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Saturday, 21 December 2013 06:45

Little Mixer that Could (n't)

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Butter, sugar, eggs and extracts.


Flour and leaveners.
Fennel seeds, orange zest, hazelnuts and figs.
Having gathered onto my countertop the ingredients for my first ever batch of biscotti, it was time.
Although, in hindsight, it would have been a better time, had I remembered to soften the butter.
So, as will happen when one attempts to cream a square of cold milk fat into three-quarters of a cup of sugar, the butter was understandably reluctant.
At this point, I should have changed my plans. I should have done something else for a few hours, and come back later.
But, as often as I have ever forgotten to take out the butter to soften (which is always), I am also impatient.
Therefore, instead of having butter that was pliant under the blades of my Sunbeam electric hand-held mixer, the butter creamed into the sugar with the ease of mixing dry cement into corn syrup.
Nevertheless, it did, finally, begin to come together.
It did not, mind you, come together into a fluffy and light substance, but rather something crumbly and with a look of stern reluctance about it.
But, since I was using a hand-held batter beater that I'd come to know as The Little Mixer That Could, which had already stood up to so many cake and cookie mixes over the years, I was certain I had enough power to beat my way through the ingredients that came next.
That is to say, I saw no need to haul out the little mixer's much bigger sister: the Kitchen Aid stand mixer. And so, ingredient after ingredient, adding more and more resistance to a faulty foundation,  I pressed on, gearing down as I thought was needed.
Now, as I recall, my little Sunbeam always did have a little stick between gears.
Right out of the box, it had had trouble between certain speeds.
Having been a Christmas gift, however, instead of exchanging it for a perfectly-made model, I kept it. And it had since been as faithful an appliance as one could wish. Although now, as it bore down on an ever denser mixture of biscotti batter, there came a funny smell.
A metallic kind of heat that you could almost taste on your tongue. And when it next combined with the smell of scorched plastic, I knew my little Sunbeam was working towards its maximums.
Nevertheless, with the batter so nearly finished, I pressed it towards home, promising a nice long cooling-off period as soon as we were done.
Next, naturally, there was a clunk. A screech. A crack. And then silence. Followed by a tasteful service and a trip to the appliance graveyard.
Afterwards, I didn't really feel like I deserved a replacement.
Chefhusband agreed.
And so, for a dozen or more years, I used the stand mixer for too many too-light jobs, while putting my back into too many too-difficult jobs.
Until, that is, this year, when, on my birthday, I received a shiny, boysenberry-coloured Kitchen Aid hand held mixer.
And so today, I take out the flour, cocoa powder and leavening ingredients.
I take out the eggs, sugar, pistachios, chocolate and dried sour cherries.
I take out a solid, six-tablespoon-thick slice of cold butter.
I take out my heavy stand mixer, set my little hand-held beater to the side, and go off to do something else for a few hours.
 
Fudgy Biscotti with Pistachio & Sour Cherries
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
6 Tbs butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup shelled pistachios
3/4 cup dried sour cherries
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
 
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa and baking soda.
 
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, beating on low until combined. Scrape down sides as needed. Mix in pistachios, cherries and chocolate.
 
Transfer batter to a parchment-lined baking sheet and form into a 12" by 4" log. Bake at 350F until slightly firm; 25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes and reduce oven heat to 300F.
 
Using a sharp serrated knife and cutting board, slice log diagonally into 1" fingers. Arrange on baking sheet and bake another 8 minutes, until still slightly soft in centre, and crisp around edges. Transfer biscotti to a wire rack to cool completely.

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