Lemon biscotti

It’s that time again! The time of week that I’m still nervous about: baking time.

I went through the bakebook again and made a list of all the recipes that have one wooden spoon. In case you have no idea what that means, each recipe is marked with either one wooden spoon (easy), two wooden spoons (slightly less easy) or three wooden spoons (very difficult). I mean they may not actually be wooden spoons, but I doubt they’re regular silverware spoons. Just like I doubt they’re decorative china spoons.

A scroll-through of this one-spoon recipe seems doable. I have made biscotti before, and it was a partial success. Though I did have to google to make sure “almond essence” is the same as “almond extract,” but apparently it is! So after a quick trip to the grocery store, I think I’m ready.

In the immortal words of Mel and Sue: on your marks, get set, bake!

Eight-seven grams of butter? That’ll have to do. Because I’m trying real hard to go with the flow a bit more and not be so painfully precise, even though I’m actually second-guessing that new resolve already. I could just shave off two grams. No! I can do this. And if the recipe is ruined because of it, so be it.

Although better too much butter than not enough, am-I-right?

I was very concerned as I drove home today that I’d have nothing to zest my lemon with, but then I remembered I had one of those Ikea cheese graters and hoped it had another attachment. Good news! It does. Now let’s just hope this does the trick.

To be honest, the zest of one lemon just does not seem like enough. But also to be honest, my kitchen smells so clean and fresh! When life gives you lemons, you sell some of your grandma’s jewellery and you go clubbing. Just kidding! You make lemon biscotti. Or really sour lemonade because life forgot to give you sugar and flour and everything else that’s required in a lemon biscotti recipe.

Dear Paul and Mary, and bakers everywhere, when you want softened butter mixed until very soft, what on earth does that even mean? What’s softer than soft? What’s the line between softened and very soft? Is there a line? Or is it a spectrum? And at what point of the spectrum do I stop?

I was informed this week by my dear Scottish friend that caster sugar actually is different than granulated sugar, but considering the fact that I live on this side of the pond and caster sugar is hard to come by, I’m going to stick with the North American granulated and hope Paul and Mary don’t actually show up to taste test.

I’m also going to hope, similar to the softened vs. very soft issue, that this mixture is fluffy enough to begin the next step.

(I know I’ve said this before, but I have no idea how long these recipes would take me in real time. Stopping to blog really stalls the process.)

And as the aroma of almond extract and lemon zest fills my nostrils, I’m already hungry but also slightly nostalgic for Christmas baking. And spring baking. And baking. Oh look! I’m baking. Good timing.

“Gradually beat in eggs one tablespoon at a time.”

Now here’s the big question, folks. Will I do this as an approximate one tablespoon at a time? Or will I pull out my tablespoon and measure it out? Considering the viscous nature of eggs, I’m going to go with the former and practice playing it fast and loose again because the egg mixture is just too goopy to scoop out one tablespoon at a time.

In related news, have you ever thought about how much beaten egg mixture looks like a massive booger? Just me? Okay never mind, then.

“As soon as the flour gets worked in, get your hands into the bowl and press the mixture together.”

Fun fact: as a kid, my favourite cookie recipe was snickerdoodles because it was the only recipe my mom would let us use our hands to form the dough. There’s something incredibly therapeutic about this process. I highly recommend it if you find yourself stressed.

I’m also hoping “sliced blanched almonds” will do for “flaked almonds” because, again, culture clash. Now I’m wondering if I’m Blanche from The Golden Girls. Further fun fact: I’ve never seen The Golden Girls and I feel like I’ve missed out on something of massive cultural importance. I’ve recently taken a step back in time and have started using the library again (this time for DVDs) and I should see if they have The Golden Girls.

That, my friends, was a fun fact turned tangent turned no-one-cares fact.

This recipe is obviously very precise in its measurements, and to ensure I’m getting the right width, length and height, I did pull out my measuring tape that’s normally reserved for sewing because I am without a ruler so if I ever do end up on Bake Off, I would hope they’d give me extra points for combining two domestic hobbies.

Also I now have something to admit to you fine people. I feel rather foolish. The recipe calls for lemon juice and I just used the bottle of lemon juice I have in my fridge instead of the perfectly capable lemon that I zested for this recipe. Sure I can use that lemon juice for the icing, but am I missing out on something by using bottled lemon juice? Or maybe I did the right thing because there’s not enough lemon juice in a lemon. How much lemon juice is in a lemon after all? I’ll have to check when I make the icing.

I know a watched pot never boils, but I wonder if a watched biscotti ever bakes. I keep smelling burning but maybe that’s just the symptom of a stroke. Time will tell, I suppose.

You see that massive piece of goop in an already dirty oven window? That’s a chunk of chocolate fudge brownie that I forgot to wipe off. That was a heck-of-a-good brownie. And I really need to clean my oven door.

As I wait impatiently, I figured I may as well squeeze the juice out of this lemon. Let’s see how much juice one lemon yielded, shall we?

Before I measure, can we just take a second to appreciate that this looks like Cookie Monster? Again, if this is just me, you can go ahead and disregard that comment.

Oh you have got to be kidding me. That lemon provided the exact amount of lemon juice required for both the biscotti and the icing. I’m ashamed of myself. Missed opportunity! Wasted lemon juice!

Except I refuse to let it go to waste. Maybe I’ll save it for a salad dressing tomorrow. Or I’ll clean something. What requires cleaning? I should google cleaning uses of lemon juice as I wait for this biscotti to cook once. Or should I say, “as wait for monocotti to cook”? Is that what it’s called when it’s only once-baked? I don’t understand word origins.

And here we go again with colour subtleties. This is as bad as the softened vs. very soft. “A light golden colour,” the recipe says. Is this a light golden colour? Is this a pale gold? Is pale gold golder than light gold or is light gold yet golder? One will never know. I’ll leave it a couple minutes more. I undertimed it as per usual, so I should still be good on time.

Paul Hollywood once said in an episode that biscotti is very tricky because if you underbake it, it’s too soft like a cookie, but if you overbake it, it’s too hard and will break your teeth. But how does one know where that fine line is? What if the only other time you made biscotti you dropped half of it on the floor?

I don’t want to talk about it.

The other qualification for first-phase doneness is “firm to the touch,” but when I poke it, it’s a little squidgy. So I should wait some more. I don’t want to underbake it.

But I also don’t want to overbake.

The humanity! What a Sophie’s choice! (I assume. Yet another thing I haven’t watched.)

*opens the oven again*

*same as last time*

*closes oven and wonders if I’m ruining the process by opening and closing the oven every two minutes*

Arrrgggh! I turn my head for two seconds to deal with clumping sugar and the pale golden has turned to golden golden. I think I’ve overbaked. Curses!

Looks like I also should have rotated the baking sheet. Double curses!

Good news is, I’ve hopefully come up with a solution to my sugar clumping issue. Marshmallows. I have no idea where I heard this or who told it to me or on what Pinterest board I saw it, but marshmallows should keep the sugar soft much like a piece of bread does.

And, thankfully, I’m in possession of a massive bag of marshmallows that never seem to get old.

Okay, after a bit of cooking time, I’m to transfer the biscotti brick to a cutting board to make biscotti strips. And this is where it all went downhill last time.

Fine, I’ll talk about it.

The last time I made biscotti was several years ago. I had the baking sheet sitting on top of the stove and the cutting board was three steps away on the counter. I could have moved the baking sheet onto a hot mat on the counter beside the cutting board just like I could have moved the cutting board to the little counter space beside the stove. But alas I did neither, and assumed I could carry the hot biscotti brick from the stove to the counter, on a spatula.

So, of course, one-and-a-half steps through this journey and half the brick goes crumbling to the ground and the other half stays on the spatula and I feel like a fool.

Thanks to the immense wisdom and guidance of our dear friends, Paulo and Mar-Bear, the transfer has been made successfully and it’s time to cut these things up. And, again, hope for the best.

Time to measure!

I hope I did this right. I also hope Mary and Paul will forgive the broken piece and the lack of identical shapes and sizes.

The bottom of this brick is looking pretty crispy. I think I definitely overbaked. I’m sorry, future people who will be eating these!

And I managed to fit all of the cut pieces on the baking sheet. Even though I did hesitate when it said “cut side up” and I started to wonder which cut side was supposed to go up. Either one, I eventually told myself. Stop overthinking everything.

And now I wait again. Except this time I’m going to keep a closer eye on it and this time I’m actually rotating my baking sheet halfway through. Because this time I will not err!

I’m also realizing I should have pushed the sliced almonds into the dough. I did not and now there are a bunch of sliced almond pieces that have fallen off. Learn for next time, I suppose! Because there will be a next time. And I will watch that first bake like a hawk!

Sheet has been rotated! And boy do these smell really good.

Do you see, friends? Do you see the darkness of the bottom of these precious treats? I’m concerned. Maybe I’ll just load up extra icing. Or maybe instead of drizzling and zigzagging the icing, I’ll do a dip like the pecan shorties recipe required and cover up the evidence of overbaking.

Oh no! In all my baking and blogging I forgot to reset the timer. It’s fine, though. Yeah. It’s totally fine.

*worries that it isn’t fine and that this entire evening has been a waste*

It’s fine.

The new done requirement, according to the baking geniuses, is “until crisp and dry and turning a light golden colour” which means I have to catch them as they’re turning colour, not after they’ve turned colour and are now a light golden colour. This also means I should probably stop typing and check again.

Okay folks. I’m calling it.

Nope, I changed my mind.

The suspense!

You know what the nice thing about blogging and baking is? You can look back at the photo you took of the biscotti before they went in the oven to see if they have in fact changed colour. And clearly they have. So let’s hope this was successful.

I’m quite worried about the colour. Paul and Mary would so not approve.

Now I just have to wait until they cool so I can ice them. And hide all the deformities of this subpar bake.

They have been iced. One has been eaten and they’re not bad. A little overdone, yes, but I think this would go really well with a cup of tea. Or, as the recipe suggests, a bowl of sorbet.

And really, this batch is far better than my previous batch of floor biscotti that was so overdone, it had to be held in tea for several minutes to be soft enough to bite through.

So perhaps this could be deemed a successful bake in that it’s more successful than my previous fail.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Rachelle says:

    Amy. I found this blog, and it inspired me to actually watch the show. But let me tell you, I’m glad I watch it. Sure, my kids have to wait until after the judging to have any questions answered, but I’ve got 6.5 seasons to get through! Anyways. Your blog is amazing and I can’t wait to see how you get through these recipes (I admit that I recently decided to try making puff pastry. I haven’t actually done it, but I’ve decided to try it sometime. So good for you for plowing through)


    1. justcomma says:

      Thanks, Rachelle! I’m honoured to be the one to help you discover this new bingewatching addiction. It’s just so good. And I encourage you with your puff pastry adventure! If it doesn’t work, just throw it out and tell no one, then start again.


  2. agoodbake says:

    I’m so glad there is someone else out there perfecting the art of the hidden overbaked edge, or just ploughing through and learning to appreciate the flavour of carbon 🙂


    1. justcomma says:

      Phew! I’m so glad I’m not alone. If we all pretend they’re supposed to have crispy edges, it will become the new normal.


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