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.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Biscotti

chocolate-chip-cookie-sticks1

When I first started baking cookies, I used to get frustrated a lot. I really wasn’t that good at it for a while. I hit a lot of…speed bumps that would get in the way of me getting the results that I wanted.

These speed bumps varied from recipe to recipe but if I had to rank them, I’d say that the number one issue I would have MOST frequently is spreading.

Just about all of my cookies would spread into flat, thin pancakes. I absolutely HATED it.  To this day the memory is triggering.

For some recipes, flat cookies (although not aesthetically pleasing) aren’t so bad and will pass. However, when it comes to others, a flat disk just won’t do for looks or taste.

If you look up practically any cookie recipe on this blog, I’m just about positive that the directions will direct you to chill the dough in the fridge for at least one hour before baking. I’ve intentionally modified recipes I’ve read elsewhere and chilled my dough even when they do not direct to just because from my experience, most traditional drop, cutout or rolled cookie doughs DO need to be chilled at least a little while to minimize spreading and give them the right height and lift.  They just do. Trust me on this, guys. If your cookies frequently spread in the oven, start chilling the dough in the fridge for at least an hour, bake, then get back to me and tell me that it didn’t help your results.

Off the top of my head, I can only think of maybe…two or three instances where I made cookies that I didn’t refrigerate the dough and still got the results I wanted. The subject of today’s recipe is one of those exceptions: biscotti. Why doesn’t biscotti need to be chilled? Well for one, the dough isn’t nearly as wet as other cookie doughs. Wet/moist cookie dough makes cookies that spread in the oven. (Remember that for other recipes; this why chilling them in the fridge helps.)

Biscotti dough is usually first shaped into an oblong mass on a sheet pan, then baked as a whole in the oven until just set. After that, it’s removed and given some time to cool. From there, what would be a giant soft cookie is then sliced into straight or diagonal sticks that are then baked a second time. During this second bake, all of the residual moisture is dried out of the biscotti, giving them that traditional crisp, crunchy texture.

So far as I’m concerned, I think there is but one downside to making chocolate chip cookies from scratch: the resting period in the fridge, which also means that whenever I make them, I’ll have to plan ahead a day in advance to satisfy my craving. This isn’t always ideal. That’s one of the reasons why this recipe is so awesome: it’s a CCC recipe where there’s absolutely no chilling time required and there’s also no need to worry about that pesky spreading problem.

Like traditional biscotti, this dough is first baked in one mass. I spread it in a glass square baking dish, which did help to give the outer edges more definition–if/when you try this, just make sure you line your pan with aluminum foil so that when you have to take it out to slice, it’s one easy lift. After the slicing, the individual biscotti are arrayed onto a sheet pan and baked off for a second time. They won’t spread. Promise. The first bake took care of that problem. This second one is just to take them out of that realm of ‘soft chocolate chip cookies’ to crispy, crunchy chocolate chip flavored biscotti.

Traditional Italian biscotti is intentionally made so crispy that it HAS to be dunked in a cup of coffee or tea just to soften the tight, crunchy crumb enough to bite. These biscotti are certainly not as tough as all that. However, with this recipe I’ve now given you an excuse to essentially, eat a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast alongside your morning cup of Joe or Earl Grey.

You’re welcome.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #175, co-hosted this week by Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Suzanne @ A Pug in the Kitchen.

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

Chocolate Chip Cookie Biscotti

Recipe Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Print

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/2cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces (about 1 cup) coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate

 

Directions

Line a 13 x 9 square pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and shortening for about 3 minutes. Add the sugars and baking soda and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about another 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla, all while scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure even mixing.

Add the flour in batches, mixing just until combined. Stir in the chocolate as best you can.

Spray your spatula with cooking spray, or sprinkle and rub both sides with flour. Spread and press the cookie dough in an even layer in the pan. Bake in the oven for 22 to 25 minutes, until set and the edges are golden brown.

Cool in the pan for one hour. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Use the edges of the foil or parchment paper to lift out of the pan. Use a sharp knife or bench scraper to cut the baked dough into strips/logs. Place them, cut side down, on an ungreased or lined cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until browned and edges are crispy. (They may still be a little soft in the middles. That’s ok.)

Carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely; they will harden and crispen fully as they cool.

Vanilla Biscotti

Biscotti2

12 Days of Christmas {Treats}

I thought I’d kick off this post with some random facts about Christmas that you may or may not have known before:

  1. The common abbreviation of Christmas to “Xmas” is derived from the Greek alphabet. “Chi,” the first letter of Christ’s name in the Greek alphabet, is written as “X.” (So I guess all the ‘War on Christmas’ propoganda is a bunch of bologna. Go figure).
  2. The earliest known Christmas tree decorations were apples. (We actually had fake apple ornaments on the Christmas tree from my childhood. I never quite understood why until now).
  3. The most expensively dressed Christmas tree was valued at $11,026,900 and was displayed by the Emirates Palace in the United Arab Emirates last year. (That tree better be trimmed in “decorations from Tiffany’s” as  the song goes, that’s for sure.)

Biscotti1

I’ll give you guys some more trivia throughout the series, but for now let’s get down to treats. For the second day of our Christmas treat series, I wanted to try something new that I’ve never tried before, both in the kitchen and in general. Biscotti were something that I’ve heard of but never really thought I would care for. They’re essentially twice baked cookies that are meant to be dunked into coffee to make them soft enough to bite into, as the traditional Italian style ones are quite hard. The thought of jaw-breaker cookies was never very appetizing to me, so I never bought any that I would see at Starbucks. Interestingly enough, when I was brainstorming ideas for the series, biscotti came to my mind. I tried to ignore it, but it just kept coming up.

Biscotti4

You guys know me by now. Once I get an ‘itch’ to cook a new recipe, I’m gonna follow through with it. There are a TON of biscotti recipes online, but eventually I settled on this one for two reasons: #1, it’s supposed to be an ‘American’ biscotti which means that it won’t chip a tooth when you take a bite out of it without coffee, and #2, it’s a vanilla biscotti- and I love ANYTHING that’s vanilla flavored.

Biscotti3

They looked pretty good on their own when they finished their second round in the oven, but I went ahead and threw together a basic powdered sugar icing that I flavored with milk and vanilla extract, then topped them with red and green sprinkles. I think it makes them look so much more festive and ‘Christmas-ey’, don’t you think?

(Click on the Picture for a link to the YouTube playlist. You know you want to.)

Today’s Christmas album recommendation is for A Special Christmas by SWV- or, the Sisters with Voices. Anyone who was or still is a fan of the old school R & B from the 90’s (like me) is going to be a huge SWV fan. Their songs just never seem to get old, and their Christmas album is no exception. They give a smooth rendition to the traditional Christmas carols that are very reminiscent of 90’s music. It’s been apart of my must-haves Christmas collection for years now. It definitely should be apart of yours too.

Favorite Tracks: “The Christmas Song”, “Give Love on Christmas Day”, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “Christmas Ain’t Christmas (Without the One You Love)”

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

Vanilla Biscotti

Recipe Courtesy of King Arthur Flour

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

Directions

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) one large (about 18″ x 13″) baking sheet.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, almond extract (if you’re using it), and baking powder until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

3. 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.

4. Plop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Divide it in half, and shape it into two 9 1/2″ x 2″ logs, about 3/4″ tall. Straighten the logs, and smooth their tops and sides; a wet spatula or wet bowl scraper works well here. Sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired, pressing it in gently.

5. Bake the dough for 25 minutes. Remove it from the oven.

6. Using a spray bottle filled with room-temperature water, lightly but thoroughly spritz the logs, 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.

7. Wait 5 minutes, then use a sharp chef’s knife or 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.

8. Set the biscotti on edge on the prepared baking sheet. Return the biscotti to the oven, and bake them for 25 to 30 minutes, until 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.

9. Remove the biscotti from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool. Store airtight at room temperature; they’ll stay good for weeks.

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