Sunday, December 12, 2010

If you can only make one cookie...let this be it.

While there hasn't been a lot of writing on this blog, it is at least an accurate reflection of a lack of cooking here, as well! My time to create decent meals is virtually non-existent, and while I have managed to slap together the odd soup here and there, it's not been particularly noteworthy, so do NOT feel that you're missing out on the deep secret to the perfect risotto or anything. I am up to my eyeballs in the two jobs, and while it's a bit of a juggling act to keep a steady stream of clean clothes AND appear at work in a timely and semi-coherent manner, I'm very happy with both.

One of the sadnesses of my time being curtailed, however, is inadequate baking time for holiday cookies. I tend to pride myself on baking 6 or 7 varieties of fabulous cookies every year, and giving plates to those I love (or at least want to impress). While I briefly contemplated doing midnight baking to maintain the standard, I finally concluded that that was insanity, and settled on doing one cookie in abundance. Since I also have a great deal of far flung family (gosh, that was alliterative, wasn't it?), a sturdy cookie that held up to a little time and/or shipping stress was in order. And for that, friends and neighbors, we have the always lovely Italians to thank for.....biscotti! Yep...that coffeehouse staple that is usually dry and oddly flavorless can actually be delicious, and much sought after! I've made permutations of the same recipe for several years, and they are always extremely well recieved. Not unlike the granola recipe, it lends itself well to whatever the hell you want to add or subtract. Don't like cranberries? Add dried apricots! Or double the chocolate! Dip the damn things in chocolate! I like to echo the flavor of the cookie itself in a couple different ways, so I use almonds in the batter, and Amaretto both IN the batter and as a basting liquid when they come out of the oven after their final baking. Since booze improves almost all baked goods, take a gander at your liquor cabinet and let it guide you. I think Grand Marnier could be used to delicious effect, or bourbon (with dark chocolate and pecans...yum!), or Kahlua, or... you get the idea, here.

While the cookies are not at all difficult to make, they do require two bakings, which just tacks a little extra time onto the process. You bake them once as two logs, let them cool, slice them, and then bake the slices (that's what you see in the photo). You will be rewarded for your efforts with a cookie that lends itself perfectly to dipping in coffee for breakfast, or in a digestif (Cognac or Vin Santo are good choices) after a meal. And if you happen to tuck some in with presents for the holidays, you are sure to be viewed in a more favorable light!

Chocolate, Cranberry & Almond Biscotti


3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tbsp canola oil
2 1/2 tsp almond extract (or amaretto, bourbon, whatever)
3/4 cup slivered almonds
1 cup dried, sweetened cranberries
3/4 cup chocolate chunks/chips

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats, if you've got them.
  • Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.
  • Using electric mixer, beat sugar, eggs, oil and almond extract (or booze) in large bowl until well blended.
  • Add flour mixture to sugar & egg mixture and beat until smooth.
  • Stir in nuts, cranberries and chocolate bits.
  • Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls in 2 long strips on prepared baking sheets. Using wet fingers, shape each strip into a roughly 3-inch wide log, pressing evenly. They may be a bit lumpy.
  • Bake logs until lightly browned and almost firm to the touch, about 30 minutes.
  • Cool logs on sheets about 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
  • Carefully slide logs onto cutting board. Cut each log on the diagonal into generous 1/2 inch thick slices. Stand each slice upright, spacing about 1/4 inch apart, on prepared baking sheets. They'll want to tip over. Speak firmly to them, and don't let them.
  • Bake until pale golden, about 20 minutes. (They may come out of the oven soft, but will firm up as they cool, and they age beautifully.)
  • Baste tops and sides of cookies in Amaretto.
  • Cool completely on baking sheet.

Makes about 20 decent sized cookies.

Happy Winter Holiday of Your Choosing to all of you!

(And I apologize for the crappy was long after sunset when I made these, and I could not get decent light for anything at all.)