Friday, 25 September 2015

Biscotti - or what not to bake during a homework crisis...

Failure. It's a big thing at the moment. We have to let our children fail. They fail at the little things, they learn, they become stronger, more resilient and more able to cope with adult life.

I wholeheartedly agree with this approach to life. I do believe that my role is to love my children, to support them, to be on their side, and to protect them, but that as they get older, the way I do this changes and develops. They need to understand that they have responsibilities as well as the rights they are always telling me about, and that their actions have consequences. For toddlers this could be learning that not getting into the bath by the time I count to 5 means no stories (one of my least favourite evenings, that one, believe me). For 10 year olds who mess about in the morning it could mean having to get dressed in the car on the way to the bus stop (I was tempted put him on the bus in his pyjamas but decided that could wait for the next time - there wasn't one)...

So far, the actions and consequences have been relatively clear cut but Blue is now at secondary school, and the world has suddenly become a more complicated place. The possibilities for failure are many, and the consequences now include such things as detentions, missing the school bus that goes from the end of the road, completely flunking school, and, most serious of all, driving his mother to COMPLETE and UTTER distraction with keeping her counsel while he works it all out

And of course, let him, I must - let him work out how to manage, how to get himself organised - and then offer support and help only when it's asked, all that good stuff. I find it incredibly stressful though - especially when he asks for help with something when it's most inconvenient - like while I am trying to get dressed, drink a cup of tea or even indulging in a spot of late night biscotti baking in advance of a coffee date with a friend the following morning - because he left it to the last minute ...This means biting my tongue when he doesn't get out of bed till 7.30 when he has to leave for the bus at 7.55; when he leaves his homework to the last minute; when he dashes off his homework the night before it's due so he can watch old episodes of Top Gear or Scrap Heap Challenge (why? WHY???) and then reappears at bedtime worrying that he hasn't done it very well...

This last was this evening's little joy. And on inspection, he really hadn't done his homework very well. I won't go into details, but it was rubbish. We have already said to the kids that the important thing is that they do their best. And this most definitely wasn't his best. In the most reasonable tone I could manage, I said it was too late and he could either ask the teacher for extra time to finish the homework or hand it in as it was and take the consequences. He didn't take it well, and in the interests of everyone's peace of mind, we compromised. He went to bed and hour later than normal, but a lot happier. Did I do the right thing? He produced something that was much improved and has, I hope, learnt a lesson. And I managed to keep the tirade about taking responsibility and not wasting life away in front of the TV to a minimum, and mostly - ahem - offered astute observations about how things might be achieved in a less stressful manner next time. I also over-baked my biscotti while delivering my unvitriolic advice ... Not too much, but you know, if I'd been paying more attention, they might have been a little better. Still, I think they were OK.

Cranberry, Macadamia & Hazelnut Biscotti

200g mixed pack of cranberries & macadamia nuts
100g whole hazelnuts
250g strong white flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
grated zest of a large lemon
2 large eggs
2 tsp rum (or you could use vanilla extract if you were feeling less stressed)
icing sugar for dusting

Pre-heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

In a food processor, pulse the nuts and fruit a couple of times to chop them up a little.

Sift the flour & baking powder together, then add the sugar, nuts & fruit and lemon zest, then combine.

Beat the eggs and rum together, then stir into the flour mixture and combine to form a biscuit dough.

Dust a work surface with icing sugar and turn the dough out. Divide it into 3 and form each piece into a log shape and place on the baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven.

Put the logs on a board and slice up into 1cm biscuits - sliced on the diagonal. 

Lay the slices back on the baking sheet and pop back into the oven for 5 -10 minutes. 

Don't engage in a discussion with your son about the best time to do his homework, and the benefits of doing the best job you can first time round. But if you do, and end up leaving the biscotti in the oven for 20 minutes they will probably be OK...


  1. TV is more addictive than learning any lessons from mum. I hope you get through this one! The biscotti look lovely and golden and I bet they tasted divine!

    1. Thanks Dom, yes I think we've lived to see another day. The biscotti are good - slightly frazzled cranberries but not so bad

  2. Seeing my son do homework was a rare thing. .. It was all done at school. Which leaves me wondering "did he do his best?" And was he being stretched? Think I'll have a go at the biscotti;-)

    1. :- just don't leave them in the oven too long! He does have the option of staying at school for a 'homework' club if he wants I think - I'm not sure if I'd be happier that it was out of the house or not. I am finding (in the first 3 weeks of being a secondary school parent) that I am feeling even more disconnected from what he is doing than I did in the last couple of years at primary school and on balance I'd rather have the stress of 'not interfering' at home, but being on hand if he needs input, than him keeping it all at school...

  3. Rum in biscotti - now that's my kind of biscotti. I seem to remember overbaking some biscotti a year or two ago - I was probably distracted by something on the TV (although definitely not Top Gear). They were still OK - I just let them soak in the sweet wine for a while longer. Obviously I meant to say coffee there - I don't want to encourage bad habits.

    1. Given that I put rum in the biscotti because I didn't have any vanilla to hand, I don't think you need to fear encouraging bad habits Phil!

  4. This all sounds very, very familiar Sally. The letting them fail thing. Think about it a lot but find it so hard. Know they'll learn more from messing up than me yelling in their ear, but can't help myself! And at secondary level there is less connection as you say, not always easy to know what's going on, so, trust becomes a pretty big issue. One we're sort of struggling with....


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