In less than a week I could be a biscotti entrepreneur. Or, in less than a week I could be feeding hungry shop girls and boys a cookie (or 30…) Let me back up a bit and explain. My dear friend Darryl is opening a shop in Virginia. O’Virginia to be exact, and she opens her doors Monday at 3310 West Cary Street in Richmond. The shop will be filled with food products, crafts, jewelry and art from Virginia artisans (and a few others, including a certain Yankee biscotti baker.) And when your dearest friend (who recently treated you to the birthday trip of a lifetime) gets ready to open a new shop, you help. So for the last couple of days, and the next few, I’m a Richmond shop-girl…and painter, floor mopper, price-tagger, picture framer, shelf-filler, and anything else my pal needs to get his wonderful new venture spit-shined and ready for what will certainly be a fabulous and highly successful grand opening.
I’ve been baking biscotti for over 25 years, so you’d think baking them for sale in a shop would be no biggie. I know the recipes by heart and tested them on countless hungry human guinea pigs over the years. In fact, should I even consider not making them for friends and family, the retribution that would rain down upon me would be so dire that I’d probably have to enter witness protection. Yet I still find myself more than a bit anxious over my upcoming product launch. Why? Well, this isn’t exactly a PTA bake sale we’re talking about. It’s an actual store, and I’ll be sharing shelf space with real artisans who do this kind of thing for a living. True, they were all virgins at this selling the wares thing one time too, but I still can’t get the vision of me as wallflower sitting against gymnasium brick in an uncomfortable aluminum folding chair at the end of the dance out of my head. What if they don’t like my biscotti, and by association, ME? Perhaps equating cookies with the value of an entire existence is a little extreme, but still, what if nobody wants them? There my little crunchy confections will be, all lined up like brave biscotti soldiers gladly willing to give their lives to hungry cookie conquerors. And there they could stay, left all alone and sad on a cold shelf, while toffee, peanuts, and goat milk soap jump into shopping bags and out the door to the happy ding-ding-slam of the cash register drawer.
Is there anything to be done about this, anything that could guarantee my tasty morsels are devoured willingly and at a profit? Well, no, probably not. Sure, I could mingle through the opening reception crowd, depositing subtle subliminal messages here and there. ”Don’t those biscotti look delicious? ”Have you tried those lovely wine biscuits with the fabulous heels on the label? They’d be perfect with that bottle of Virginia wine in your hand.” “I just read somewhere that eating biscotti is not only good for your health, it’s been proven to have a positive effect on your sex life.”
Ultimately, as I muse over Sally Field-eque rantings of “you like my biscotti….you REALLY like my biscotti”, I know that however empty (or full) my shelf remains after Monday’s grand opening, all this was definitely worth a shot, and I’m grateful to a great friend for the opportunity. So if you are in the neighborhood of 3310 West Cary Street in Richmond, VA, y’all come on in. If one thing is certain it’s this – O’Virginia is destined to be a wonderful shop filled with fabulous food, gifts, art and fun. The Virginia I know (and Darryl) wouldn’t have it any other way. (And for a little more information about O’Virginia, please visit her website at OVirginia.com.)
You might think it’s counterintuitive to give away the recipes for something I’m trying to sell. Perhaps, but it’s what I do every week anyway, and since many of you dear gentle readers don’t happen to live around the block from the shop in Richmond, consider it a preview to when you stop by for a visit. O’Virginia will be featuring the following tasty treats from the kitchen of cooking in my heels, so give them a try. I hear they do wonders for your “appeal”… 😉
Double Chocolate Peanut Biscotti
Makes about 24-30 biscotti
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp instant espresso powder
- 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup salted Virginia peanuts, roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling on top
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cooking sheet with parchment paper (or butter and flour so the cookies don’t stick).
In a bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder. In another bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until combined well. Stir in flour mixture to form a stiff dough. Stir in peanuts and chocolate chips.
Shape half of the dough into slightly flattened log on the prepared cookie sheets, approximately 12 inches x 2 inches in size. Repeat with the other half of dough, leaving about 3 inches room between them (they will expand). Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, and bake 30-35 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch, rotating pan halfway through baking time. Keep an eye on them so the bottoms don’t burn. Cool biscotti on baking sheet 5 minutes.
On a cutting board cut biscotti diagonally into 3/4-inch slices. A serrated knife works well here. Arrange biscotti, standing up, on baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Cool biscotti on a rack. They should keep in a jar for about a month, but I doubt they’ll last that long. Calories: 120 per ounce.
Cinnamon Sugar Biscotti
Makes about 40
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup plus 3 TBSP sugar
- 6 TBSP (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-3 TBSP milk, if needed
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix flour, 1 1/2 tsps cinnamon, baking powder and salt in medium bowl to blend. Set aside. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add 1 egg; beat well. Add egg yolk; beat well. Mix in vanilla, then dry ingredients. If it’s a really dry day, you may need to add a few tablespoons of milk to get the dough to come together. If so, add it one tablespoon at a time until you can form logs.
Transfer dough to work surface. Divide in half. Shape each half into 9-inch-long, 1 1/2-inch-wide log. Transfer logs to baking sheets. Beat remaining egg in small bowl. Brush logs with egg. Bake until golden and firm to touch (dough will spread), about 45-50 minutes. Cool on baking sheets. Maintain oven temperature.
Mix 3 TBSP sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon in small bowl to blend. Using serrated knife, cut logs into 1/2-inch-wide diagonal slices. Place biscotti, cut side down, on baking sheets. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over each biscotti. Bake until pale golden, about 20 minutes. Cool on racks. Store in airtight container. These keep well for a week or so. Calories: Approximately 70 per biscotti.