Biscotti are traditional Italian cookies, and the name refers to the fact that these are bakes twice. The dough is first patted into a log, baked until it is about half-cooked, then sliced diagonally into long cookies that are baked again until they are dry and crisp. Traditional bicotti are made from simple ingredients such as flour, sugar and eggs, with an almond and anise flavor (the latter has a flavor similar to fennel/saunf). Biscotti is very hard; a cookie definitely designed for dunking (into sweet wine or espresso, traditionally) rather than just eating out of hand.
Like all other traditional recipes, people like to take the concept and run with it, coming up with all kinds of variations. The recipe I used is a decadent one- full of chocolate and walnuts. This recipe also calls for some butter, and results in a cookie that is soft enough to eat on its own, although it is still delightful when dunked! I used a recipe from Epicurious and, as a trial attempt, halved the recipe to make a dozen biscotti.
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients:
1 C AP flour
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder (I use a fair-trade brand)
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2. In another bowl, cream together...
3 T soft unsalted butter
1/3 C sugar
3. Beat in 1 egg into the butter-sugar mixture.
4. Stir in the dry ingredients to make the dough. Add 1/2 C toasted chopped walnuts and a handful of chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate).
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pat the dough into a log, place on a greased baking sheet and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until firm to the touch.
6. Cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cutting board and cut into diagonal slices using a serrated knife. At this point, the log can start crumbling, so be careful not to overbake it.
7. Lay the slices on the baking sheet and re-bake for 10-15 minutes on each side or until they are dry. They will become fully crispy as they cool down.
The result was a delicious cookie that was chocolatey to the core! I'm sending the biscotti over to Zlamushka for the Spoonful of Christmas event. This event is all about making and giving home-made food gifts. Biscotti makes a great gift because it is a cookie with a longer shelf life than most other cookies (it does not have much moisture). Place biscotti in a bag, tie it with a beautiful ribbon and these crunchy cookies are all set to make someone's day!
For a gorgeous collection of sweet and savory gift ideas from the kitchen, go visit Zlamushka's round-up.
I am a little bit of a snack addict. OK, I am ALL snack addict- I might as well face facts. Here is a snack I often fix for myself in the evenings when the snack cravings really attack. Making popcorn from scratch results in no trash (as opposed to the mountain of packaging from the microwave popcorn bags), takes about 5 minutes from start to finish, costs pennies per serving (even though I use organic corn), and gives me a serving of whole grain and some fiber. Apart from that heavenly popcorn aroma that just makes my mouth water in a classic Pavlovian response. I use a microwave simply because mine is a powerful one that does a beautiful job of making popcorn, but it can be made just as easily on the stove top. I remember eating popcorn flavored with salt and turmeric in Indian movie theatres (but V says he has never tasted popcorn with turmeric, so I am a little confused and wondering if my memory is playing tricks). One could flavor popcorn with just about anything in the spice cabinet. or with nothing, and just enjoy the pure corn taste.
Bagless Microwave Popcorn
In a glass bowl, toss together 1/4 C corn (the kind that is for making popcorn), 1 t oil, and a sprinkling of salt and turmeric powder. Cover the bowl *loosely* (I place a lid partially...one could also use a paper plate). Microwave on high. The popping will start, then slow down. Turn off the microwave when there are 2-3 second intervals between pops. In my microwave, this takes about 3.5 minutes.
I might also try popping some plain popcorn and then tempering it to make popcorn chivda. That might be nice for Diwali!
"Drop In And Decorate"I wanted to spread the word about a really fun holiday party idea. It comes from a blogger I adore and admire: Lydia of The Perfect Pantry. The festive season always translates into lots of happy gatherings of family and friends. While it is fun to just get together and chat endlessly and eat and drink, it is also a nice change to get together over a common activity. I always seem to have more fun when there is something more to a party, whether it is a board game or a poetry reading, or some arts and crafts.
Lydia has come up with a wonderful idea called Drop In and Decorate: Cookies for Donation. The idea is that family or friends (or neighbors or co-workers or all of the above!) get together and enjoy themselves at a cookie-decorating party: bringing cookies to life with all kinds of whimsical designs and outrageous colors. The cookies are then wrapped up as adorable little one-of-a-kind gifts and donated to any local organization where they will bring cheer to those who are perhaps not as fortunate as we are. After all, local shelters and food pantries provide basic meals, but it is unlikely that families and children facing adverse times will get special treats to make the holidays memorable.
Lydia tells us the engaging story of how this holiday tradition got started. The Drop In and Decorate website has a free downloadable guide for hosting your own cookie decorating party and advice on how and where to donate the beautiful cookies you create. What a wonderful way to have a lot of fun, create something one-of-a-kind with your own hands, and then get a chance to share it with others!