Virtual Cookie Exchange — Cranberry Pumpkin Biscotti & Gingerbread Biscotti {Recipe}

 

OK, I have a confession to make. I have been slow, make that very slow, to get into the holiday spirit this year. Maybe it’s because we’ve all been sick around here. Maybe it’s the thought of gearing up for another tax season. Maybe it’s the weather. But whatever the reason (his heart, or his shoes), I’ve been a bit of a Grinch so far this Christmas. In fact, if it weren’t for the kids, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have bothered putting up the tree.

But put up the tree we did. And about the time I was starting to get into the spirit — adorning the house with all of the Christmas decorations, old and new, and listening to Christmas music on the radio — I got an e-mail from Di over at Di’s Kitchen Notebook inviting me to participate in a Virtual Cookie Exchange. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about cooking and baking bloggers, it’s that they’re a sociable and creative lot. So even though I had no idea what a “virtual” cookie exchange was, I knew it would be fun.

The set up was simple: we would all pick a cookie recipe — a family favorite, something we’ve been wanting to try, or even a new recipe we’re working on — bake it, snap some pictures, and post the recipe on our blogs on the same date (December 13). I signed up right away, even though I had no idea what I would bake.

As it turns out, I decided to make two recipes, one that I had made before and another one that I have had in mind for a while but haven’t tried to make yet. And to make it even more fun,  a bunch of the people in the cookie exchange decided to Twitterbake our cookies together the other day. So, with one recipe in hand and the other in mind, I hit the kitchen at the designated time and started baking.

The first recipe I made was the one I was inventing — Cranberry Pumpkin Biscotti. I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted to make them, so I started with a rough outline of a recipe and took notes as I put it together. They came out really well. This is a recipe I’m happy to share, and one I will be making for years to come.

Cranberry Pumpkin Biscotti

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup solid-pack canned pumpkin
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup whole fresh cranberries
3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
 

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2.  Mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and spice in a large bowl and set aside.

3.  Put eggs in bowl of electric mixer.  Beat at medium speed until lemony in color, about one minute.  Add pumpkin, butter, and vanilla and mix on low speed to combine.

4.  Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture in three additions, mixing well on low speed after each addition.  Add cranberries and pecans.  Stir into dough with mixer or by hand.

5.  Place dough on a lightly floured surface.  Lightly flour your hands.  Shape the dough into a log.  Divide log into two pieces with a bench scraper and roll each piece into a log about 15 x 2 inches.   Place the logs on the prepared baking sheet a few inches apart.  Flatten the logs so the tops are even.

6.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until tops are golden brown and firm to the touch.  (It’s OK if they seem a little underbaked at this point.  In fact, it’s better to underbake them then overbake or they will crumble when you cut them.)  Remove from oven and place logs on a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes.

7.  Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

8.  After the logs have cooled, transfer each to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices.  Don’t push down as you cut; let the knife do the work.  Place the slices cut side down on a baking sheet.

9.  Bake 12-15 minutes, until biscotti are dry.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Yield: about 3 dozen biscotti

Shaped and flattened logs

 

After first bake

Sliced and ready for second bake

Et voila!

The second recipe I made was one I have made before. I don’t remember where I got the original recipe (online somewhere), but I’ve tinkered with it enough to call it my own.

Gingerbread Biscotti

Gingerbread Biscotti

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup molasses
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole raw almonds

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2.  In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.  Set aside.

3.  Measure the butter and molasses into the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until light, about one minute.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  The batter may appear separated at this point. That’s fine. It will come together as soon as the flour is added. 

4.  Mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture on low speed in three additions, mixing well after each addition.  Gently stir in the almonds with mixer or spoon.

5.  Place dough on a lightly floured surface.  Lightly flour your hands.  Shape the dough into a log.  Divide log into two pieces and roll each piece into a log about 15 x 2 inches.   Place the logs on the prepared baking sheet a few inches apart.  Flatten the logs so the tops are even.

6.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until tops are firm to the touch. Remove from oven and place logs on a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes.

7.  Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

8.  After the logs have cooled, transfer each to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices.  Place the slices cut side down on a baking sheet.

9.  Bake 12-15 minutes, until biscotti are dry.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Yield: about 3 dozen biscotti

Tip:  After adding butter to mixer bowl, use butter wrapper to grease measuring cup so molasses will release from cup without sticking.

Check out the roundup over at Di’s site to see what everyone else is baking. And if you try the biscotti, let me know what you think.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

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Fruitcake Biscotti

I was looking for something original to take for this year’s cookie exchange at work. A friend of mine suggested biscotti, which reminded me of the pumpkin and gingerbread biscotti recipes I made a while back and took into work. Granted, people will eat nearly anything you take to the office; but these really were a big hit.

So, I would make biscotti for the cookie exchange. But I needed something original and holiday-oriented. Then I got to thinking: does anything say Christmas more than fruitcake? I did a Google search for “fruitcake biscotti”, and I found some recipes. But nothing that really impressed me. So I decided to invent my own recipe.

I had a few goals in mind. I knew I wanted to use candied citrus peel, dried mixed fruit, and fiori di sicilia. And bourbon. (I know rum would have been more traditional, but I’m partial to bourbon.) Finally, and most importantly, I wanted it to have the essence of fruitcake but not to taste like a dried-out fruitcake. In fact, I hesitated to use the word “fruitcake”, as so many people have negative associations with it. In the end, I stuck with the name, because it was descriptive and, I hoped, might change some opinions about this wonderful holiday treat.

And I think I got it right. Try it out and let me know what you think.

Fruitcake Biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried mixed fruit
  • 1/2 cup candied mixed citrus peel
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 2/3 cup raw whole almonds
  •  1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon fiori di sicilia
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Put fruit and citrus peel in small bowl. Add bourbon and soak for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Toast almonds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, shaking pan often, until lightly toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool, then coarsely chop almonds.
  4. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed in electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add fiori di sicilia and almond extract and mix well.
  5. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter mixture, and beat well. Add fruit and almonds and mix well.
  6. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half and roll/pat each half into a log, the length of a cookie sheet and about 2-inches in diameter.
  7. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Place both dough logs on the baking sheet and flatten slightly.                                                    
  8. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until baked through and lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack until cool enough to handle.                                                    
  9. Slice each log on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices. Use a good, serrated bread knife, and allow the knife to do the cutting.
  10. Place the slices on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes. Turn slices over and bake for another 10 minutes.
  11. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: about 3 dozen biscotti

These go great with a cup of coffee or hot cocoa. The fruit is delicious without being overpowering. Same with the bourbon. And the almonds give it a nice crunch.

Weekend Warrior, BBA Style

 

A number of people have noted that, now that we are about halfway through the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge, they have hit a wall. It’s not that they want to quit the Challenge; they just don’t want to bake for a while. Just the opposite happened to me this week. I got my baking and canning mojo on big time. I had a long weekend, and from Saturday to Monday, I managed to make and can apple cider jelly, apple butter and 4-citrus marmalade, and to bake pumpkin gingerbread, pain a l’ancienne, pain de compagne and struan.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This was not a typical weekend for me. In fact, I have never even come close to being this productive in the kitchen before. I don’t know what came over me: I just felt like baking and cooking.

On Saturday morning, I made pumpkin gingerbread, which was the October BOM (bread of the month) for the Facebook Artisan Bread Bakers group. And it was, indeed, the bomb. Check out the recipe if you want to try it for yourself.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Crumb

In the afternoon on Saturday, we went to a local farm market and came home with lots of goodies, including apple cider. I made apple cider jelly in the evening. I think it will be really good as a glaze for tarts or grilled chicken.

While the jelly was cooking, I also baked a half recipe of BBA pain a l’ancienne. This is a rustic bread, crusty, full of holes and definitely homemade looking. I especially enjoy what I consider to be real artisan breads (sourdoughs and those breads containing flour, water, salt, yeast, and little else), so I was looking forward to this recipe. It was a very slack dough, due to the high hydration.

Pain a l'Ancienne shaped

This made it somewhat challenging to work with. But the loaves came out looking really nice.

Pain a l'Ancienne

And the crumb was beautiful.

Pain a l'Ancienne Crumb

And the taste? That’s where the letdown came for me. I didn’t exactly dislike it. But I wasn’t crazy about it, either. It was sort of bland and lifeless. Ah, well. Maybe next time (which wouldn’t be a very long wait for me this weekend).

Sunday morning saw the continuation of the canning craze, as I made my first-ever batch of apple butter. Here are a few pictures: before cooking, after cooking, and after straining.

Apples for Apple Butter

Apple Butter Cooked

Apple Butter - Strained

I went kind of light on the cinnamon and nutmeg, and was really pleased with the results. Several people at work said they don’t normally like apple butter, but they liked this.

While the apples were cooking down, I started on my next BBA bread: pain de compagne. This was a fun bread to make, as it lends itself to all kinds of creative shaping. I opted to try my hand at an auvergnat (cap), couronne (crown), and epi (wheat sheaf). As you can see, I had somewhat mixed results. I liked the couronne and epi. But the auvergnat looked a bit like a stick figure head wearing a graduation cap.

Pain de Compagne shaped

Pain de Compagne proofed

Pain de Compagne

These were really flavorful loaves. My 5-year-old and I kept tearing the nubbins off the epi and eating them. And the auvergnat tasted much better than it looked.

On Sunday evening, I started the 4-citrus marmalade. I began with my citrus marmalade recipe, which I altered by reducing the lemon to 1 and adding 2 limes and about 3/4 of a grapefruit. The citrus marmalade has a great flavor — tangy and sweet — and I thought the addition of lime and grapefruit would enhance the flavor and add a lot to the visual appeal as well.

4 Citruses

After boiling the citrus, I added the sugar, covered the pan and let it sit overnight. By Monday morning, there was a lot more liquid.

4 Citrus Marmalade in the Morning

I cooked it down for several hours, then canned it.

4 Citrus Marmalade Boiled

I will have to write up this recipe, as it was all I had hoped it would be. I can’t wait to give it away for Christmas.

For those of you keeping score, I had one more bread to go. The end of my baking adventure was struan. I used Peter Reinhart’s multigrain bread extraordinaire recipe in BBA, but I doubled it since one loaf just wasn’t enough the last time.

After I had baked my first batch of straun for the BBA Challenge, I realized I had King Arthur 12-grain flour in the freezer, which seemed like a natural addition for this bread. So this time, I replaced about 1/3 of the bread flour in the recipe with the multigrain flour.

And I added more (and different) rice. I had to go to the store to buy rice, so I picked up three bags — brown, red and forbidden (black). I cooked them all together using Nicole’s foolproof method. It is, of course, impossible to cook a few ounces of rice, and I didn’t even try. Instead, I used 1/3 cup (dry) of each rice to make a nice-sized batch. After I measured out the rice for my struan, I wrapped the remaining rice mixture in 2-ounce packages (about 8 in all) and froze them for later use.

And I will use them. I love this bread. In fact, it may be my favorite BBA Challenge bread so far. It has incredible depth of flavor. With polenta, bran, oats, rice, etc., how could it not? And it’s great plain, as toast or for sandwiches. I think the next time I make struan, I will try baking it in my pain de mie pan for a true sandwich loaf.

Thus ended my crazy canning and baking weekend. Even though I had a lot of fun making so many things, I was kind of glad when Tuesday came and I had to go back to work: after all, I needed to catch up on my rest.

Pumpkin Gingerbread {Recipe} {BOM}

Here is an easy, festive pumpkin bread recipe, made special by the addition of lots of ginger. For a real treat, use freshly grated ginger instead of powdered.
 
Pumpkin Gingerbread Crumb
 
INGREDIENTS:

3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2/3 cup water
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons ground ginger or 2 tablespoons fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans.
2. In a large mixing, combine sugar, oil and eggs; beat until smooth. Add water and beat until well blended. Stir in pumpkin, ginger, allspice and cinnamon.
3. In medium bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and blend just until all ingredients are mixed. Divide batter between prepared pans.
4. Bake in preheated oven until toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Still Life with Pumpkin Gingerbread