even though they're not sugar cookies. It will be nice when she bites in, squeals with delight, and tells you she has a new favorite snack to dunk in her afternoon tea. It will be especially nice when she says they're a wonderful gift.

But the best part will be when she calls you after ripping the wrapping paper from the box to ask why you've sent her a cell phone. That, I promise, will give both of you a very good laugh.

CORNMEAL & LEMON BISCOTTI

Normally, I don't really think it's necessary to use a food processor for baked goods, but in this instance, it makes things much, much easier.

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
10 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3/4 cup macadamia nuts
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and pulse several times, unti lthe butter is completely mixed in and the mixture looks powdery. Add the macademia nuts and pulse several times more, or until they're in small chunks.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Stir in the cornmeal mixture with a large wooden spatula, and continue mixing until a soft dough forms. Then form the dough into two balls.

Line a large cookie sheet with tin foil or parchment paper, and make each ball of dough into a cylinder a little shorter than the pan. Place the logs well apart on the pan, and use the palm of your hand to smoosh their tops a bit. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the dough feels firm and is golden brown.

Transfer the baked logs to a cooling rack. Once they're completely cool, use a bread knife to cut them into slices about 1/3 of an inch thick. (You know, biscotti size.) Arrange the slices on the pan, cut side down. Bake (again at 350) until lightly toasted, about 20 minutes. Cool and enjoy.

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