Monday, December 27, 2010

Italian Biscotti

The Biscotti is a twice-baked cookie, which means you bake it, cut it, and bake it again! This leaves the cookie very hard and dry and easier to store.  Although a hard, dry cookie may not sound too appealing, the Italian Biscotti is delicious! It is especially great when paired with a cup of coffee or tea.  There are several different variations of the Biscotti that have since stemmed off of the original recipe, but no matter what you decide to add to the cookie, just have fun and enjoy! 
Italian Biscotti 

Ingredients:
-1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
-3 eggs plus 1 egg white for glaze
-1 cup sugar plus extra for sprinkling 
-1 1/2 teaspoons anise extract
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
-3 cups flour
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1 cup dried cranberries
-1 cup slivered almonds
Optional: Pistachios can be used as well in place or with almonds.  

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease and flour a baking sheet. 

Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl and set bowl aside. In another bowl, blend together the butter, sugar, eggs, anise, and vanilla.  Once blended, slowly mix in the flour and baking powder mixture.  

When the batter is well combined, add any fillings you like.  I usually just use almonds and cranberries, or pistachios and cranberries.  The pistachios and cranberries look especially festive for the holidays.  Chocolate chips and white chocolate chips can also be used.  

Once ready, place the batter on your pan and form a log about the length of the pan and 1.5 - 3 inches wide.  Beat an egg white until just frothy, and using a pastry brush, brush over the entire log.  Sprinkle a little sugar on top. 

Bake for 25 - 35 minutes or until the entire log is a light golden brown.  The edges will cook faster than the middle so I usually try to rotate the pan halfway through.  If only the edges are brown than that means the middle is still very doughy, so be careful not to take it out too early. 

Remove from the oven and let cool for about 20 minutes.  Using a large, sharp, knife, cut half inch slices out of the log.  Once cut, you can keep the cookies as they are (a softer cookie) or bake them again to get the more traditional hard texture.  If baking again, return the cookies to the oven cut side up, and bake for another 5 - 10 minutes.  

Serve as a dessert to accompany dinner, enjoy as an afternoon snack, or dunk in a cup of coffee or tea for breakfast.  No matter how you eat it, just enjoy! 





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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

French Meringue Cookies

French meringues have always been a favorite of mine.  They are so light and airy and melt in your mouth! However, although it does not take many ingredients to make these sugary treats, they are not exactly the easiest of cookies to make.  There are so many recipes out there with different suggestions on how to make an authentic French Meringue... and trust me, I have tried them all! Sadly, the meringues would either turn brown, bubble over, cave in, or just remain too sticky.  After a long process of trial and error, I have finally mastered the French Meringue! In fact, I just made over 100 of them for a wedding this past weekend and they were a hit!

French Meringue Cookies
Ingredients:
4 egg whites at room temperature
2 1/4 cup superfine sugar
Cream of tartar 
Vanilla extract (optional) 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 185 degrees F and grease and flour a pan.  Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until they become light and frothy.  Start beating in sugar a little bit at a time.  When you have beaten about half of the sugar in, add a pinch of cream of tartar and a drop of vanilla.  I have made the meringues with and without vanilla and do not taste too much of a difference so it is not necessary.  

Continue beating in the sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks and looks shiny and velvety.  Scoop the mixture into a piping bag (or plastic bag with a corner cut out of it) and pipe on the pan as desired.  

Place the pan in the oven and bake for at least 90 minutes and then shut the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven while it is cooling off.  Meringues need time to dry out rather than bake.  Once done, let the meringues cool and then eat up! 

Meringues can be served numerous ways.  You can add food coloring (such as red and green for the holidays etc).  You can even pipe them out in circles and leave a little cavity in the middle to fill with fruit, cream, and even pie filling.  Or, add some espresso for a coffee flavor or chocolate chips.  When making meringues, do not be afraid to get creative! 



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