I think the measure of a good family gathering is if at anytime during the visit you laugh so hard you wish you were wearing a diaper. Sitting at my Grandma’s table eating Christmas dinner, the thought did cross my mind.
Earlier in the evening, I was discussing with my Grandma the flavoring of her Pizzelles, those Italian snowflake cookies that are made in a waffle-iron-like contraption. She used anise extract. So as we were gathered around the table tucking into her homemade cheesecake for dessert, she asked if I could taste a special flavor. Being a few Manhattans and glasses of wine in, she couldn’t wait for me to guess and just blurted out, “Anis, it’s got anis in it!”
She totally meant to say ‘anise,’ but it came out all wrong sounding like ‘anus’ to the disgust of my uncle who missed the earlier conversation about the flavoring.
“Did you shit in our cheesecake?” my uncle asked, horrified. As he began to regurgitate cheesecake, Roark and I entered what would be a 10-minute laughing fit with the whole table soon joining us.
It’s moments like those that explain why I love the holidays. For weeks in advance, everyone I knew was ranting about how they hate the holidays and how commercialized the season has become. Honestly, I don’t even notice it, partly because we don’t have TV so I don’t get advertised to for hours each day, but also because I’m not going to let anyone steal my joy.
For me, it’s about celebrating traditions and spending time with family and friends. It’s never been about gifts, and I’ll be damned if someone tries to make me feel the pressure of spending money to prove my love. This year, for the second year in a row, Roark and I hosted our now annual Christmas Party for our friends and colleagues. It’s our way of acknowledging how important they are to our lives and our gift of community and togetherness to them in this special season. Most of my family members took away homemade gifts of love this year, and that is mostly what was returned to me. And honestly, while I wouldn’t ever turn down a Lexus with a big red bow on it, I wouldn’t have my Christmases any other way.
And speaking of homemade gifts, these Chocolate and Almond Biscotti were a huge hit. I find Biscotti are the perfect treat around the holidays. They are sweet and full of flavor, but aren’t loaded with butter or fat like most holiday desserts, making them friendly to an overloaded stomach. I made a batch and divided it into thirds: one for me, one for Roark’s family, and one for my family. They were the perfect after dinner treat with a cup of coffee and a slice of ‘anus’ cheesecake.
I hope your holiday season was just as magical and filled with laughter and love, and I wish you the best New Year! See you in 2014!
- 2 Cups of Spelt Flour
- ¾ Cup of Cocoa Powder
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
- 3 Eggs, plus an additional 1 Egg for the glaze
- 1 cup Turbinado Sugar, plus 2 Tablespoons for sprinkling
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- ½ teaspoon Almond Extract
- 1 Cup of Raw Almonds, toasted and coarsely-chopped
- ¾ Cup of Chocolate Chips
- Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large bowl, sift in the Flour, Cocoa Powder, Baking Soda, and Salt. Combine until evenly mixed with a fork.
- Using your stand mixer or large bowl with electric mixer, beat together the 3 Eggs, 1 Cup Sugar, Vanilla Extract, and Almond Extract. In ½-Cup increments, mix the Flour Mixture into the bowl until everything is combined and moist. Finally, toss in the Almonds and Chocolate Chips, stirring until they are evenly distributed in the batter.
- Divide the batter in half and on a floured surface, with your hands roll each half into a log that is as long as your baking sheet. Line the baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper, and place both the logs on it. Flatten the logs using your hands so they are about ¾-inch tall. Beat the remaining Egg and bush it along the tops of the logs. Use the remaining Sugar, and sprinkle it on top of the logs. Bake the logs for 25 minutes.
- Once you remove the logs from the oven, allow them to cool for 15 minutes on the pan. Then, using a bread knife and cutting board, cut the logs into 1-inch slices. Place the slices on their sides on the baking sheet, and return them to the oven. Allow them to bake for an additional 20 minutes, making sure to turn the sheet halfway through baking. If you like your biscotti extra crisp, you can bake them an additional 10 minutes, as well as flip them to their opposite side on the baking sheet at the halfway point.
- Remove the biscotti from the oven and allow them to cool. Store in an air tight container for 1 week or freeze.