Ho biscotti per tu!

Maybe Monday’s cooking class inspired me to try baking Italian cookies on my own. Perhaps I’ve passed by too many bakeries pervading the smell of fresh pastries. Or maybe my mind feels like embracing International Women’s Day (“Festa della donna” in Italia) tomorrow. Whatever the cause may be, I am going through a baking frenzy.

I’ve been having the itch to bake ever since my Monday cooking class, when we made cantucci di prato (what we generally view as “biscotti” in America–and something my family often makes) from scratch. Then yesterday, Anna, the sweet elderly lady who lives in the apartment below us, came upstairs to bring us a jar of homemade meat sauce and a package of pasta. (Is she the cutest thing ever or what?!) Our “grazie” and smiles could barely do the “thank you” justice, though, because she doesn’t speak any English and we are still just learning Italian. That’s when I decided I have a good reason to bake!

So I gathered a few basic ingredients to make a simple almond butter cookie, because it’d be quick, easy and simple. Then I felt like getting fancy by adding in variations–chocolate in the center for some, a coating of beaten egg with sugar and vanilla extract for some, a topping of sugar for others, and I left a good amount plain. Overall, I was dissatisfied because they tasted too sweet and buttery in my opinion (probably because we don’t have measuring cups, so I was just eyeing everything). Luckily my housemates really liked them, so at least they’re being happily scarfed down 😀

But today, the baking frenzy only intensified. I decided to go all-out and recreate that biscotti we made in class. So I ventured out to gather everything I needed–from almonds to an orange to yeast. I had a blast jamming out to tunes in my apron as I handmade the dough on our kitchen table and infused my own variations to the recipe we learned in class based on my judgment–more orange grind, almond extract, more vanilla extract, and a couple other variations. They came out pretty damn good! (Still not as delicious as yours, Aunt Marianne). I decided to be fancy and top some with melted chocolate, too. I can’t wait for it to harden so I can go deliver a plate to Anna!

Valentine’s Day at the Florence Chocolate Festival

Note:  Pictures and stories from my Venice trip and the Carnivale are coming soon!–I’ve been very busy catching up with classes and errands after last week’s illness and this weekend’s travels, so sorry for the delay! In the meantime, let’s talk chocolate.

Aaaaah, Valentine’s Day in the enchanting city of Florence… Young Italian lovebirds are flocking the streets, and those damn flower guys are chasing potential clientele at every major corner.

Whether you have a lover or not, the Chocolate Festival is where everyone’s Valentine’s Day is sure to be sweet. The annual Artisan Chocolate Fair of Florence will last a few more days since it began last week, summoning people in good spirit to stop by the popular Piazza della Republica anytime between 10am to 10pm to try some delightful chocolate treats. A myriad of mouth-watering chocolate types fill the booths, along with different shapes–from shoes to animals to oldschool espresso makers. Some of them are expensive, but I’ve had college-budget success simply asking for X Euro of whatever chocolate chunk I’d like. E’ delizioso!

Apparently I must try the hot chocolate too–which is much more like melted chocolate in a cup than the typical Swiss Miss hot chocolate you’d probably have in mind. I am sure I’ll be returning tomorrow 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day to all my family and friends at home! Love you!