Ginger Biscotti

There are a certain set of foods that I like to think of as ‘Blank Canvas’ recipes. They’re perfectly able to stand alone, delicious just the way they are. However, they’re versatile and ‘blank’ enough to be able to ‘color; (and thereby enhance) them with all kinds of different flavor profiles. A good Blank Canvas recipe should have minimal base ingredients and be pretty hard to mess up.

Biscuits are a perfect example of a Blank Canvas. They’re great on their own, but they’re also extremely versatile to the point that they’re able to be either sweet or savory. Pound cake is another great Blank Canvas. Once you have a good base recipe for a pound cake, you can add just about anything you want to it; extracts, zest, chocolate, fruit, booze, vegetables–the possibilities are endless.

I’ve shared Blank Canvas recipes many times before on the blog, both in their original form and when I’ve added the variety of flavors to enhance them. Search the Recipe Index and you’ll find many variations of biscuits, pound cake, and scones. I checked myself just now and saw that there are also currently three different kinds of biscotti to choose from. Guess what? After today, there’ll be four.

Biscotti are THE cookies for us coffee and tea drinkers. They’re minimally sweet, extra crunchy, and perfect for dunking in a cup of hot caffeine. The base recipe is also basic and versatile enough to be able to be given just about any flavor you could possibly think of, and that includes sweet AND savory.

I’ve made biscotti about four times before and I’ve tried to do something different with it each time. Today’s recipe is the latest rendition on the Blank Biscotti Canvas. Ginger is a spice that I try to throw in most of everything that I cook in general. Since it lends itself so well to sweet and savory, it was easy to incorporate here. The dough is flavored with both dried and crystallized ginger, giving it an extra boost of sweet and subtle heat. I added an iced drizzle to top off my biscotti, but it’s not necessary if you prefer to just eat them plain. They’re certainly delicious enough to do so.

************************************************************************

Ginger Biscotti

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar (light or dark), packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup finely diced crystallized ginger

For Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • a few tablespoons milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl combine the eggs and vanilla. In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, beat together the butter, sugar, spices, salt, and baking powder until mixture is smooth and creamy.

Add the egg mixture; it may look lightly curdled.

Add the flour in about 1 cup increments, mixing just until combined. Mix in the crystallized ginger.

Scrape dough out of the bowl and onto the parchment paper. Shape it into a log about 14″ long. It will be about 2 1/2″ wide and 3/4″ thick. Use either a spatula you’ve sprayed with cooking spray or your fingers that you’ve wet with water to smooth out the top of the log.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on the pan about 30 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dip your fingers into water and smooth out the top of the log again.

Wait another five minutes, then use a serrated knife to press down firmly and cut the log into 1/2″ to 3/4″ slices. Cut at a 45° angle, for long biscotti; cut crosswise slices, for shorter 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 baking sheet. Return to oven and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes. They should feel very dry, but they may still feel a little moist in the center; that’s ok. They’ll continue to dry out as they cool.

Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Once completely cooled, combine all the glaze ingredients until you have a thick-ish glaze and use a fork to drizzle over the sides of the biscotti. Allow to set for about 15 minutes until glaze is hardened.

For extra crunchy biscotti, leave them uncovered overnight to keep drying out.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #269, co-hosted this week by Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau and Ai @ Ai Made It For You.

Butter ‘Finger’ Cookies

Today’s post is another one for all the people who may be reading this and think that they can’t bake. I understand. I used to feel that way too. But believe me when I say that there are some recipes out there that are near impossible to mess up. I don’t just mean box mix recipes, either. Despite what you think, it IS possible to bake certain things from scratch, and not have to worry about blowing it because it’s just too simple.

I’ve made these cookies numerous times before when I needed a dessert to take somewhere to pass at a social function, and either didn’t have a lot of time or just didn’t feel like doing much work. Everybody loves butter cookies. These come together in minutes and bake in pretty much the same amount of time.

You probably have most, if not all, of the ingredients to make this in your house already. I think the best part is that you don’t have to worry about rolling them out and fooling with any cookie cutters. Just spoon all the dough in a bag (and yes, you *can* just use a ziploc bag and snip off the end) and pipe it out in tiny little sticks. They don’t have to be straight. In fact, I purposely piped mine into kind of oval-ish shapes so that when they baked, they would resemble little ‘fingers’.

I used vanilla emulsion, but this dough can be flavored in pretty much anyway you want. I think they’d be wonderful with lemon or orange. Once they’re done baking, you can dip them in chocolate and sprinkles to jazz them up. These are a perfect little snack to have alongside coffee, tea or cocoa. They transport very well and the freshness also lasts when stored in a sealed plastic container.

Get into these, y’all. They’re worth it.

**************************************************************

Butter 'Finger' Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Joy of Baking

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla butter emulsion (like LorAnn Oils, but vanilla extract will work fine too)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing just until combined and yellow disappears. Add the vanilla emulsion.

In a small bowl combine the flour with the salt, stirring together with a fork. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 1 cup increments, mixing just until combined.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray.

Spoon the dough into a pastry bag or a gallon size Ziploc plastic bag fitted with a decorating tip (I used a Wilton 6B tip, but if you don’t have one, it’s not necessary, they just won’t be ridged) and pipe it into curved or straight sticks that you space about 2 inches apart on the sheet. Once finished, refrigerate the sheet pan for about 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with a little bit more sugar. Bake in the oven on the middle rack until just golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.

(Note: no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #267, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com and Abbey @ Three Cats and a Girl.

Halal Style Chicken and Rice

My older sister lived in NYC for two years while she was getting her Masters. I remember that while she was there she told me about the halal carts that she bought food from in the street. She raved about the Halal Chicken, and was so positive that I would rave about it too, if I were there to try it.

Unfortunately, I still haven’t made it out to New York to try street Halal Chicken. But today’s post, I think, is a decent substitute to tide me over until I do–because that day is coming. I’m sure of it.

When food in general is called ‘halal’, it refers to food that is processed or prepared in a certain way as to be permissible under Islamic dietary laws. Halal meat is supposed to be slaughtered and cleaned in a specific way. When you refer to Halal chicken in another context, such as street food, most people (especially in the US) are going to think of it as a chicken and rice dish with primarily Mediterranean flavors.

My take on Halal Chicken starts with a yogurt marinade. I learned a few years ago when I made Chicken Shawarma that marinading chicken in yogurt is an excellent way to keep it from drying out while cooking. I wouldn’t leave the chicken in it overnight though, as the marinade does have lemon juice. Sometimes if chicken sits too long in an acidic marinade, the acid in the lemon could begin to break down the proteins in the meat, and it will end up cooking mushy. A few hours is all this one needs.

I used my electric griddle to cook the chicken, but if it’s a bit warmer where you are and you’ve got one, I think that grilling it would give even better flavor. If you’ve got neither one of those, a cast iron or regular skillet will work fine as well. When the chicken seared on my griddle, I found that the residual yogurt created a blackened crust on the outside of it that is often associated with halal chicken. It smelled soooo good while it was cooking.

The rice and white sauce come together easily and quickly. The turmeric and cumin are a must to give the rice that warm, smoky taste. I also cook mine in chicken broth to give added flavor. I’m so proud that when my sister tried this, she announced that it tasted JUST like the halal chicken she used to buy on the streets of New York. High praise indeed. If you’re like me and have never been to NYC and still want to find out what the fuss is about the halal chicken, maybe you’d like to try this out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

**********************************************************************

Halal Style Chicken and Rice

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

Ingredients

For the Chicken:

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac
  • salt and pepper
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups whole fat plain yogurt
  • 2 1/2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast

For the Rice:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain Basmati rice
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper

For White Sauce:

  • 1 cup of whole fat, plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Place the chicken breast in gallon size resealable plastic bags, or in one large container.

Combine the lemon juice, herbs, spices, garlic, olive oil and yogurt together in a blender. Taste and adjust for seasoning, then pour over the chicken breast.

Turn the sealed bags over a few times to make sure marinade throughly covers chicken. Refrigerate for at least one hour and up to four hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium high heat in a skillet, or you can use a griddle, like I did.

Cook chicken until browned on its sides, about 4 minutes per side. If need be, you can finish it in the oven; place a wire rack over a foil lined sheet pan and bake chicken for about an additional 5-10 minutes. (The inner temp should read about 165 degrees Fahrenheit)

Keep chicken loosely covered with foil while you make the rice.

Melt the butter in the bottom of a medium size pot. Add the turmeric and cumin and cook until fragrant but not quite browned, about 1 minute.

Add the rice and stir. Add the chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring the heat the high and allow to come to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes without disturbing.

Remove from the heat and allow to sit for an additional 15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.

For the sauce: combine all of the ingredients together and taste and adjust for seasoning.

Serve with pita bread, lettuce and tomatoes and hummus.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #266, co-hosted this week by Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Iced Orange Cream Scones

Watching Downton Abbey always makes me have this random and somewhat impractical wish to drop everything, go off the grid and open a tea room somewhere.

I didn’t use to like it at all, but I’ve gotten into drinking a lot more tea over the past few years. I’m partial to spicy ones, both for flavor and because they really help cure some of my digestive woes.

Unsurprisingly, my favorite part of running a tea room would be the menu planning. Tea rooms menus feature all kind of dainty and delicious looking treats. I have yet to tackle making cucumber or watercress sandwiches. I still haven’t checked off the Victoria Sandwich Cake from my Baking Bucket List (soon come though). There is one staple from the tea menu that I’ve made my share of: the almighty scone.

I’ve been trying to bring my scone making technique up to par with my biscuit making one, especially as the method for making them is so similar. I have a whole post dedicated to laying out the steps for what I consider to be the best biscuits I’ve ever made. I intend to do one for scones too, but in the meanwhile I wanted to share a recipe I tested along the way to getting to Scone Nirvana.

It starts with one very crucial ingredient: heavy cream. Heavy cream not only helps with the crumb of the scone, the added fat in it helps with a higher rise. I also let the scone dough rest in the fridge overnight. It gave the gluten time to rest and firm up so that when I cut them out, the edges weren’t as easily compressed as they could be if they were still soft. They baked up so beautifully that I seriously considered leaving them plain, but I decided to go along with my original idea of trying out how they would hold up to a thin layer of icing. The answer, again, was beautifully.

If my whimsical tea room idea were a reality, this would without question be going onto the menu. Although they’re technically scones, the crumb is so delicate and fluffy that they honestly reminded me of a dense cake. The icing process does admittedly require some time and attention, but it’s worth it. They’re divine, with or without a cup of tea on the side.

**************************************************************

Iced Orange Cream Scones

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons butter) frozen
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, plus more if needed

For Icing

  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 7 tablespoons of water, enough to make a thin glaze
  • orange zest, for garnish, optional

Directions

Combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and stir together with a fork. Beat the eggs together with the vanilla in a small bowl with a fork and set aside.

Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir in the orange zest.

Make a well in the center. Pour in the beaten egg-vanilla mixture. Pour in the heavy cream. Use a large fork and a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional heavy cream until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the scones to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Wrap the rectangle in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the scone dough out onto it. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Cut the remaining dough into squares, about 2″ each. Cut the squares into triangles. (You can also leave some as squares if you want to keep them a little bigger; the sizes here are up to you).

Remove the cut scones to a baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper, rather close to each other (it will help them rise higher). Place the pan of scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered.

Bake the scones for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven, and allow the scones to cool right on the pan. When they’re cool, if you wish, you can cut each scone in half once again to make even tinier scones. Or, you can leave them as is.

For the icing: stir together the powdered sugar and enough of the water to make a glaze that is not so watery that it’s runny, but not too thick so that it won’t run down the sides of the scones.

Line another baking sheet with foil and a wire rack and set next to your bowl of icing.

Place a scone upside down into the bowl of icing. Gently lift it out, right side up and balance it on a spatula (the kind you’d use to flip pancakes) As the icing starts to run down the sides, use a fork to help spread it around evenly. Place the iced scone on the wire rack and sprinkle with orange zest.

Repeat process with the rest of the scones. Allow to sit for at least one hour, until the icing has hardened.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #265, co-hosted this week by Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives.