Bluebird of Happiness

Bluebird of Happiness

While I was baking this biscotti, my husband called me outside. We have been fortunate this spring to have two different bird nests to watch over, right in the middle of our yard. Western Bluebirds have built a nest in a juniper tree. The bluebirds are very beautiful and very colorful. The little ones have tender voices and it’s been so nice to listen to them as they are being fed. The nest was built in a birdhouse our son built when he was much younger, in the sixth grade. He’s twenty-five now. The birds return each spring, but we are not sure if they’re the same pair, or if we perhaps are just lucky enough to attract new bluebirds each year.

Nic's Birdhouse

We have also been watching a nest with four little bluejays, located in a very large, old pinon tree. The birds are very loud when feeding, sounding almost dinosaur-like, with their loud screeching.

Today was the day they left the nest for the first time. We were wondering how long the nest would hold them, since they’ve grown so large for the size of the nest. They didn’t really fly from the nest, they hopped, from branch to branch. They will be perfecting their wing flapping and soon be gone.

A sight to behold, these little feathered friends, all fluffy and new.

Baby Bluejay1

Shaking its tail feathers.

Shaking its tail feathers.

Blessings come from unexpected places.

Very Vanilla Biscotti

Simple, with lots of vanilla flavor, because simple can be oh, so, delicious.

Besides, sometimes you feel like nuts, sometimes you don’t.

 Vanilla Biscotti

6 tbsp. unsalted butter (3/4 stick)

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract

2 whole vanilla beans, split and scraped

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 large eggs, room temperature

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees (375○ high altitude). Lightly grease a large baking sheet (18 x 13), or line with parchment or silicone baking sheets. A pan specifically for baking biscotti may also be used.
  • Measure out the sugar (3/4 cup) and place in a small bowl. Split the vanilla beans and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a small, sharp knife. Add to the measured sugar, mixing well.

Vanilla Beans

Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla Biscotti1

  • In a medium bowl, beat the butter, the vanilla sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and baking powder together until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs. Batter will look curdled. On low speed, add the flour one cup at a time. Mix until smooth. The dough will be soft and sticky, but will hold its shape when dropped from a spoon. You will be able to see the vanilla beans throughout the dough.
Very Vanilla Biscotti Dough

Very Vanilla Biscotti Dough

  • Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet., shaping it into a rough log, about 14″ long, 2 1/2 inches wide, and 3/4″ thick.
  • Bake the dough for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set on a baking rack to cool for 5 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan. Slice 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick, using a sharp serrated bread knife. To make the biscotti easier to slice, use a clean plant mister filled with fresh water to lightly mist the top and sides of the dough. This will make the dough less likely to crumble when slicing. After misting, let sit for 5 more minutes, then slice, making sure to slice the biscotti evenly from top to bottom.
  • Place slices upright on baking sheet, leaving room between the slices. Bake for another 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool before storing in an airtight container.

 

Adapted from King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion cookbook. I prefer to scrape the split vanilla beans instead of using the entire vanilla bean. Experiment to see what you like. For those times when plain just isn’t what you are in the mood for, feel free to add in your choice of nuts or chocolate, etc. Just be sure to chop all extras on the small side to make slicing the biscotti easier.

 

Vanilla Biscotti3

 

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