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Obviously the hardest part about moving to a new city is saying goodbye to your family and friends. What I forgot to anticipate when I left New York was the sadness I'd feel over missing those people in my life who I saw on a regular basis, and liked a great deal, but would never call to say hi.
I had a lot of these people in my former city, both because I'm a creature of habit and because the neighborhoods of New York are so much smaller and friendly than non-residents would ever believe. Unfortunately, unlike my mother who knows the names of every delivery man and deli owner between Houston and 14th streets, I'm a bit more introverted. I have trouble reaching out to people even though I really appreciate our relationships, however small they may be.
Take the women who work at Amy's Bread in the West Village. We had a great daily rapport. They were friendly, they could fill my order without my having to ask, and sometimes they even slipped me free bread. Each day, as I tied up my dog up to the bench outside, I bet they glanced through the large glass windows and said, "Here comes Socially Awkward Large Coffee with Skim Milk," and smiled as they dropped a Focaccia Raisin Twist into a bag.
Whenever I'm back in New York, I stop by Amy's. But I haven't gotten up the courage to say, "I miss you and your perfectly brewed coffee. My life just isn't the same!"
Instead I'm here in my new city, making these Hazelnut Black Pepper Biscotti and dreaming of eating one as I watch the sunlight pour into the shop on Bleecker Street. Hazelnut Black Pepper Biscotti are always on hand at Amy's, kept in a container above the Wall of Bread. Though I am the only person I've ever seen order them (they are rather above the eye-line), they're one of the my favorite cookies in the world.
To satisfy a craving and honor that store, I played around until I came up with my own replacement recipe. Texturally, you won't be surprised to find that these are crunchy and dry: a good biscotti for dipping. Taste-wise, they're pretty outstanding—there is a sweet side to black pepper that is as delicious as it is unexpected. The earthy notes pair particularly well with the deep nuttiness from the hazelnuts. I grind whole black peppercorns in a mortar just before adding them to the dough, and I think it makes a world of difference. Freshly ground peppercorns release oils that almost have hints of citrus, and those flavors really perfume the dough.
One day I'll get up the courage to tell them how I feel. In the meantime, ladies of Amy's, these are for you.