New Year's Eve is fast approaching, and no doubt you're headed to a party, or maybe throwing one. You're going to want to ring in the new year with, along with flutes of Champagne and pots to bang on, something sweet.
For me, deciding what to make is easy. A few years ago, my good friend Helen gave me a quick and easy recipe for a crispy-crunchy and oh-so-delicious chocolate holiday biscotti -- so simple, that even non-bakers like me end up looking like culinary geniuses when they make it. It quickly became one of my family's favorites.
Scribbled on a 3-by-5 index card in her artist's flowing script, with a tiny heart in the corner, the recipe holds a special spot in my messy recipe scrapbook.
Three years ago on Mother's Day, Helen suddenly passed away at age 45, leaving behind a beloved husband and two children. And in that instant, a light went out in my life that I'm not sure will ever be reignited.
Helen loved holiday parties. So many Christmas and New Year's eves I spent perched on a stool in her kitchen, drinking beer, noshing on hors d'oeuvres, joking about this or complaining about that with a group of friends. Helen was the life of the party. Always laughing, unfailingly positive, filled with a contagious enthusiasm for life -- she was so much fun. People were drawn to her.
I miss her terribly.
In this age of email, computer printouts and iPads, it seems handwritten recipes are going extinct. I treasure that I have one from one of the most important, and loved, people in my life.
That the cookies also are pretty damn amazing is almost beside the point. But they are, and you should try them, and then gather one or two equally awesome recipes from a loved one before it's too late.
From my kitchen to yours, best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year.
Helen's Double Chocolate Biscotti
1/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 cup flour
4 ounce white baking bar, chopped
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
In a large bowl, beat butter. Add sugar, cocoa and baking powder. Beat in eggs. Add flour. Stir in chocolate.
On baking sheet, shape batter into a long, thin log. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool.
Place the log on the cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2- to 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake the biscotti at 325 degrees for 8 minutes. Turn slices over and bake for another 8 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen.
-- Helen Croft
Gretchen McKay: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.