This month for Foodstuffs I’ve been talking with New Hampshire bakers about what they do at the holidays. This week, it’s my turn. And I’ve got a very special baker working with me - my two year old son, Owen, who has a special message for you: “Hello, people! I’m making cookies people!’
Owen and I have decided to make cookies - orange-almond biscotti, to be specific. It's a recipe from the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett, New Hampshire. Biscotti is Owen's favorite kind of cookie - he pronounces it 'scotti - so that's what we're making - at least that's the initial idea. Plans with a two year old are subject to change, second by second. One minute he might run away from the mixer because it’s too loud; the next he might get upset that I'm running the mixer without him.
In this case, the two year old has decided, halfway through mixing, that we're no longer making orange-almond biscotti. Instead, we're to make "Christmas pirate cookies." Who eats Christmas pirate cookies, I ask him? "I do." Well of course. In short, this night of baking has been hijacked by a two year old pirate.
This could be problematic: recipes are sequences, after all; you can't just do it any old way or it might not turn out right. This recipe calls for shaping the dough by hand into long rectangles; instead, we’re using the rolling pin, because… well, we just are. The dough has a sweet orangy scent, but it’s crumbling into oblivion, and, frankly, so am I. I’ve spent a month trying to pick up tips from competent bakers to make up for my own limited skill, but what we're making seems inevitably inedible, an end product that isn’t going to set off any sweet tooths (though it will probably set off our smoke alarms). As we put these… things… in the oven, I’m convinced we’re in for trouble.
My little pirate here, though, isn’t worried a bit; he shouts "yaaaay!" as we shut the oven and turn on the timer. If the cookies don’t turn out right, well, he’s still gotten to pour sugar and flour into the mixing bowl, and he’s still gotten to use the rolling pin. And he’s gotten to meld the high seas and the holidays- at one point he turns to me and says "Merry Christmas, pirates." Why pirates? "Because they're fun."
Ah, yes, fun - the part of the holidays we so often forget! It occurs to me that Owen hasn’t hijacked my cookie recipe – he’s hijacked me, and my Scrooge-like lack of holiday spirit. And I'm glad he has; no matter what comes out of this oven, we've had a good time making 'scotti together.
Here’s the interesting part: these pirate biscotti… are fantastic, some of the best cookies we’ve ever made. Crunch on the outside, chewiness on the inside… they've got some tanginess from the orange rind and just the right amount of sweetness.
Maybe it’s a holiday miracle! Or maybe it’s what families do in kitchens all over the state at this time of year – sometimes making cookies, sometimes making a mess, sometimes both… but always making memories, and traditions.
Pirate biscotti is one tradition we're definitely going to keep next year. And Owen agrees: when I ask him what a pirate cookie would say, he gives the appropriate answer: “ARRRR!”