Sunday, September 16, 2007

Weekend Cookbook Challenge 20: Anisette Toast from "Entertaining With the Sopranos"

I was so, so happy to find this cookbook. One of the joys in watching The Sopranos was seeing archetypes, words, locations, and even brands that are familiar to me from growing up and living on Long Island and NY. (OK, the Sopranos live in New Jersey, but there's a lot of overlap -- trust me.) And to have a cookbook that reflects that -- too much fun.

It in, Carmella Soprano, the "author" acting as a mob-wife Martha Stewart, advises readers on how to best throw a confirmation party, host a holiday celebration, or throw a get together just for the girls.

Of course, Carmella has her own way of thinking about things. From the chapter, "Small events for Men Only":

Have you ever heard the term "metrosexual"? Me neither, until they were discussing it on The View one day [...] A metrosexual is a man, I guess, who isn't gay but likes some of the finer things in life that women tend to like, like a good facial exfoliant or a color-coordinated buffet table. Well, I'm not talking about those kind of men here.

A few of Carmela's friends and family put in their two cents as well.

Janice Soprano Baccilieri with "Tips on handling rambunctious children":
I apply a mild form of fear, as in "God will punish you if you don't behave at a confirmation party." Another technique: bribe them.

Christopher Moltisanti with "Rules on the Giving of Money":
Always give cash. No checks, IOUs, travel vouchers, gift certificates (very popular these days), or free car wash coupons. Cash. [...] Put it in a plain legal-sized white envelope. Do not put your name on it in florid script, nor include a stupid "To a Cool Grad!" greeting card.

Gabriella Dante on "When Things Go Terribly Wrong":
Worst dinner party ever? Silvio has this cute cousin from Fairfield who's really into breast feeding. Twelve people sitting around a table eating osso bucco and she pulls a breast out of her halter top and stick it in little Bobo's mouth. My dad almost choked. A friend of our daughter Heather snuck down the stairs and took a picture with his cell phone. Then Rocco, the lush, tries to place an order for low fat. Sure, it's natural, but not at my table, thank you very much.

Fortunately, I don't think we have anyone JUST like these characters in the family, but there is a lot of overlap regarding the food.

One of my favorite food memories is running around the corner from my grandmother's (Me-ma) house in Astoria to the La Guli pastry shop to buy treats for dessert. Chocolate Italian ices, seven layer cookies, sfogliatelli, those little sandy cookies sandwiched together with jam and dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkles -- mmm.

But the thing I was told to buy most often was anisette toast, or as they are known in the 21st century, biscotti. They are dry and firm -- I had to dunk them in milk so I wouldn't shred the top of my mouth when I took a bite -- but delicious. (Maybe not something with wide appeal, but they do it for me.)

So I was thrilled to find a recipe for anisette toast in the pages of the Sopranos cookbook. I had to make the recipe twice as I didn't bake the first batch long enough, resulting in a rubbery, not crisp, cookie. I noted the difference in time below.

The result is good -- the flavor is spot on with La Guli's -- but, damn you, texture! They're too crunchy and, unlike La Guli's, I suspect will chip a tooth if you don't dunk them first. (So if anyone has some biscotti tips for me, please pass them along!)

Having said that, I'm glad I got to explore "Entertaining With the Sopranos" and look forward to trying out some more recipes. (Especially the Easter Sweet Bread, which was always found at Mema's table during the holiday.)

Thanks to Sara for hosting!

Anisette Toast

3 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 large eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. anise extract

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees F. Butter a 9x13 baking pan.

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of a large stand mixer, beat the eggs until foamy. Add the sugar, about a tablespoon at a time, beating constantly until very light and fluffy. Beat in the anise extract. With a rubber spatula, gradually fold in the flour mixture until just blended.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Bake 20 to 22 mintues or until the top is golden an a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove pan from oven but leave the oven on.

Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then invert it onto a cutting board. With a serrated knife, cut the cake lengthwise in half, then cut each half crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices.

Place slices in a single layer on two parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes * or until cookies are toasted and crisp. Transfer to racks to cool.

Store in an airtight container. These keep a long time.

*I baked mine for about 22 minutes total, flipping the cookies and rotating the cookie sheets about halfway through.


Sara said...

I have to admit I've always snubbed that cookbook because I thought it would be silly. Sounds like I was wrong! Thanks for taking part in WCC Laura!

Anonymous said...

Fun post. Love the Sopranos :)