In Search of Aesthetic Pleasure: Gingerbread Biscotti


Two years ago, I made some gingerbread biscotti that looked like this.

I was so darn proud of myself.  Not only had I made a holiday treat that was just sweet enough and could be enjoyed all day, but they were beautiful, too.  A little bit of icing, and I felt like the Queen of Christmas baking.

Then, the next four or five times I made them, they looked like this:


Still delicious, sure, but decidedly unattractive.  Lumpy and crumbly, they were just too embarrassing to be shared with all but the closest of friends.  Fortunately, my son was teething around the time that I was turning out batches of gingerbread blobs, so he took care of quite a few of them.

This year, I decided that I had had enough.  I decided to do something bold.  Something that I love to do when cooking, but greatly fear when it comes to baking: I changed the recipe.  (Gasp)

The main problem seemed to be that the dough was too dry.  My first instinct was to add water, but I remembered a time from my youth when doing just that had led to miserable results, so I rethought.  I seemed to recall my mom saying that the best way to change a recipe is to increase or decrease the existing ingredients, not introduce something totally foreign (like water).  I took a deep breath and gave it a go.  I added an additional egg and just a tad more oil, plus I decreased the flour by a quarter cup.  In truth, I fully expected an epic failure, something for which I am probably developing a reputation for around here.

But no!  It worked!  Before I could forget what had caused this miracle to occur, I made sure to record the changes right on the recipe.  This was a success that I am determined to repeat.  And, lucky for you all, it’s one that I am oh-so-happy to share.

Revised Gingerbread Biscotti

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Top 10 Foods Only a Baby Could Love

Around here, we love top 10 lists.  I particularly enjoyed Jessica’s Top Ten Things I Ate in College That I’ll Never Eat Again.  It brought back some fond memories and the taste of stomach acid.  I might also add the Ramen sandwich and instant apple cider made with dorm room sink water.  But it’s been ten years since I entered that freshman dorm, and life as a parent has taken me to some new culinary lows.  So, here we go…the top 10 foods only a baby (or maybe a toddler) could love:

10. Single-Grain Cereal












As a child, my mom tried to sell me on the virtues of a strange paste called Cocoa Wheats, sometimes singing the jingle as she stirred the gluey concoction on the stove.   Even at the tender age of 8, I knew that stuff was nasty.  And yet, we are told to give it to babies as their first food because it’s “highly digestible”  and has a “smooth texture.” I think we’ve only succeeded this long because they can’t talk back.  Just a warning, parents, they get over it pretty quickly and you’ll be stuck with a box of the stuff for months or years to come.

9.  Pureed Vegetables












All the texture of rice cereal, plus the power to stain any and all surfaces they touch — liquified veggies are truly abhorrent.  Since we waited until Elijah was six months old to give him solid foods, the mushy green paste period was mercifully short.  We never tried the jarred meat, so I can only imagine the horror.  And the smell.

I have been to a few restaurants lately where super-smooth vegetable mush was passed off as “sauce.”  Nope.  I’m on to you.  Gerber has a stake in this somewhere.

8. Food Off the Floor

Now, before you go and call me a snob, know that I am not talking about the 5-second rule, or even the 30-second rule.  I am talking about days-old, dried up, stuck-to-the-floor old food.  My son was never big on putting foreign objects into his mouth, but if it is, or once was, food — look out.  On the upside, I will say that my sweeping standards are dramatically higher as a result.

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