Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Looking for an edible, long lasting, road-worthy, portable holiday gift to send to junior’s teachers or perhaps a far-flung friend in East Africa via Canada Post? Holiday shipping deadlines are fast approaching! Explore no further. Follow Caesar and Columbus’ command and say Hello to biscotti boot camp. This hard-as-a-rock, dippable, shippable snack with a shelf-life of infinity is suitable for troops and teachers alike. Columbus rationed biscotti to his crew on board his sailing vessels and Newfoundland fishermen to this day delight in dipping their “hard-tack” (hard bread) in tea. Let me break it to you, biscotti is super easy to create a la maison.

Biscotti is derived from the Latin word “Bis” for twice and “Coctum” (cotto), meaning baked. This twice-baked, hard cookie served as a dietary staple for the Roman Legions and many seafarers throughout history being famous for its super-duper indestructible powers during transport, everlasting shelf life and nourishing qualities for troops on the go. Biscotti’s real credit goes to a crafty Tuscan baker who perfected the crunchy, dry mixture by adding almonds and suggesting the handy snack be dipped in the local sweet wine. Today, Canadians from coast to coast delight in dipping their biscotti in coffee, tea, cider or hot chocolate and even sweet wine. Take the plunge and try these biscotti recipes at home. I can't decide which is my favourite but since the Candy Cane variety struck such a cute pose, I chose it to be first:

Candy Cane Biscotti

1/2 cup butter softened

1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2/3 cup finely crushed peppermint candy canes (Tip: Use large candy canes and grind them up in a food processor. Pu on your ear muffs first. It's a very noisy activity!)

For glaze (optional)

¼ cup crushed candy canes

¼ cup red decorating icing

Heat oven to 350. Combine butter and sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often until creamy. Add eggs; continue beating until well mixed. Reduce speed to low. Add flour and baking powder; continue beating until well mixed. Stir in crushed candy. Divide dough into fourths on lightly floured surface. Shape each fourth into 9 x 1 1/2 inch round logs with lightly floured hands. Place logs 3 inches apart onto lightly greased or parchment paper lined large cookie sheet.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until tops are cracked and ends just start to turn light brown. Remove from oven; reduce temperature to 325. Cool logs 10 minutes on cookie sheet.

Carefully remove logs to cutting surface. Cut each log into 1/2 inch slices with sharp serrated knife. [Discard ends] Arrange pieces on same cookie sheet, cut-side down.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, turning once, or until cookies are light golden brown and crisp on both sides. Place onto cool rack; cool completely. Makes 24 biscotti.

Optional glaze:

Place cooled biscotti on wax paper. Warm ¼ cup red decorating icing in the microwave to a runny consistency. Drizzle glaze over top in a zigzag pattern with a fork. Dip each cookie in crushed candy canes. Allow glaze and topping to set before storing in an airtight container for up to one month, or freeze for several months.

Gingerbread biscotti

1 cup whole or slivered almonds, toasted
3/4 cup sugar
½ cup butter
1/2 cup dark molasses,
1/4 cup fresh ginger; minced
3 eggs
3 cups flour

1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter, molasses, and ginger until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and almonds. Add to egg mixture; stir to blend. On prepared baking sheets, use well-floured hands to pat dough into 2 logs, 2 inches in diameter. Bake until browned at edges and springy to touch, about 25 minutes; switch positions of pans halfway through baking. Let loaves stand on baking sheets until cool to touch, then using a bread knife cut into slices on an angle. Place slices on cookie sheet and return to oven and bake at 350 F. until cookies are brown, 15 to 18 minutes longer; switch positions of pans halfway through baking. Transfer biscotti to racks and let cool completely. Serve, or store airtight up to 1 month; freeze for longer storage. Makes 24 pieces.

Holiday biscotti

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup chopped candied red cherries
1/4 cup chopped candied green cherries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Egg wash: (optional)
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp water.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder; set aside. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in almond extract. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in candied cherries, white chocolate chips, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. With lightly floured hands, shape dough into two 10-inch long by 3-inch wide loaves. Place loaves on prepared cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Optional. In a small bowl, beat together 1 egg and 1 tbsp water. Brush each loaf with egg wash. Bake 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool loaves for 10 minutes and then with a very sharp serrated knife cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices. Place slices cut side down on cookie sheet and return to even for 10 minutes. Turn slices over and bake an additional 5 minutes. Makes 24 biscotti.

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