Archives for December 2007

Cherry Pistachio Biscotti Dipped in White Chocolate

Festive treats for holiday cheer

Biscotti are great all-around cookies. I like that they’re easy to make and keep for a week or two on the kitchen counter, so you can bake them ahead of time. It’s also a cinch to take a basic recipe and play around with themes and variations – you could mix in any kind of nut, chip or dried fruit in endless combinations. Think apricots and almonds, cranberries and pecans, hazelnuts and chocolate chips.

Sometimes I like to drizzle my biscotti with melted chocolate, as I did here. They look especially festive on the Christmas cookie tray.

Cherry Pistachio Biscotti
Yield: 1 1/2 dozen

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoons orange extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups dried cherries, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups shelled raw pistachios, chopped
4 ounces chopped white chocolate

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, beating well; beat in orange zest and extract.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Stir in 1 cup each cranberries and pistachios until evenly mixed.

Divide dough in half. Using lightly floured hands, shape each portion into a 14″ x 2″ log. Place both logs 3″ apart on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 20 minutes or until firm to the touch. Cool logs on baking sheet 10 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Cut each log into 1/2″-thick diagonal slices with a serrated knife using a gentle sawing motion. Stand slices on their sides on baking sheet. Bake 15 more minutes. Transfer biscotti to wire racks to cool completely.

Melt chocolate in a small microwave-safe bowl on medium-high heat in 2 15-second intervals, stirring in between. Try not to overheat, because white chocolate can burn easily.

Dip one end of each biscotti into the melted chocolate and sprinkle with reserved cherries and pistachios. Allow to set about 1 hour before serving.

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Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food

Maida Heatter’s Chocolate Whoppers

My favorite cookie is a Whopper

A long while ago, I lived in Miami and spent a few years working at a wine store; tasting, spitting, not spitting (a job perk), unloading cases of wine and every once in a while selling wine to customers.

One of my clients was none other than Maida Heatter, renowned cookbook writer and baker. She lived (and probably still does) in Miami Beach and would come in periodically to stock up on wine and gourmet goodies. She had a sweetly disarming way about her; she’d usually bring in some of her cellophane-wrapped homemade cookies for us to sample.

When we’d swoon with delight and thank her profusely she’d yell, “Honey, I can’t hear you, I’m deaf as a post. Now where’s that chardonnay I bought last time?”

I hope that she’s been outfitted with one of those high-tech hearing aids these days, because if she were listening I’d tell her, loudly, about how I’ve been collecting her cookbooks and using her delicious, never-fail recipes for cookies and sweets for years and years now. I just love her.

In fact, my most favorite cookie is Maida’s Chocolate Whopper, a big, fat, brownie-like confection with a crisp, shiny top and a moist, dark and nutty chocolate interior worthy of the word “devilish”.

They come together in minutes, and all you need to do is drop blobs of the batter onto baking sheets.

You will be very popular if you make these and then give them to people. Just keep a few for yourself, too.

Check out everything Maida at Squidoo Food, Anna’s Whoppers at Cookie Madness, and Mondays with Maida over at My Little Kitchen.

Chocolate Whoppers

Makes about 15 large cookies

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 ounces chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup walnut halves, broken into large pieces (or use all pecans; I do because I’m not a walnut fan)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the chopped chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat and stir until gently until just melted.

Whisk the flour in a small bowl with salt and baking powder. Beat the eggs, sugar, espresso and vanilla in a large bowl using an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Mix in the chocolate mixture until just blended. Add the flour mixture and beat at low speed until incorporated. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Use a 1/3-cup measure to form the dough and drop onto baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart.

Bake 17 minutes on the upper and middle racks, or until the tops are dry and shiny, shifting the sheets halfway through baking. Slide the parchment with cookies onto wire racks to cool completely.

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Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food

Toasted Almond Button Cookies

The one-bite cookie
I saw this Holiday Cookie Guide in the Washington Post the other day and was totally impressed. I loved the clean, crisp look of the layout as well as the subject – 26 cookie recipes each with their own simple, appealing photo.

But, I did what I always do when browsing for cookie recipes; I skipped right over those that required rolling, cutting or decorating. I have something resembling a small panic attack, probably much like the one that some people get when they attempt to make pie pastry – it’s a combination of fear (of sticky, messy dough) and impatience (with anything requiring fussing with).

My kids still love me, I think. But I imagine they would love me more if I would make some decorated gingerbread people to hang from the tree. Maybe I’ll look into a 12-step program to move me through the process of my cookie dough anxiety.

In the meantime, these cute almond cookie buttons called out to me. They’re require nothing more complicated than the easy pinch and roll method, you can make the dough up to 5 days ahead and they contain lots of ground, toasted almonds. I love toasted almonds!

When I make these again, I’ll use hazelnuts instead, and top them with some warm chocolate-hazelnut spread, like Nutella.

I was invited to a cookie swap at my friend Alanna’s and had to make 10 dozen cookies to share. How convenient for me. I made them.

I’m kind of on a cookie bender right now, so bear with me for a bit. This week I’ll be sharing some of my all-time favorite cookie recipes (no rolling required, promise).

Toasted Almond Buttons
makes about 60 cookies

from the Washington Post

  • 2 cups whole, skin-on almonds, toasted (see NOTE)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) plus 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate

Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Finely grind 1 cup of the almonds in a food processor or blender and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Use your hands to thoroughly work in 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) of the butter and the vanilla and almond extracts until a soft dough forms (it should not crumble).

Transfer to a resealable plastic food storage bag and refrigerate until well chilled (at least 20 minutes) or up to 5 days. Use the palms of your hands to roll the dough into 1/2-inch balls. Place on the baking sheets; spray the back of a small-size melon baller with nonstick cooking oil spray and use it to indent the top of each ball, holding the edges of the dough together as you work (if the edges crack, blend them back together).

Bake 1 sheet at a time for about 15 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown. Transfer them carefully to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, place the chocolate and the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a small metal mixing bowl and suspend the bowl over a saucepan containing an inch or two of very hot water over medium heat. When the chocolate and butter have melted, stir to combine. Use a spoon to drizzle a small amount of chocolate into the indentation of each cookie. Top each with one of the remaining whole almonds. Let set completely before storing.

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Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food