The other day, I went for a run in the pouring rain. I do this from time to time, and I’m never sorry. I feel so clean and refreshed when I come home, sopping wet with a chill coming on. The rain here isn’t so cold and the drops are tiny, small enough to get me absolutely soaked with their slow, steady cadence.
The rainy mornings are quiet ones. On this particular day, I saw just four people out for exercise instead of dozens, a handful more commuting with their hoods and boots. I passed an old woman running slowly with an umbrella lifted above her head and saw another runner who’d brought her poor dog along, long hair now dripping. There was older gentleman I often see, a walker who swings his arms forcefully as though they’re the limbs that propel him along. He nodded, a comrade in the deluge.
As I splashed through the puddles on the path, I watched the ducks pull their heads towards their bodies as they swam across the lake, uncertain as the rest of us. A small group of geese with a pair of ducks had found a puddle and crowned themselves kings of it, floating around and stomping through like children. But the cormorants—accustomed to getting wet and well aware of how to get dry—were the true royalty, gliding through the water with heads high. To be so fearless! I envied them.
I adore these small economies, made even smaller in the rain—the people I recognize on my morning runs, the commuters on the same timeline, the market-goers I know by face not name. I’m comforted to splash through the puddle for a time, as it were, as though that really is the whole world instead of just a tiny microcosm. These cities by the bay and the spinning earth suddenly seem a bit less overwhelmingly enormous.
I made these biscotti for the world that circled through the little cafe in my neighborhood where I used to bake and occasionally serve coffee. It was—and is—one of those places where people know one another by name, everyone picks up the toddling girl who’s charmed us all and the baristas know just what you’d like to drink. I was a bit more attuned to people’s preferences in baked goods—exactly who was particularly in love with these biscotti, and who was most excited to see my blueberry coffee cake on the counter. But the very best thing was chatting with folks about new jobs and relationship angst and weekend trips and all of the big small things. I met people I’d just seen in passing, was the recipient of the excess apricots from the tree in the neighbor’s backyard, felt part of something. And isn’t this what we all want?
That and biscotti. Especially when it rains.
Classic Almond Biscotti
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours
These biscotti are classic and delicious. They’re not too sweet, and they’re crisp without threatening to break your teeth. I’ve also found that they take well to variation—different nuts, a bit of spice and the like.
Makes about 20 biscotti
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
3/4 cup sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cornmeal.
Working with a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed for 3 minutes, until very smooth. Add the eggs and continue to beat for another 2 minutes, or until the mixture is light, smooth and creamy. Beat in the almond extract.
Reduce the mixer to low speed and add the dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated. The dough should be soft and sticky. Scrape down the paddle or beaters and the bowl, toss in the almonds and mix just to blend.
Scrape half of the dough onto one side of the prepared baking sheet. Use your fingers and a spatula or scraper (I always find that an offset spatula works best), work the dough into a log 8 – 9 inches long and 5 – 6 inches wide. The log will be rough and uneven. Make a second log on the other side of the baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden but still soft to the touch. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and cool for 30 minutes.
If you turned the oven off, bring it back to 350 degrees.
Transfer the logs to a cutting board. Trim the ends, then cut the logs into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Return them to the baking sheet and place them on their sides (with one of the cut sides down), spaced apart slightly.
Bake for another 15 minutes, until the biscotti are golden and firm. Transfer them to racks and cool to room temperature.