Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Last of the Wine: Transforming the Bottom of the Bottle

wine biscotti baked 2 copyI know what you’re thinking: who has leftover wine? I drink all of mine. Usually that’s true, but you know how it is: something demands a fresh, or a different bottle, so the one with three-fourths gone sits on the counter, and before you know it, there’s no going back—you’ve moved on, and probably, so has it.
So I make a distinction between cooking with wine, and using the last of the wine. Wine is a wonderful addition to, and sometimes a prominent ingredient in, sauces, poaching liquids and soaking syrups, braises, and soups. For these, those last few inches of counter-sitting vino will not do--with the possible exception of a splash into a tomato sauce. A fresh bottle, suited to the purpose, is best.
But we needn’t resort to pouring our wine odds and ends down the drain: as with the tomato sauce, the ever-ingenious Italians have found a use for them in the form of wonderful wine biscotti. These unusual biscuits are slightly sweet, slightly savory, and altogether delicious. Here in Rhode Island, a tiny state where those of Italian descent make up the largest demographic group (19%), very good ones—handmade, not commercial—can be bought at the Italian specialty stores on Atwells Avenue in Providence. But if you, like me, are still clearing away from the holidays, and your counter collection of partial bottles has grown over the past month to a small forest of green, making our own offers both a guilt-free alternative to disposal, and a nice addition to a mid-winter cocktail tray. Children are generally happy to help with the rolling and twisting.
Last of the Wine Biscotti
These traditional Italian biscuits are a nice accompaniment to wine, dunked or not. You can use any leftover wine in the recipe, and season or not accordingly. I have made them with both dry red and dry white wine, with sauternes, and with tawny port (the ones in the photo); each gives a somewhat more or less assertive, and always interesting, flavor. Makes two dozen or biscotti dough copy
2 ½ cups a-p flour
1/3 cup + 1 T sugar
1 ½ tea baking powder
1 tea salt
¼ tea ground white pepper
½-1 tea other spice of your choice, such as ground caraway (optional)
¼ cup olive oil (on the lighter side)
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup red or white wine, dry or sweet, or fortified winewine biscotti rolled copy
Preheat oven to 350 F. Put everything into a food processor and process briefly, until a somewhat granular but soft dough forms. Turn out onto a board and pat lightly into a square; cut into two dozen pieces of roughly equal size for biscotti that are close to 2” in diameter, or into more pieces for smaller biscuits. I tend to make a mix of sizes because I like the way it looks. With the palm of your hand, roll each piece into a 3-4” finger-thick log; slightly tapered ends are good. Wrap each around your index finger into a ring, pressing the ends together. Bake for 18-20 minutes, depending on size, until lightly firm and bottoms are brown. Remove to a rack and cool. These are best when very fresh, so freeze if you don’t plan to serve them the same day.
P.S. I will be traveling out of the country until February 1, and will be back to posting at Little Compton Mornings that weekend.


Stephanie said...

This is a great idea. I often use wine that's a couple days old for cooking, and especially if it's a long-cooked dish, I don't notice the difference...

MinneapolisMeg said...

I just came across your nice blog, well done. My mom and her side of the family are from Warwick, RI. There was an italian bakery some where that we would go to and stock up on bags of wine biscuits and pepper biscuits. I cut my teeth on those as an infant and grew up with those special treats. Bakery is gone now and we have wished for a replacement. I will have to try this recipe and see if I can come close to the goodness of my childhood delights! Thanks I will let you know!

Jane said...

Minneapolismeg: Glad you found this and hope it produces something like you remember. For pepper biscuits, I suggest using dry red wine and 1 tea ground black pepper. For regular wine biscuits, try white wine and a minimum of added spice.Good luck, and let me know.