Martha’s Crantastic Nutty Corn Biscuits! – Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti- 47 eggs, 41 3/4 cups of sugar, 31 sticks of Butter, and 33 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 148 recipes to go!

May 21, 2010


Martha's Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti

André's Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti

Before I make any comments about the biscotti, I should include a few words from my friend, the Baroness Von Shortbread. I delivered to her  a slice of the Classic Shortbread featured in my last post. The Baroness is one of the nice people who helped support my fundraising efforts and thus sent me to cookie hell. She had made note with her contribution that she loved shortbread and since Martha’s book features many shortbread recipes I asked if she would provide anonymous shortbread reviews under the code name, Baroness Von Shortbread. Again, I live in the Midwest and therefore need to come up with things to pass the time.

So, without any further ado, here is the Baroness’ review:

Andre. Martha. You made my day! Nothing beats a classic shortbread. I love the wedge shape (and presentation) and thickness of the cookie. It had the perfect combination of “snap” when I broke a piece off and “melt” when I ate it. The only problem with this cookie is that I ate it all in one sitting…and now it’s gone.

There you have it, folks. The Baroness has spoken. The Classic Shortbread is a hit.

Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti could very well have its origin in a not-so-very-PC joke.

A hippie, a Native American, and an Italian walk into a bakery…

Martha describes this treat as the perfect gift for Christmas since it features the color red from the dried cranberries and the color green from the pistachios. Well, it’s May and I gifted it to a couple of friends of ours and no one really noticed the “Christmas-y colors.”

Biscotti is so easy to make. Ingredients are simply lumped together in a stand mixer, baked, sliced, and then baked again.

I love my stand mixer. It’s become one of my prized possession. Not a very “Buddhist” notion, I know, then again, I’m not Buddhist. In the event of a fire I would grab three things from my home: my stand mixer, my cats, and my partner, Dan- probably in that order. However, I am about to add a fourth prized possession to my household- a piano! My friend, Ken is selling his home and has generously gifted his piano to me. It’s a small spinet, just like the one I first learned to play. I haven’t had a real piano in my home since I was sixteen. I am thrilled. Music is a passion of mine ever since I was a small child. I had plans to pursue piano performance as a career but in my first year of college a professor looked at my hands and shook her head. “Too short” she said. She was right. My fingers can only stretch a little over an octave. I didn’t have the reach a concert pianist would need to have a serious career. That’s not to say I can’t play. I can. I’m pretty darn good, too. I’ve earned decent money in my lifetime sitting behind other people’s pianos and now I can relax and play sitting behind mine.

I am cheating a little in my blog today. I’m using a story I had previously written about my first introduction to the piano. It’s a good story and should be shared. I hope you enjoy it, even though I wrote this one awhile ago.

THE CLASS MENAGERIE

When I was at the precocious age of five my younger sister, Nicole inadvertently sat on my guitar.  It had been a gift from my free spirit, hippie godfather, Mickey who was more moustache than man. I had big plans for that guitar and had been enrolled to take lessons beginning the following week.

I turned the corner of the hallway into our paneled foyer and there she sat, my three-year-old sister grinning like a chubby terrier over the remains of a favorite shoe. I was devastated.  Mom was a master of distraction so when I went to her with the tangled mess of balsa wood, wire and tears she quickly offered up a solution.

She had enrolled herself in piano lessons after my Aunt Lois gifted a rusted old black Kimble & Kohler spinet to our family. Mom had paid for a year’s worth of lessons up front as a way of obliging herself to attend each session lest she waste money, but after two months she had only mastered the first movement of “Three Blind Mice”.

She played this ominous little ditty often.  Mom had never really embraced the idea of tempo having sung mostly in Catholic choirs so everything she played was very deliberate, slow and somber.  “Three Blind Mice…Three Blind Mice… duh,duh,duh… duh,duh,duh…” the walls of our home echoed with what could easily have been an Agatha Christie soundtrack.

“Would you like to learn piano?” Mom asked? “You can go to Mrs. Tisdale to take lessons in my place.” She offered guiltily. My father excitedly encouraged me to accept her offer enticing me with the thought that I could be the next Jerry Lee Lewis. Mom, however, envisioned me being the next Liberace, a gentleman who always spoke well of his family and, most importantly, was good to his mama. Either way rhinestones and the pianoforte seem to go together in the early 70’s so I was hooked.

Karen Tisdale was a painfully thin mother of six who taught piano and voice to the Broadmoor subdivision residents.  She was a haggard and impatient woman who took great pride in her method of teaching children which she had developed all on her own. This method consisted of squeezing three students to a piano bench, each with access to one octave, and teach theory with a dose of fun by personifying each note. I learned that my friends were Cappy C, Doggie D, Elephant E, Fat F, Georgie G, Alice A and Batty B.  Each one had a face she would draw on them with ears and hats or wings- incidentally Alice smoked as did Mrs. Tisdale.

She explained that each of these notes lived on either a line or a space on the staff.  There was also Troubled Cliff and Base Cliff- The Cliff Brothers who knew to stick to their own staves. By the time I had finished six months of lessons I felt like a producer trying to manage a cast of thousands. There was character after character pouring out of this woman’s pursed lips and into my imaginative five-year-old brain. I learned there was some dissonance in Cappy’s and Dogie’s relationship- “Man’s Best Friend” indeed. I would have to help these poor tonal wayfarers find the key they were always losing but Batty kept getting a flat while Fat F wanted to stay sharp. Quarter notes became water notes. Half notes became Toucan-two-counts.  Mrs. Tisdale would often ask me “Do you see the toucan on Georgie’s shoulder?- Remember that means two counts”. Whole notes became known as Dough-notes (because they were empty in the middle) and always keep an eye out for the rare and mystical spotted toucan who gets an extra count for being spotted.  If I wasn’t going to be a great musician then I certainly would be well prepared for a life in zoological study.

I laugh about it now.  The theory class she was teaching was, in fact, a theory.

Three years I rode in this musical safari and gave a brilliant recital performance where I played a duet of a little Spanish tune in which, with a flourish, I left the bench to steal control of the Base Cliff from my partner. It was very theatrical.

Months after this athletic musical performance I went on to study with an advanced teacher and rival of Mrs. Tisdale, Ms. Geneva Crowder.  She was a morbidly obese woman with perfectly sculpted nails, platinum hair, and thinly painted lips. Her home reeked of sweet cologne, fried chicken and old person. She explained to me that there would not be any ears, hats, wings or cigarettes involved in her lesson plan and made me understand that all the characters Mrs. Tisdale introduced me to were actually Italians in disguise.

Before the lesson commenced Mrs. Crowder ordered her son Dwayne (pronounced Dee-Wayne) to the Colonel’s to pick up dinner.  Dwayne was in his mid-thirties with a paunch, shaded thick glasses and no pigment to his skin whatsoever.  Mrs. Crowder explained that he couldn’t work because of his herpes- something that has always remained a mystery to me.  We passed through the parlor where her aged mother sat watching soap operas and inhaling deeply on her oxygen tank and into the piano study where Geneva kissed the picture of her late husband, fondled an autographed head-shot of Liberace and began the lesson.

There is a reason why Tennessee Williams wrote about these people.


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7 Responses to “Martha’s Crantastic Nutty Corn Biscuits! – Cranberry-Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti- 47 eggs, 41 3/4 cups of sugar, 31 sticks of Butter, and 33 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 148 recipes to go!”

  1. Russ Says:

    Aren’t all piano teachers weird? Weird and exhausted? It would seem they all need vitamins or something.

  2. Dan Says:

    You might rethink your fire evacuation order. 🙂

  3. Don Adams Says:

    I think so! Mine was Betty Davis as Baby Jane, her much-sweeter sister always upstairs in the kitchen in her wheel chair when I departed my 7 am Saturday lesson: Bayby Jane’s technique involved whacks on the back on either hand, if I lost my “arch.” No wonder I stuck with percussion and strings…

    And lucky André! A mother who proposed Liberace as role model? No wonder you’re so free!

  4. Martha in KS Says:

    Broadmoor subdivision in O.P., KS? I went to Broadmoor Jr. High! Small world. Our family spinet now resides with my niece in CO. Of four girls, none of us was very enthusiastic about the visiting piano teachers, so no Jerry Lee Lewises among us. Keep cooking!


    • From Broadmoor in Baton Rouge, LA. Did you know that Broadmoor in merry ol’ England was where they imprisoned pirates? I bet that’s a much more interesting subdivision. Keep reading, Martha!

  5. nazila Says:

    These are my favorite biscotti ever. The recipe this was derived from were her 1995 breakfast biscotti. Very yummy and not just for breakfast anymore. Good luck with your project. Very cool.


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