Chocolate Dipped Biscotti

Holiday Biscotti
I’m attending a neighborhood cookie exchange tonight. I’m feeling a bit anxious – after my cookie baking failure false start last week, I’m hesitant to test new recipes out on the group. “Hi, nice to meet you. I’m the baker who can’t make a cookie.” I’ve decided, instead, to pull out a classic – chocolate dipped biscotti. I originally created this recipe in 2010 for a vin santo dessert pairing at the steakhouse. The original recipe created about 144 cookies. I’ve paired it down to about 6 dozen. What I love about this recipe is how easy it is to divide the dough, add various ingredients and create unique flavor combinations with a minimum of fuss.


Chocolate Dipped Biscotti

  • Servings: About 6 Dozen
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This is a basic biscotti recipe. I’ve listed a few mix-in flavor options below, but flavor combinations are limited only by your imagination.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 8 oz. butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two sheet pans with parchment and spray with cooking spray. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and add vanilla extract. Mix in flour mixture until just combined. Divide dough into two equal amounts and add ingredients below (or make your own combination of mix-ins).
  2. Divide each flavor into two rolls about 14” long (You should have four 14” rolls). Place rolls 4” apart on sheet pans. Flatten each roll to about 3” wide so each log should be about 3” x 14”. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are set and logs are light golden brown. Cool logs for 10 minutes. With a serrated knife, carefully cut each log crosswise into ½” – ¾” slices. Lay slices flat on sheet pans and bake 8-10 minutes until biscotti feel dry to the touch. Turn over and bake another 5 minutes. Cool completely.
  3. Warm chocolate chips in the microwave 60-90 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds until chocolate is smooth. Dip the tip of each cooled biscotti in chocolate and set aside until chocolate is set.

Almond Orange
– ⅓ cup chopped almonds
– zest from one orange
– substitute 1 teaspoon almond extract for 1 of the teaspoons of vanilla
– 1 cup milk chocolate chips (for dipping)
Cherry Walnut
– ⅓ cup dried cherries, chopped
– ⅓ cup candied walnuts, chopped
– 1 cup dark chocolate chips (for dipping)
Apricot Pistachio
– ⅓ cup dried apricots, chopped
– ⅓ cup pistachios, chopped
– 1 cup white chocolate chips (for dipping)
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Holiday Marzipan Stollen

4 loaves of Stollen
Stollen is a bit lazy. It needs A LOT of rest, plenty of naps on its way to being eaten, a good 12 hours of sleep in the beginning AND at the end, four days of vacation after that. Stollen takes its time. I begin the process the night before baking by making the soaker (all the good bits soaked in dark rum), making the sponge (a bit of flour, water and yeast allowed to party overnight) and candying my own peel. The stollen is packed so full of good stuff, a long, slow rise is essential the next day. After baking, the cooled stollen rests again overnight and then benefits from a rest at room temperature, tightly wrapped, for at least 4 additional days. A clear calendar is essential to ensure the process isn’t rushed:

Night 1: Make candied peel, make soaker and make sponge (Steps 1-3 below)
Day 2: Make dough, proof, bake, coat with butter and sugar, rest overnight uncovered (Steps 4-12 below)
Day 3-7: Wrap tightly in foil at room temperature and allow to rest for at least 4 days (Steps 13-14 below )

Marzipan Stollen

Adapted from Wild Yeast Blog. It’s worth the time to make your own candied peel. It turns stollen from dowdy to delicious.

Ingredients


Soaker Ingredients:
– 120 grams golden raisins
– 90 grams dried figs, chopped
– 60 grams sliced almonds
– 35 grams dark rum
Sponge Ingredients:
– 120 grams all-purpose flour
– 80 grams water
– A small pinch rapid-rise yeast
Dough Ingredients:
– 350 grams all-purpose flour
– 55 grams whole milk
– 3 packages rapid-rise yeast (minus the small pinch)
– 50 grams sugar
– 53 grams egg (about one large egg)
– 8 grams salt
– ½ teaspoon cinnamon
– ½ teaspoon cardamom
– ¼ teaspoon allspice
– ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
– Grated lemon zest from ½ lemon
– Grated orange zest from ½ orange
– 275 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
– All of the sponge
– All of the soaker
– 75 grams candied orange peel (homemade or high quality)
– 75 grams candied lemon peel (homemade or high quality)
– 198 grams (7 oz.) of marzipan, divided lengthwise into four pieces
Finishing Ingredients:
– Clarified butter
– Granulated sugar
– Powdered sugar

Ingredients


Directions

  1. The night before: Combine the soaker ingredients in a bowl. Cover and leave at room temperature for about 12 hours.
  2. The night before: Combine the sponge ingredients in another bowl. Cover and leave at room temperature for about 12 hours.
  3. The night before: Make candied peel
  4. Heat milk to 105-110 degrees, add the yeast, stir and let set for 10 minutes.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all of the final dough ingredients except the soaker, peel and marzipan. Mix on slow speed until all the ingredients are incorporated, about 5 minutes.
  6. Continue mixing at medium speed until the dough comes together around the hook and no longer sticks to the sides and bottom of the bowl, about 10 minutes. It’s important to create a strong gluten network.
  7. Add the soaker and peels and mix by hand until they are evenly distributed through the dough. The fruit/peel to dough ratio will be high.
  8. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and let rise in a warm location until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
  9. Turn the dough onto the counter. Divide into four even pieces, pre-shape the dough into balls and let them rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
  10. Shape the loaves into blunt end batards (country loaf shape). With a wooden spoon handle placed lengthwise and just off center, press down firmly making a long trough. Roll the marzipan into a rope about ½ in shorter than the batard and place in the trough. Tuck the short sides of the dough up around the marzipan and fold the smaller section of dough over the longer and seal well (it should look like a hoagie roll when finished). Pick off any fruit on the outside to avoid burning. Place batards on parchment-lined insulated (helps the bottoms from over-browning)  baking sheets (two per sheet). Cover and let rise for 90 minutes in a warm location.
  11. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400F. You will need steam during the initial phase of baking, so place a shallow pan of boiling water on the bottom of the oven.
  12. Bake for 10 minutes, open the oven door briefly to allow any remaining steam to escape and carefully remove the pan of water. Bake for another 15-20 minutes. You will need to rotate the position of the baking sheets halfway through the bake to ensure even browning. Cover loaves with aluminum foil if they are browning too quickly. Cool slightly.
  13. While the loaves are still warm, brush them with clarified butter and dredge them in granulated sugar. When cool, sift powdered sugar over the loaves. Leave the stollen out overnight to let the loaves dry out and the sugar to form a crust.
  14. To store, wrap tightly in foil at room temperature. Stollen should be allowed to rest for at least 4 days before eating, so plan accordingly. After the 4-day rest period, stollen can be frozen.
  15. To serve, unwrap, re-heat stollen in the oven, dust with additional powdered sugar if needed, slice and enjoy.

Pickled Carrots

Homemade Pickled Vegetables Recipe
Like a tennis player that’s been training all year for their first match, I walk into the kitchen, full of bravado, throw the culinary ball into the air, serve it across the net and hear the words “FAULT,” followed by the words, “DOUBLE FAULT,” soon after.

Two cookie recipes in as many days – two epic fails.

Disappointment. It’s officially six days into Cookie Baking Season and I feel like a big o’ Failure. I’m a baker above anything else and this should be my time to SHINE, rather than falter. Blame the recipe. Blame the quality of the ingredients. Blame my mindset. I sound like John McEnroe.

My first attempt, an anise-scented honey cookie lightly glazed and decorated with candied orange peel, was an unmitigated disaster. The texture was all wrong – too dense – and the anise too strong, resulting in a cookie reminiscent of those hard Scandinavian licorice lozenges.

The second recipe, baked yesterday, was supposed to be delicate sandwich cookies filled with mint and dipped in milk chocolate. I was hoping for an elevated version of Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Joe Joe’s (an addiction of mine) crossed with a Girl Scout Thin Mint. What I actually created were misshapen oval disks sandwiching a dollop of minty goo similar to Crest toothpaste. I didn’t even bother with the chocolate dip – in to the trash they went as well.

Rather than squander another pound of butter, I thought I would take a break today, step away from the cookies, and try something else entirely – something that didn’t require baking. I settled on these spice-laden pickled carrots – a better late-night snacking option to a plate of cookies anyway. An array of colorful pickled veggies like these, using a variety of spice combinations, would make a great alternative to the standard holiday crudité platter – no baking required.


Pickled Carrots

  • Servings: 2 quart jars
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This pickling recipe would work with whatever fresh veggies you happened to have on hand – cauliflower, onions, beans, or beets – to name just a few.

Ingredients

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6-8 carrots, peeled, cut into sticks and lightly blanched
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon salt
  • Hot water

Directions

  1. Divide garlic, thyme, mustard seeds, allspice berries, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes, ginger, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks,peppercorns and cloves between two quart jars. Pack blanched carrot sticks tightly into jars.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar and salt and heat until boiling. Pour hot liquid into jars filling ¼” from top. If there isn’t enough vinegar mixture, fill remaining space in jars with hot water.
  3. Close jars and refrigerate at least 24 hours and up to 2 weeks.

Cranberry Swirl Bread

Cranberry Bread
This recipe is about a week too late. I should have posted it immediately after Thanksgiving – but, after hosting two back-to-back Thanksgiving dinners, I succumbed to post-holiday laziness and didn’t get around to it until today. Apologies for my tardiness. So, close your eyes, pretend it’s Black Friday, you’ve finished shopping and you’re staring at a fridge full of leftovers – including a big Tuppperware of cranberry sauce. My go-to Thanksgiving cranberry sauce makes a generous four cups of the sparingly-used condiment and, after the big T-day, I always have a bowl of leftover sauce hogging fridge space. I have a few recipes for using up the leftover sauce including cranberry panna cotta, cranberry gelato and, my personal favorite, cranberry-cherry tart. Rather than my standard array of dessert fare,  this year I wanted to make a lovely, not-too-sweet cranberry swirl bread that could be toasted, slathered with mayo and layered with leftover turkey and warm stuffing for the ultimate savory post-holiday turkey sandwich. I’m rather happy with the results – I used the bread for sandwiches on Friday, French toast on Saturday and, finally, a creamy bread pudding studded with tart cranberry swirls on Sunday.


Cranberry Swirl Bread

  • Servings: One 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf
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Adapted from Joy of Cooking’s Fast White Bread recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour, divided
  • 2 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 package Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup very warm water (115⁰ – 120⁰ – this is warmer than normal yeast activation temperature)
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup cranberry sauce, drained
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Turbinado sugar (like Sugar in the Raw) or white sugar

Directions

  1. In the bowl of the mixer, add two cups of bread flour, sugar, yeast, and salt (yeast and salt should not touch as salt can retard yeast activation). Add water and melted butter and combine on low to medium speed. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup of flour until the dough is moist by not sticky (you may not need to add the entire cup). Knead for about 10 minutes on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume (about 30 minutes).
  2. Preheat oven to 450⁰. Grease an 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pan. Punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8-inch x 12- inch rectangle. Cover dough with cranberry sauce..
  3. Starting at the short end, roll up the dough, jellyroll style, pinching the ends closed to contain the cranberry filling. Place the dough in the loaf pan, seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled in volume (about 30 minutes).
  4. Brush beaten egg over top of loaf, sprinkle with salt and turbinado sugar. Bake in 450⁰ oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350⁰ and continue baking for about 30 minutes more. If the top of the loaf is brown, cover with foil until loaf is fully cooked. Remove loaf from pan and let cool completely on a rack. Slice, toast, slather with mayo and make the best leftover turkey sandwich ever.

Sautéed Apples

Healthy Apple Dessert
I am a chunky monkey – the result of what I’ve been cooking lately. A diet of nothing but butter, sugar and flour for five months has taken its toll on my booty. I’ve been trying to get myself back in line – taste testing only a smidge of a recipe and freezing the rest – or giving it away to grateful neighbors.

But, you see, ‘just a taste’ is not enough for me because, well, I have dessert FOMO. If I don’t eat at least one confection each and every day, I’m convinced I’ve been deprived. So, I came up with this dessert that feels like decadence rather than depravation. There’s no butter, no refined sugar and no flour. That’s a triumph for me considering butter, sugar and flour are the Holy Trinity in my world. The Greek yogurt is as creamy as a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream, but packed with protein. The apples and cinnamon provide classic holiday apple pie flavor and the healthy-fat walnuts add the necessary crunch. It’s simple, nourishing and satisfying – and a foil to dessert FOMO.


Sautéed Apples

A healthy riff on Autumn apple desserts.

Ingredients

  • 1 apple, peeled and cored
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 oz. full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped maple walnuts (optional)*

Directions

  1. Cut apple into quarters and then cut quarters into 4 slices. In a medium sized skillet, combine apples with water, cinnamon and salt. Bring to boil over medium high heat then reduce to medium low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until apple slices are tender, 8-10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place yogurt on serving platter. I made a yogurt timbale by lining a ramekin with cheesecloth, pressing the yogurt into the ramekin and then inverting the timbale onto the plate, but you can also just scoop it prettily onto whatever dish you are using.
  3. Arrange warm apple slices on and around yogurt and sprinkle with maple walnuts. Serve warm.

*Maple walnuts can be made by combining 2 Tablespoons walnuts with 1 Tablespoon maple syrup in a small sauté pan. Heat ingredients until maple syrup is vigorously bubbling, reduced and evenly coating nuts. Cool and break nuts apart before using.