Baking with B: Andi’s Gluten-Free Cranberry Almond Biscotti

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Andi is a neighbor of mine and one of the people that I admire most in this world: she carries herself with such poise and grace that it almost makes me envy her; and you’d hate her for how smart, beautiful and accomplished she is except that she’s so kind-hearted you kind of have to love her anyways.

So when I was making my neighbors some goody bags for Christmas, I felt badly for excluding Andi because of her gluten-free diet. She’s always lamenting that she never gets to try any of the things that I make, so I decided it was time to make her something of her own.

Having not ever made biscotti before-combined with being unfamiliar with many of the GF flours out there- made me a little bit nervous. The results were golden and a little bit spicy, but for some reason retained a slightly chewy texture in the middle that was decidedly delicious, but decidedly un-biscotti like. (Psst. Here’s the part where you email me with your gluten-free, biscotti-making advice.)

Still, I liked them enough to try them again and include them in my baking repertoire. The almond flour gives it an even nuttier flavor that’s not too sweet, and it goes perfectly with a strong Italian espresso.

Andi’s Gluten-Free Cranberry Almond Biscotti (makes 12)

(based on a recipe I originally found here)

2 large eggs

1/3 c. honey

zest from one orange

1 1/2 c. almond flour

2 tbsp arrowroot flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 c. dried cranberries

1/2 almonds, sliced

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, honey and orange zest and beat until frothy. Add flours, baking soda and sea salt to the bowl and mix until a dough forms. Add cranberries and almonds and stir to combine.

Spoon out dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and use fingers to shape it into a long rectangle, approximately 4×12 inches. (B’s Tip: The dough will be sticky, gooey and hard to manipulate so you can always use the back of a spoon that’s been dipped in cold water to help shape your rectangle.) Make sure to leave room on all sides as the dough will spread as it cooks.

Bake dough in oven that’s been preheated to 350F for approximately 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and let cool for 1 hour. Once cooled, slice your log on a diagonal to get those long, angular biscotti shapes (about 1″ thick). Lay biscotti on their sides and return to oven for an additional 15-20 minutes until crunchy.

B’s Tip: Believe me, it’s hard to wait for the biscotti to cool before slicing them but trust me- they’re much easier to slice if you do and they need that drying-out time to get that crunchy consistency. Make the process go faster by placing your cookie tray on a raised cooling rack to get the air flowing underneath it, and keep them far away from your warm oven!

Happy baking!

B

KBwB-Flower-50Baking with B appears every other Monday on the Keeping Busy with B Blog. Find out why I like baking so much here. For more of my baking, click here. And for even more recipe inspiration, check out my Pinterest full of food eye candy that will have you licking your computer. Promise.

Random Acts of Kindness

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Living on your own can be rough. I learned this the hard way when I first moved into the apartment where I live now. Fresh out of a relationship, I had my own place for the first time, without any roommates or boyfriends. On one hand, it was liberating. On the other hand, it was a ton of work.

The difference between living by yourself and living with other people is that if you leave the dishes in the sink overnight, they’re still waiting for you when you wake up in the morning. There’s no one to blame for not taking out the garbage, and if you forget to go grocery shopping that’s just too bad- because there’s no one else to mooch off of, or someone to split a pizza with.

The stress of having to juggle all of these different tasks alone, combined with having to work a few part-time jobs to make ends meet, really started to get to me around Christmas time, when I somehow got roped into hosting some family for the holiday.

Ok, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that was happy to take on this task. I guess in some ways I felt like hosting during the holidays would prove to everyone and myself that I was holding it together. Yeah, right.

Cut to late in the evening, the night before Christmas: the place was a mess, the presents weren’t wrapped, and I was elbow-deep in some last-minute baking when I realized that I my load of laundry had been sitting in the dryer pretty much the whole day. It had been another nasty surprise in a series of unexpected tasks that had been popping up the whole day;  having clean sheets was the last thing on my mind. But my morning had got off to a miserable start when my dog decided to regurgitate the entire contents of her stomach on my bed, and everything had gone downhill from there.

Breathless and covered in flour, I ran downstairs to the laundry room hoping that no one had left an angry message for hogging the machines, or worse, that someone hadn’t thrown my clean things onto the floor in a fit of irritation.

But when I arrived there were my sheets, folded neatly and waiting quietly for me on the counter. The sight of it made me burst into tears.

I asked virtually everyone I knew around the building if they had folded my laundry, or even if they knew who had done it. No one claimed to be my laundry fairy, and no one had seen anyone come in or out of the laundry room that afternoon or evening.

Obviously my benefactor wanted to remain mysterious, so I did the only thing I could do, in true B fashion: I left a colorful, homemade thank-you note, letting whoever it was know how much that small gesture had meant to me.

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I’ve still never figured out who that person was, and perhaps I never will. My neighbors have probably forgotten all about it but every year, around this time of year, I think about that random act of kindness that saved my sanity. It reminds me that there is goodness around, even when all else seems to be dark. It reminds me that people are capable of looking out for each other, without feeling the need to be acknowledged or owed. It reminds me that kindness exists for kindness’ sake, and that one random act has a way of growing and expanding until its effect becomes more meaningful that the deed itself.

I think about my laundry fairy when I smile at a stranger on the street. I am reminded of him or her when I see someone helping a neighbor dig their car out of the snow. All the moments where I don’t have the right change, when someone lets me cut in line, or stops me in the supermarket to compliment me on my outfit; these are the times when I think of the laundry fairy and the kindness that she spread, and the kindness that was spread in turn because of her actions.

Hopefully one day you’ll get an opportunity to encounter your very own laundry fairy, or to be someone else’s laundry fairy in turn. I think no matter what faith we believe in, or what holiday we celebrate, the one thing we have in common is the ability- and the responsibility- to show kindness and compassion towards our fellow human beings, not just during this season, but all the year throughout.

After all, that’s what being a laundry fairy is really about.

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The Serial Book Borrower

KBB_the_serial_book_borrowerThere’s something special about borrowing a book from someone in this day and age where so much of what we read comes from a screen. I’ve never really been a fan of e-readers (you can read my full confession here) and lending someone your Kindle doesn’t feel quite the same as having someone pull a volume off of their shelves for you, knowing that it’s something you’ll love.

It’s always interesting to see what someone has put aside for you because they think you’d enjoy it, or because they wanted to gauge your reaction. There’s a lot of books I never would have read had someone else not insisted that I read them. It’s funny how word-of-mouth is still the best form of advertising if you want to get a book read.

Expanding your reading repertoire is easy if other people know how much you love books. It isn’t unusual for me to leave a friend’s apartment without a stack of books in my arms. (I’m a also a bookshelf snoop, which doesn’t help.) I used to be such a serial book borrower that at one point in time the entire top shelf of my bookcase was devoted to stacks of books I had borrowed from friends and family, organized by original owner.

There’s even a few books of my own that I have loaned frequently to other people. They must have been so good that they have yet to be returned.

I’m always insisting that friends and family read the book before seeing the movie, so my copy of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell is off floating around somewhere, as well as my copy of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, although I must admit I haven’t seen the movie yet myself.

I’m bananas about books with interesting narrative structures and reading Jane Austen left me with the taste for epistolary novels (a rare art form these days!). As such, Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer are missing frequently from my shelves.

Sometimes a book has to be recommended to you by multiple people in order for you to bring yourself to read it, like Getting Things Done by David Allen (which I reviewed for the blog here). I had to read it twice before it finally “got it”; I’ve been lending it out ever since to anyone showing the slightest interest in it.

It’s amazing how another person’s perspective can transform you all in the simple act of borrowing a book. It’s fun to watch other people react to your choices, and react to theirs in turn. I end up reading so many things I wouldn’t have touched- books about politics, religion, science- and in some cases these books have inspired me to do more research on my own, or explore new territories I never dreamed would interest me.

If you’re looking for something new to read and you find yourself in a reading rut, I highly recommend adopting the attitude of a serial book borrower (like myself) and start asking people what they love. Join a service like Goodreads (it was life-changing for me, and I didn’t even get paid to say that) or simply start snooping their bookshelves. (Ask before borrowing!)

Who knows? The next book that someone picks for you might turn into something wonderful.

KBwB-BFlower-50Do you love reading as much as I do? Snoop my virtual bookshelves over on Goodreads, or visit the Book Section of my blog where I talk about all the books I’ve been reading- the good, the bad, and the non-fiction (which I read more often than you think!). All of the books I review are available on my Amazon store, where I do receive a small kick-back if you decide to purchase one. It helps keep food in my dog’s bowl, so she says “woof!” which I think means thank-you.

You’re probably far away which means I can’t lend you a book, but we can pretend like we can all the same. Comment below or drop me a line and tell me about the book you borrowed that changed your life.