Friday, November 12, 2010

Comfort in the Kitchen: The Perfect Beginers Recipe for Holiday Treats

I am going to be out of town this weekend for a wedding, so this week has been very hectic and busy with last minute preparations for a weekend in Chicago. I this is really the first time I have had off since the Nantucket trip in August. So I am delighted to have a full weekend off work and away from home. I will be gone for a full 48 hours and hopefully I will be able to get some great pictures while we are in the city.

White Chocolate & Cranberry Biscotti


 I am in full Thanksgiving prep mode now, so I will have some delicious and easy recipes to share with you in the next weeks. I do have to get Thanksgiving out of the way, Hanukkah starts the second of December. OY!  I actually feel like the Road Runner sometimes during the last 3 months of the year... between Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas. It is a crazy time for everyone, with all the cooking, baking and roasting. I absolutely love spending time in my very cramped  kitchen and when hours and days later you can still smell chocolate, cinnamon and butter, it makes my day. But some days I can feel my feet turn into the whirl of Road Runner, running out of time, out of counter and fridge space.

Now I have to let you know right up front, that I didn't make this biscotti, my mom made it and it was so delicious that I had to set aside a few biscotti so I could take the pictures before they were all gone. I know this will become a holiday favorite for you.

American-Style Vanilla Cranberry Biscotti
From King Arthur Flour Recipes
Here it is, the simplest, easiest biscotti recipe you'll ever follow. Biscotti bake twice rather than once, and thus take a bit longer start-to-finish than normal drop cookies. But the dough is put together exactly like drop cookie dough. And if your kitchen skills include shaping a meatloaf and slicing a loaf of bread, you've got what it takes to make delicious, gorgeous biscotti.

6 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) one large (about 18" x 13") baking sheet.
In a medium-sized bowl, beat the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and baking powder until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs; the batter may look slightly curdled. At low speed of your mixer, add the flour, stirring until smooth; the dough will be sticky.

Plop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Shape it into a log that’s about 14" long x 2 ½" wide x ¾" thick. Straighten the log, and smooth its top and sides; a wet spatula or wet bowl scraper works well here.
Note: For extra-long, bistro-style biscotti, pat the dough into a lightly greased 12" x 5 1/2" biscotti pan.

Bake the dough for 25 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool on the pan anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes; just work it into the schedule of whatever else you’re doing in the kitchen. Using a spray bottle filled with room-temperature water, lightly but thoroughly spritz the log, making sure to cover the sides as well as the top. Softening the crust just this little bit will make slicing the biscotti much easier.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Wait another 5 minutes, then use a serrated knife to cut the log crosswise into 1⁄2" to 3⁄4" slices. Or cut the biscotti on the diagonal—for fewer, longer biscotti. As you’re slicing, be sure to cut straight up and down, perpendicular to the pan; if you cut unevenly, biscotti may be thicker at the top than the bottom, and they’ll topple over during their second bake.

Set the biscotti on edge on the prepared baking sheet. Return the biscotti to the oven, and bake them for 25 to 30 minutes, till they feel very dry and are beginning to turn golden. They’ll still feel a tiny bit moist in the very center, if you break off a piece; but they’ll continue to dry out as they cool. Remove the biscotti from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool.

Yield: 3 dozen 3 1⁄2" biscotti, when cut crosswise. Or about 1 1/2 dozen biscotti cut on the diagonal; the exact yield will depend upon just how much of a slant you cut them on.

Delicious Variations: Add up to 2 cups nuts, dried fruit (dried, not fresh), or chips to the dough, along with the flour. Adjust the spice to suit the add-in, if desired; e.g., add 1 teaspoon cinnamon with 1 cup chopped dried apple and 1 cup diced pecans. Or substitute hazelnut, butter-rum, or your favorite flavor for the vanilla. A classic Italian anise biscotti is made with 1/2 teaspoon anise extract (or 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon anise oil, to taste), and 1 tablespoon fennel seeds.


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