Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cookies of Christmas Past, just not mine

I am not Italian, but I bake a mean biscotti. Cantucci di Prato, Buon Natale Biscotti, cookies spiced with rosemary and lemon, ginger and cinnamon, saffron and nuts, even dried apricots, blueberries or cherries. Sometimes dipped or drizzled in chocolate, sometimes plain, always twice baked in the old fashioned way. When I first started giving them for Christmas, I often had to explain what it was and how best to eat it. Outside of The Hill, few people in St. Louis were up on their biscotti back then. Now they are ubiquitous. Every coffee bar, cafe and even Costco has biscotti for sale. Still, every year I bake them. It's expected now, biscotti from the Polish gal.

Growing up my family's traditional Christmas cookie was the spritz. My mom could crank that cylinder with lightening speed, squeezing out perfect trees, wreaths, stars and bars. Try as I might, I never got the hang of it. So some years I made sugar cookie cut outs, usually oatmeal scotchies to go with them, but nothing special. Then back in the early '90's I saw a holiday baking magazine with biscotti recipes inside. Wasn't that the cookie I had with my cappuccino in that Italian restaurant? Light bulbs went on above my head like a halo. I've made them ever since. It's become an old family holiday tradition, just not from my family's history. Maybe in a past life I was an Italian girl.

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