Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Domači Prijatelj: The New Improved Slovenian Biscotti Recipe (And a New Challenge)

I have been trying to perfect my recipe for domači prijatelj, the Slovenian version of biscotti or mandelbrot.  I like the concept as well as the name, which translates as "domestic friend."  According to some sources, it has a slightly risqué connotation.

I have made a couple of tweaks to my earlier recipes.  This latest version is the best yet, with an airy texture and just the right amount of crunch.

First change: I added the nuts, chocolate, and dried fruit AFTER the flour, rather than before.  It seems to result in a lighter product. Most cooks, Slovenian and otherwise, do suggest this, but I had been intrigued by the couple of recipes that did it the other way around. In this case, I think the majority view is right.  Save the mix-ins until the very end.

Second change: I finally learned the proper Slovenian pronunciation, thanks to a new challenge I have taken on this year. I am (finally) trying to learn the language of my ancestors.

Last week, I enrolled in a Slovenian language class, with a wonderful teacher at San Francisco's Slovenian Hall. This step is long overdue. I am the only beginner in the class, so I have some catching up to do, as well as some bad habits to break.

The day before I made biscotti #3, I had been reviewing some practice dialogues from the upcoming week's Slovenian lesson in our textbook. One of the dialogues involved "moj prijatelj Stefan." My friend Stefan. Finally, I thought, a familiar word!

But when I listened to the audio version on the CD, I got a little surprise.  That final "j" in "prijatelj" is silent.  I had been pronouncing it in the usual Slovenian way, like the English "y." This was just one of many fine points of Slovenian pronunciation I had managed to overlook, in my casual attempts to learn a little bit of the language on my own.  

So here is the new improved recipe, to go along with my slowly improving language skills. Eventually, I hope to be able to use Slovenian recipes without the dubious assistance of Google Translate :-) 

Domači Prijatelj (Domestic Friend), The Final Version

3 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
1-2/3 c. flour
1 t. low sodium baking soda and 1 t. cream of tartar (or use 1 t. regular baking powder)
1/2 c. chopped bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. dried apricots, diced
a little brandy for soaking the fruit (optional)
1 t. vanilla extract and/or 1 t. almond extract
lemon rind, grated
cinnamon (optional)
(dash of salt is optional)

Note: Any combination of nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate can be used, but the total amount should be about 1-1/2 c.

Measure the flour and combine with leavening agents. Set aside. If you are using dried fruit, place it in a small bowl and add a little brandy to moisten. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, and any flavorings or extracts you are using until the mixture is thick and lemon-colored.  Blend in the flour until you have a stiff but sticky dough. Stir in nuts, chocolate and dried fruit.

Spread the dough in an oiled, parchment-lined 7 x 9 inch rectangular pan.  Or form the dough into two long loaves (about 3 inches wide) on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until brown and firm.  Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  Cut into 1/2 inch slices. If you have baked the dough in a rectangular pan, you will want to cut the slices in half.

Now there is a choice.  How dry do you want the slices to be?  Most Slovenian recipes suggest a simple air-drying.  But I continue to be a fan of the twice-baked approach.  So, if you like your "domestic friends" on the firmer side, put the slices back in the oven for 10-15 minutes.  (For additional crunch, let them sit in a cooling oven overnight!)  When done, let cool on a rack.  Store in a covered container.

Dober tek!

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