If I am to be blatantly honest, then I must confess that I’m not terribly into the holidays this year, especially Christmas. I’ve certainly enjoyed spending time with family, which I’ve done, and the gift exchanges have been fun, as always. But for the most part I’ve kind of been muddling through December. The month has mostly been a fog pierced with some moments of brightness.
My beloved area of greater New York City has seen its fair share of tragedy lately, and in many ways I guess it’s weighing on me. Between the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy and the tragic school shooting in Connecticut, it’s a lot to digest. So many people are spending this holiday season mourning a staggering amount of heart-breaking loss. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas.
I usually really enjoy the holiday season. I always look forward to strolling around Manhattan taking in all the festive Christmas decorations. I love creating and sending Christmas cards. I make a big thing of putting up the tree, and I make certain that I’ve watched all the pertinent Christmas movies by December 26th. Which of course are It’s a Wonderful Life, Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation, Die Hard, and A Christmas Story. And mostly, I really get into the spirit with my cooking. December is usually filled with sweet potatoes, spiced nuts, cocktails, and of course – COOKIES!
But this year hasn’t seen much in the way of cooking. Back in early fall, I had been eagerly anticipating making dish after dish of Christmas themed goodness: cocktails, cocktail party fare, snacks, elegant desserts and of course, cookies, for ‘tis the season. But then a bunch of bad stuff happened, and I guess I just haven’t been feeling it. So this is my one offering of Christmas cookies to the blogosphere. They were delicious.
And not to worry, for it’s not all doldrums around here. We still have one more family gathering, which we both look forward to, plus a few parties that promise a good time. We have dinner reservations at one of our faves for Christmas Eve. Our lovely tree lights up our living room each night, both literally and figuratively; and it has made our cats very happy. They drink its water, wrestle with the tree skirt, and don’t seem to mind the daily sap removal from their fur and whiskers.
I am looking forward to the New Year though. A fresh start is really needed around this great city. I hope 2013 can provide just that. In the meantime, we have these amazing cookies.
Source: slightly adapted from Giada’s Family Dinners, by Giada de Laurentiis
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp ground anise seed (I used my mortar and pestle to do this; you could also use a coffee or spice grinder)
2 large eggs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a large, heavy baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter and anise seeds in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to stir in the chocolate chips.
Dump the dough onto the baking sheet. Form it into a 16-inch-long, 3-inch-wide log. I don’t mind saying that I didn’t measure exactly and just made an educated guess at this part. Make sure it’s nice and tidy at all the edges and smooth on top, so you don’t have any scraggly dough sticking up or out. Bake until light golden, about 30 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for 30 minutes.
Place the log on a cutting board. Use two flat spatulas or turners and this part is easy. Using a serrated knife, cut the log on the diagonal into ½-inch-thick slices. Then, depending on how long the slices are, you might want to cut them in half cross-wise on a diagonal, like I did. Arrange the biscotti cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake until pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a cooling rack and cool completely.