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.

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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.

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.

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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.

 

English Scones with Creamy Orange Butter

Fresh, creamery butter. Is there anything more comforting?

I say there is.

Points to all of you who can name the movie that quote comes from. (Hint: It’s one of my favorite rom-coms and stars the very pleasant to look at Hugh Jackman.) But to the rest of you, I’ll just go ahead and re-emphasize my point: fresh creamery butter is great, but it’s made even better by what you can have it with, or what you can add to it.

I’ve always wanted to throw or at least take part in an Afternoon Tea get-together. I think it would be fun to gussy up and put out a whole Downton Abbey-style spread. I’m an absolute sucker for a tray or basket of baked goods so while I do like ginger and chamomile tea, for me the best part would definitely be getting to bake and enjoy all of the sweet/savory goodies that would be served alongside it.

There’s nothing like watching Great British Bake-off for getting into the afternoon tea ‘spirit,’ if there even is such a thing. I love baking in general, but every time I watch an episode of Bake Off, I just want to get going on whatever challenge it is that I’ve just seen the bakers take on. Sometimes they’re complex recipes, and sometimes they’re deceptively simple (i.e. so simple, they’re simple to mess up). One of those recipes would definitely have to be the scone and I thought it would be a good post to do today considering the subject– because you just can’t have a proper tea without scones.

If you’ve been following the blog for a while now, you know that this is far from my first hack at making scones, but it is the first time I’d made a proper English one. For a while I wasn’t aware that there was much of a difference between English ones and the ones I’d been used to making. Turns out that they differ in a few ways: first, they’re usually not as sweet as most other scones. They’re more supposed to be the vessel for sweeter condiments like jam or preserves. They’re also made with beaten eggs, which results in a more fluffy crumb than most flaky scones that depend only on butter and baking powder for leavening.

The ingredients may be a bit different, but I still kept the method for making these almost identical to the method I use for making scones and biscuits–it’s just the way I get the best results. I did decide to give my proper English scones my own twist by first, adding a tad bit of vanilla to the dough, and second, adding orange zest and juice. Finally, because I did say that English scones are meant to be vessels for a flavored condiment, I also whipped up an easy condiment to pair with these: fresh creamery orange butter. Doesn’t it look delicious? And it couldn’t be easier to put together: butter, orange zest and orange marmalade. That’s it.

I’ve gotta say y’all, I think I’d actually be brave enough to serve a platter of these scones up to Mary and Paul–I mean, I’d definitely still be scared, but I’m pleased enough with these so that I could do it without having a panic attack. They’re just really good. The orange in both the scones and butter is what makes such a difference. The texture of the scones is light and fluffy while the orange gives them such a fresh, clean flavor. (If lemon or lime is more to your liking, you could definitely swap out for either one with equally great results). I was frustrated at first because these didn’t rise as high as I wanted them to, but by the time I got around to eating one slathered with the butter I didn’t care anymore. Turns out, delicious food makes it hard for me to stay in a rotten mood. Cheers.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #212, co-hosted this week by  Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Antonia @ Zoale.com.

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English Scones with Creamy Orange Butter

Recipe Adapted from Cooking Channel

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Ingredients

For Scones

  • 500 grams all purpose flour
  • 80 grams unsalted butter, frozen
  • 80 grams white sugar
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 cup milk, plus more if needed

For Orange Butter

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade or preserves
  • Zest of 1 orange

Directions

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and orange zest together in a large bowl with a fork.

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

In a small bowl combine the eggs and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. Pour in the milk and orange juice. Gently stir together with a fork until the dough forms a somewhat homogenous mass.

Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour. Line one or two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat to 425°F.

Turn out the dough onto the surface. 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.

Using a 2-inch cutter dipped in flour, stamp out rounds and place them on the prepared trays. Try not to twist the cutter; just press down and then lift up and push out the dough. Re-roll any remaining dough and cut out more scones. Place the sheet pan in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Bake the scones for about 15 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

For Orange Butter: Use a handheld mixer or the paddle attachment of a standing mixer to beat together all the ingredients until light and fluffy. Store in the refrigerator.

English Tea Farthing Biscuits

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About a few months ago I got hooked on a show that popped up in the Recently Added queue of my Netflix account called The Great British Bake Off. I’d vaguely heard of it before then but didn’t really know the specifics. The amount of competitive cooking shows I like to watch is typically limited to just three: Top Chef, Chopped and The Taste. Other than that I tend to think that they too greatly resemble game shows with too many reality-show style theatrics. However, because I was bored and because it had a 4.5 star rating I figured it was worth viewing an episode or two.

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The show is a HUGE hit in the UK, having already gone through multiple seasons already and after only watching one episode, I totally understand why. There are no frills, flares or bells & whistles on the GBB. Filming takes place in a tent in the English countryside where the amateur bakers perform a combination of signature challenges where they can make a dish of their own, technical challenges of recipes that are considered ‘standard’ in baking, then showpiece recipes where they can give their own fancy interpretations to a loose guideline of a particular baking dish. It’s an incredibly simplistic show, yet for a baking enthusiast it’s completely enthralling.

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So you can imagine my disappointment when after finishing the season that was posted on Netflix, I saw that there were no additional ones put there. It’s been several months since Netflix put the one season up and no additional ones have been added since then. This pisses me off.

I’m not ready for it  to be over. If other people in the world could get more of GBB, then why shouldn’t I just because I live in America? How’s that even fair? Where’s the justice in that?

I demand equality.

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All I’ve had to console myself with the fact that I’m not getting more seasons and episodes of the GBB is that I can always rewatch what I do have on Netflix–which, I of course have been doing. I’ve also discovered since then that PBS has posted a number of the recipes from the season I watched on their website for the public to try out for themselves.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited when I found that out. My Pinterest board was very active that day.

Farthing Biscuits3

The word ‘biscuits’ actually have somewhat of a different meaning for Americans than it does for the British, or even elsewhere in general. When I first hear ‘biscuits’ I think of the thick, flaky, bready, fluffy things my grandma makes that I get to slather in butter, jam and sometimes syrup for breakfast. However, elsewhere ‘biscuits’ are actually another word for a kind of crisp and/or tender cookie or cracker that gets eaten alongside some tea or hot chocolate.

One of my favorite episodes from the season on Netflix (which was actually Season 5 in Britain) was the second one where the focus for the week was Biscuits. For the signature challenge, each one of the contestants had to make their own rendition of a Biscuit. There were lots of creative renditions shown that round but interestingly enough, the ones that caught my particular attention were the simplest of the bunch. They’re made with little more than flour, butter and a little bit of sugar but they still looked just delicious to me.

Farthing Biscuits4

I pinned it to my Pinterest recipe board and this past week I decided to try it out for myself. There is I think both good news and bad news about how my biscuits turned out.

First the bad: even though I rolled them out as thin as the recipe instructs, for some reason when these hit the oven they started to puff up and thicken, which ultimately affected how long I could bake them without letting them get too brown while trying to get them ‘crisp’. I do think they could’ve taken a bit more time in the hot box, but I wasn’t in the mood for burned biscuits. Next time maybe I could think about rolling them ‘paper thin’ and seeing if that makes them bake at the right thickness, or just leaving them in the oven longer.

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The next point isn’t necessarily a negative, but it is something of note. These bake up VERY tender and buttery but upon tasting them all on their own, the overall flavor is very…subtle. If you’re eating them alongside some tea or coffee then I think this is fine. They’d even be GREAT with some jam or preserves smeared on top. However, at the last second I decided to take half of this particular batch and ‘jazz it up’ so to speak with a quick chocolate dip that I then sprinkled with nuts. It was just what they needed, I thought, but if you tend to like your biscuits less sweet you’ll probably like these exactly the way that they are. I also made some recommendations in my rendition of the recipe for some additional flavor profiles I think would be tasty.

Happy Fiesta Friday #114, where I’ll be taking my biscuits for anyone who’s in the mood for a spot of tea 😉 Thanks to Angie and her co-host for this week: the lovely Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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English Tea Farthing Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from The Great British Baking Show

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Ingredients

For Biscuits

  • 225g (8 oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 225g (8 oz) self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
  • 85g (3 oz) lightly salted butter, plus extra to serve
  • 85g (3 oz) lard
  • 1 tsp of vanilla, lemon, orange or almond extract (optional)
  • 1 tsp orange or lemon zest (optional)

Chocolate Dip

  • 1 cup diced pecans or walnuts, crushed
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

For the biscuits:

 Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Rub in butter and lard so that mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add just enough cold water (and the extracts and zest if using) to bring the mixture together to form a stiff dough (about 5-6 tablespoons). Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a thickness just less than a £1 coin.

Using a 9cm (3½ in) round cutter cut out biscuits from the dough. Prick the top of the biscuits all over to decorate, leaving a plain 5mm/¼in border around the edge.

Transfer to wire racks or baking mesh. Place the racks/mesh on baking trays. Sprinkle with the extra sugar, then bake for 14-16 minutes, or until the biscuits are dry but not browned. Set aside to cool completely.  If eating plain, then serve the biscuits with chilled butter or jam.

If using Chocolate Dip:

Heat chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a glass measuring cup, then stir with a spoon until smooth.

Spread the chocolate dip over the biscuits, then sprinkle with nuts.

Set on a wire rack and allow for the dip to set.