It’s strange being back home after nearly half a month away in ravishing Italia. My watch goes backwards by 9 nours. My sleep schedule is such that I am awake at 7 am Seattle time (4 pm Italian time) without an alarm clock and writing this in the wee hours. My house is a mess, strewn with souvenirs, gifts, and clothes from a rather sloppy attempt at unpacking. My dear pug is back in my arms after boarding with another very kind family during our vacation.
And I miss Italy so much. I miss the narrow cobblestone streets, the uniquely colored buildings, the ubiquitous red Vespas, the coffee shops where people drink their cappuccinos on the countertop standing up, the friendly calls of “Ciao!”, and the heaping cups of gelato for only 2 euros. Every part of Italy simply screams “Love me” to a tourist like myself.
On the plane ride back, I watched “Eat, Pray, Love” (that adorable movie with Julia Roberts starring as Liz Gilbert). And there couldn’t have been a better time to see Liz Gilbert living her life in Italy so I could re-live my own trip at the same time. In one particular scene where she and her Italian friends are celebrating Thanksgiving, Liz tells them how she is “the luckiest girl in the world”, even if she is newly divorced and has her own troubles, simply because the people she is surrounded by love each other so much.
That’s when I teared up and started sniffling. As much as my heart broke to leave Italy, I was bursting at the seams with happiness. To this moment, I cannot identify those tears as heartbreak tears or happiness tears. All I know is that the moment I watched that scene, I melted because I realized that I am also the “luckiest girl in the world”. I am lucky to have a family as adorable and endearing as mine to travel with. I am lucky to be able to savor the Italian smells and tastes in the dead of winter. I am lucky that I had Rick Steves’ “Italy 2011” book with me. I am so fortunate to have been able to travel to Italy.
And the nice Dutch guy sitting next to me offered me a tissue. I don’t think he really understood what was going on with me…
Biscotti Al Ciocolatto (By me!)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
7 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate
Preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until mixture is creamy and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and beat for 2 more minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the dry ingredients in three additions, until it comes together as dough. Mix in the chopped bittersweet chocolate with a spoon or spatula. On a lightly floured surface, work the dough until it comes together into one cohesive ball/chunk.
Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into 10-inch logs. Transfer logs onto the baking sheet. Flatten both logs so that they are 1/2 to 1 inch high and at least 4 inches apart.
Bake the logs for 25-30 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow to cool for about 20 minutes. Working with one log at a time, cut each log into slices 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Stand the slices up on the baking sheet. Bake the cookies again, this time for 10 minutes. Let cool and eat.
Now, last but not least, remember the little Get To Know Your Blogger I did a few weeks ago? Well…here goes. All my answers are 100% honest.
Q. Do you have a boyfriend? If you do, he is one lucky guy. My brother wants to date you. This sounds creepy because we don’t need each other at all, but I am one of your biggest fans.
A. No, I don’t. And both you and your brother flatter me.
Q. How many ounces of chocolate do you eat per day?
A. It really varies. On stressful pre-finals-week days, it usually comes out to be about 8 ounces of chocolate a day. Some days…none. I know, I know. I’m an unfaithful chocoholic.
Q. how do you manage to balance college life with your microbio degree with this blog?
A. I think the key there is that everything I take time to do is something I love. I don’t think I could really live a life where I didn’t write anything or bake anything so this blog just sort of fits those two hobbies of mine. And since they’re hobbies, I don’t think of it as so much of an obligation and slide it in next to my love of microbes.
Q. What is your favorite recipe of all that you’ve baked?
A. This is probably the hardest question of the bunch. I love most things that are baked in the first place. Okay…this is going to be tough. Can I please choose 3 instead of 1? Pretty please? Here they are: Brown Butter Nectarine Buckle, Chocolate Chip Meringues, and Peanut Butter Blondies.
Q. If you had to date one celebrity…who would it be?
A. Well my most recent celebrity crush would be James Franco. And I seem to have forgotten my past celebrity infatuations already.
Q, How do you get the inspiration to write a blog?
A. Writing a blog is almost like writing a diary for me, except even better because I get to talk about recipes and share them with the internet world. I love keeping journals and diaries and a blog is no exception. Inspiration is simply a matter of what I happen to encounter or think about during a particular day and then I write about it.
Q. What is your favorite cookie recipe? How about favorite cake recipe? Need ideas, thanks!
My favorite cookie recipe? Chocolate spice cookies. My favorite cake recipe? Brown Sugar Maple Chocolate Chip Cake.
And now after shuffling through the 2,581 pictures I have from my trip to Italy, eating the sponge cakes with nutella filling provided by our hotel in Venice, and organizing all my souvenirs, I have found peace with a fresh baked batch of biscotti al ciocolatto.
And to everyone out there, a happy new year! Let’s usher in 2011 with some cheer.