Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Sweet Snack, a Savory Snack and a Sweet Sweet Party Idea

I was in a holiday mood yesterday. Last year, at this time, my life was a nightmare of 18 hours a day spent writing and editing a thesis. This year, I am determind to make up for it by celebrating every holiday and festival that comes my way! All this coming week, I will be making sweets for Diwali, but today, it is a cookie.

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.

Chocolate-Walnut Biscotti

ChocBisco
(Adapted from this recipe from Epicurious, makes about 12 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.

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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

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!

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"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!

27 comments:

  1. Oh Nupur, thank you so much for your entry. Of course I am accepting it, with my both arms stretched out to you... You have no idea how much I love biscottis, mostly because of their crunch. You re right, a great gift idea...

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  2. Biscotti with coffee is soo good ! And love the popcorn idea, I used to get the bagged one's and the problem was the cravings would vanish and 1/2 a bag was still lying arnd. This way I can make manageable portions.

    And thanks for the info on the 'Drop In and Decorate' program Nupur...will try to do something :)

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  3. Nupur, your mind is not playing tricks, popcorns in India are flavored with turmeric for sure, I add turmeric, chili powder and salt to flavor mine. Store bought ones can't come close :)

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  4. Dear Nupur,

    Here's wishing you a Very Happy Diwali!
    Thanks for the biscotti recipe. We LOVE biscotti around here and I often get the Nonni's brand. I will definitely try it and include it in the Dilwali treats.
    Enjoy this Diwali to the fullest!

    Regards,
    Namita.

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  5. Thank you so much for helping to spread the word about this cookies-for-donation project. I hope we'll entice many readers to host their own cookie events during the holiday season. xoxo

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  6. Nupur, try phodnicha popcorn! It's fabulous!

    Every year in November, we have a "Great American Bake Sale" at school. People bake all sorts of goodies - from elaborate cakes to simple sugar cookies. The proceeds are then sent to a children's charity or a local organization in time for Thanksgiving.

    Can't wait to see what you're making for Diwali!

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  7. That goodness that year is behind you! and congratulations on your accomplishments!

    Looking forward to all your Diwali goodies. The chocolate biscotti begs for a glass of milk or tea :)

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  8. I love biscotti too! This looks so chocolaty and good tied up in that ribbon! And "Drop In And Decorate" is a great idea. ; )

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  9. Nupur: Lovely biscotti! How come you got only 12. Whenever I make biscotti, seems like I always end up with too many :-) .

    Yes, Indian popcorn had turmeric and may be some chili powder in it in most outlets, so YOU are right. Somehow the popcorn made that way had a lot of flavor than the 'butter' covered ones here.

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  10. What lovely ideas! The biscotti look good enough to eat right off the computer! I do remember eating popcorn in movie theatres in India that was suspiciously bright yellow...with no accompanying turmeric flavor. You can put two and two together there!
    Thanks for a nice, long, goody-filled post.
    And happy Diwali to you and all your readers.
    Kamini.

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  11. Loved the sweet presentation of the Biscotti Nupur and Advanced Diwali Wishes to u and ur family..:)..

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  12. Hi Nupur,
    The biscotti looks so decedant :) What are you making for diwali? Would love to see to get some inspiration. I am totally out of ideas this time. :)How about having a event for seeing what everyone is cooking for diwali? I will try this biscotti..it has been on my list for quite some time.

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  13. Zlamushka, thanks for hosting this lovely event! I am looking forward to getting lots of ideas for foodie gifts :)

    Priya, that bagged stuff is pretty vile, eh? You will love popcorn made this way! It tastes a lot lighter than the bagged variety.

    Indo, mmm...chili powder is next on the list :) my mouth is watering thinking about it...

    Namita, Wishing you and your family a very very Happy Diwali too! Hope you all have lots of fun and good eats!

    Lydia, this is such a great idea...it is a pleasure to spread the word about it!

    Manisha, the bake sale sounds like so much fun! At my workplace, we had a chili cook-off last week, with proceeds going to a local breast cancer organization. Fun all around, and something good coming out of it. Can't go wrong with that idea!

    Cynthia, oh yes, that biscotti got a good dunking in some piping hot tea :)

    Anali, oh, this biscotti is super chocolatey, such a treat! Thanks for stopping by :)

    Mika, this was only a half-recipe, and I think I cut rather huge slices :D I never seem to get the full yield of baked goods from a recipe! I'm not precise enough to be a baker! Good to know that I am right ;) I have witnesses to back me up now :)

    Kamini, ha ha! :) well, here the turmeric color was accompanied by true-blue turmeric flavor too! Happy Diwali to you and your family too.

    Siri, glad you like it :) Diwali wishes to you and yours too! Have a wonderful festive season!

    NC, I have a little list of goodies planned for Diwali...nothing very original, actually, all recipes inspired by fellow bloggers! Will post them on the coming weekend. Mail you if you want my inspiring links for easy Diwali goodies.
    There is a Diwali goodies event going on right now, called JFI:Diwali, so stay tuned for that round-up on the host blog: "Past, Present and Me".

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  14. What a coincidence.. I'm thinking of sending in Biscotti as my entry to Zlamushka as well :) Though what I have in mind isn't quite as chocolatey as yours. Looks great.
    I thought hard about the popcorn in india and i can't really remember if it had popcorn or not...

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  15. the biscottis look so lovely and delicious..

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  16. The biscotti looks absolutely tantalizing! Totally looking fwd to your Diwali fest this week!

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  17. yummy... and the packaging is so pretty!

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  18. Such a lovely post Nupur. I could see your personal touch in each and every post. Your unique way of presenting it with a neat write up. I really enjoy it. The biscotti and popcorns are real treat. The third picture I could not see it. Will come back later. Take care. Viji

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  19. I have wanted to make biscotti for forever and here you are with a perfect recipe for a small 'trail' batch! Perhaps, that is the size I should be baking anyway!

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  20. Hi Nupur,

    Thanks for the all the recipies, and tricks, at this moment i am eating saboodana khichadi made using microwave, a trick from your mom. Thank You to her.

    Have a question though, what is a good replacement of egg in baking ? like here can i replace egg with something else ?

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  21. i remember the turmeric popcorn too...it was yum!

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  22. Nupur those cookies look soooo good! I love the looks of that deep, dark chocolate :) Seasoning popcorn that way sounds like a great idea. I've never been keen on eating popcorn - mostly because I hate it when the hulls get caught in my teeth - but it is such an easy, healthy (not to mention yummy) snack... I may have to reconsider!

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  23. Hey Nupur
    tried ur biscotti just now, tastes ok, actually nice.. but i totally goofed up the shape so a bit disappointed. While cutting the diagonals I crumbled it up.. May be the the thickness of log i prepared was too thick/thin??!! had to cut it horizontally as well. was i supposed to? but thnx a bunch for sharing it, my hubby says it's perfect :) ! thnx..

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  24. Popcorn seems to be in the air with you and Bee popping away ;)
    And yes, there was indeed turmeric on popcorn in India.
    P.S: Lovely presentation of the biscottis...love the ribbon!

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  25. hey nupur, u have been tagged, chek my blog..happy meme!!

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  26. Laavanya, can't wait to see your version! Next time, I want to try the classic version with almonds :)

    Nags, thank you, my dear!

    Dhana, thanks so much :)

    Raaga, I tied the ribbon for the photo, then ripped it down and ate the biscotti ;)

    Viji, what a nice thing to say! Glad you like it. Have a wonderful week!

    Anita, :D I know, we managed to scraf this down in a day or two! Not good to have these lying around...

    Mru, glad you are enjoying the recipes! About egg replacements in baking, they vary according to what the egg is being used for in the recipe, etc., so I would suggest some web searches to see if you can find some good eggless biscotti recipes. I do use eggs so I never have looked into eggless baking much.

    Smita, yes, it truly was! This home-made one comes close though.

    Cathy, that's true...there is that one thing about eating popcorn! I find that some varieties have softer hulls than others...

    Abhi, cutting it horizontally?? No, that is not done, and I can imagine it would reduce the biscotti to rubble to cut it both horizontally and diagonally. Just make a rectangular-shaped log, don't over-bake it the first time around, then cut slices diagonally with a sharp serrated knife.

    Nabeela, glad you like it! OK, I have many witnesses for the turmeric so I know I am not going batty or anything ;)

    kitchen scientist, thanks so much...I will try and do it :)

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  27. Nupur - the biscottis look lovely. I have never dared to bake them, but my husband just loves them more than anything. I think for him, I should give your recipe a try. Thanks dear

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