Biscotti | The Cookie that Keeps on Giving

While rearranging a pantry shelf recently I came across an errant bag of biscotti that had shifted off by itself, becoming the clear culprit in the current traffic jam.

Biscotti du jour

I opened the bag and I gave it the sniff test—a lingering scent of cardamom drifted out.  On the bag I had scribbled near illegibly, ‘Ginger Cardamom’, likely lost remnants of my last biscotti du jour effort.  I do that.  I’ll have a new favorite biscotti that I get stuck on and keep baking more of the same.

Biscotti can be fickle.  The dough can be temperamental and far more trouble than it is worth.  The double baking which aids in its longevity creates an additional step, so let’s keep it simple. Here is my basic recipe for a tender biscotti that I change up with different additions of dried fruit, nuts, flavorings, etc.  It is a very malleable dough that can be quickly mixed by hand.

Ginger in any form is a reoccurring theme on this site.  I adore it because it is soothing, satisfying, and spicy enough to pack a good punch.  Since cardamom is seductive and supportive in its own flavor profile, these two team nicely together.

My saved cooking notes on this batch indicate that I added a dash of sesame oil.  I still like that notion. Call me a purist, but when it comes to nuts in biscotti, I have my moments.  In the case of sesame oil, it does not compete with the lovely chewiness of the candied ginger, yet complements both the ginger and cardamom.

What a nice surprise! After a month or so lost in storage, these cookies are still good enough to warrant a fresh cup of coffee and another round of biscotti for me and my friends.

Ginger Cardamom Biscotti   

Ingredients

1-2/3 cups flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cardamom
¾ teaspoon powdered ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil (I included 1 teaspoon sesame oil.  Not obvious, but nice)
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup candied ginger
Optional drizzle topping: ½ cup white chocolate chips melted with 2 teaspoons coconut oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325-350° F. Prepare parchment or silpat lined baking sheet.
  2. Combine dry in small bowl and whisk.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk eggs through vanilla until well blended.  With spatula, stir in dry ingredients just to combine.  Stir in candied ginger.  Scrape onto baking sheet dividing and shaping into 2-3 narrow loaves @  1″ high and 2″ wide, keeping them about 2 ½” apart.  They will spread.
  4. Bake 30 minutes, until firm but springy.  Cool briefly.  Using serrated knife, slice loaves into ½” diagonal slices.  Lay cut side down on sheet.  Bake 12 minutes. Turn slices over and bake 12-15 minutes longer, until light golden brown.  Cool on rack.  If desired drizzle with melted white chocolate. Store airtight at room temperature. Yield: 2-3 dozen biscotti.

Peanut Butter Cookies to Impress

We’ve talked about peanut butter before. There are times when nothing is more satisfying than creamy, rich peanut butter—with a spoon, right out of the jar.  The next time that impulse strikes, you might want to consider a slightly more civilized approach.

Here’s an opportunity to have an easy peanut butter fix in cookie form.  These seductive thumbprint cookies are tailor-made with five basic ingredients, and they bake in ten minutes. If you can recruit any tiny hands, their simple shaping contribution will make everyone happy.

The thumbprint variation allows for the option of quickly filling the little center imprint with whatever pleases you:  jelly, jam, Nutella, dulce de leche, or perhaps marshmallow crème.

Roll the cookies in granulated or brown turbinado sugar before baking for an extra sparkly touch.  When cookies are set, remove them from the oven and fill the center of each with the product of your choice. Briefly return the cookies to the oven to finish baking and set the filling.

Beware.  Do not be tempted to eat these standing up, directly from the pan. Let the hot cookies rest briefly in their pan to firm up and then cool on a wire rack.  You will avert scorching any hovering open mouths.

Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients
1 cup peanut butter, either creamy or chunky
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup granulated or turbinado sugar (optional, for rolling)
Filling of choice:  berry jam, grape jelly, Nutella, dulce de leche, or marshmallow crème

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a baking sheet with baker’s spray or line with parchment or silpat.
  2. In a medium bowl stir the peanut butter and sugar together with a spoon. Add the beaten egg and baking soda and stir to evenly combined.
  3. Using a teaspoon, shape rounded spoonfuls of dough into balls. Roll in sugar, if desired.  Set on the baking sheet about 1” apart. With a water moistened thumb, press down in center about ½” to make a well.
  4. Bake for 7 minutes until puffed.  Using back of small spoon, press the thumbprint down again and fill with jam or other filling.  Return to oven and bake another 3 minutes.
  5. Let the cookies cool a couple of minutes and remove with spatula to cooling rack.  To store, layer cookies between sheets of waxed paper.  Store airtight for up to a week.   Yield: approximately 24 cookies.

A Chocolate Chip Cookie, à la minute

Here’s a cheap thrill to remember when the snack shelf is bare and you are in deep need of a little personal indulgence.  There’s nothing like your own rich, warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie, à la minute, for a boost of comfort and happiness.

That’s right, it’s another microwave steal.  Grab an oven proof cup, mix up a few basic staples (of course, that would include chocolate chips), and pop it into the microwave for maybe a minute.

The trick here is in not over baking.  After about 45 seconds the batter will look bubbly and raised, but certainly not set and firm.  No matter.  Take it out,  let it rest for 5 minutes, and it will solidify into the familiar cookie we all love.

This is not a bake ahead item.  Enjoy it warm straight out of the cup or pop it out and have at it.  Of course, a scoop or two of ice cream is an obvious consideration…

A Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie

Inspired by One Bowl Baking, Yvonne Ruperti

Ingredients
1 tablespoon softened butter
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
Pinch salt
2 teaspoons water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
Pinch baking soda
1 tablespoon bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Spread a dab of butter on the bottom and sides of an oven proof cup or mug.
  2. Place the brown sugar, butter, salt, water and vanilla in mug and give it a good stir.
  3. Add the flour, baking soda and chocolate chips and stir until just combined. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the cup.
  4. Microwave on high, just until the dough puffs, bubbles form, and it doesn’t look wet—about 45 seconds, depending on oven.
  5. Remove from the microwave and let rest for 5 minutes, until set. Enjoy while warm.  Yield:  1 serving.

Oatmeal Crisps: Addendum

Perhaps I didn’t fully elaborate on yesterday’s amazingly addictive Oatmeal Crisps.  I woke in the middle of the night thinking of my extended rant which failed to mention much of anything about their real virtues.

Oatmeal Crisps

Did I mention the lacy cookies that clock in at under two minutes baking time per batch are not only ethereal, crisp, and crunchy, but their rich and nutty flavor belies the fact that they have less than 20 calories each?   I didn’t think so.

Did I tell you that they have the added benefit of oatmeal’s nutritional value, fiber, and flavor?  That for the small number and volume of ingredients you receive so much?  I think not.

Did I mention that although these are prepared in the microwave, and there still seems to be some concern about its usage, the convenience and advantages of the microwave in cases such as this, are well worth considering?

Did I mention that their charm lends not only to copious snacking but also that they make a style statement when perched alongside or atop ice cream, sorbet, parfaits, mousse, or nearly anything else you can think of?  Not so much.

Did I mention that even though they take so little time to produce, they make an excellent and thoughtful gift when you would rather not show up empty handed on someone’s doorstep?

No, I didn’t think so.

Fair Warning: Addictive Cookies Ahead

Well, that was exciting—but of course, food does that to me!

crisps-plate

Oatmeal crisps, tuiles, wafers. It’s all good.

This time two of my favorite things, oatmeal and caramel, joined together as one, thanks to the magic of the microwave. My tiny kitchen was astir with activity while these beauties danced their way out of the oven, one sweet nutty batch after another.

The crisp golden cookies began as tiny ½ teaspoon droplets of batter then immediately melted and expanded into thin rounds; they were done in less than 2 minutes of rapid baking. The trickiest part here is figuring out how to rotate from one batch to the next without a lot of down time.

When I hit my groove I was filling, turning, or cleaning two oven safe 10” flat plates constantly. Well, that’s not completely true. There was a time when I looked a little like Lucy in the chocolate factory, tasting and sampling the goods as fast as I could.

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

In spite of that, once the assembly line was working and I had my rhythm going, I cranked out four dozen cookies (*less the sample factor) quite efficiently.

It could be remnants of a sugar high, but these are dangerously addictive. Fair warning.

Oatmeal Crisps

Inspired by Barbara Kafta’s Microwave Gourmet (1987)

Ingredients
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons quick oats
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon butter, melted
cooking oil for baking platter

Directions

  1. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt and combine with the oats.
  2. Beat egg until foamy. Add cinnamon and sugar and beat until well mixed, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla
  3. Add melted butter and dry ingredients and stir well.
  4. Thoroughly coat a 10″ round ovenproof platter with cooking oil. Drop 1/2 teaspoonful rounds of batter onto platter in a ring about 2” apart, around the inside rim (will only make about 6 cookies per batch).
  5. In the microwave, bake first batch approximately 2-1/2 minutes. Every 30 seconds, stop and restart until cookies begin to bubble and centers turn lightly golden. They will firm up as they cool.  Cooking time will shorten with remaining batches: allow about 1 minute 20 seconds depending on oven, restarting every 30 seconds to cook evenly. Watch carefully—they will burn quickly.
  6. Remove with metal spatula to a rack to cool. Store airtight.  Yield about 4 dozen cookies.
  7. Batter can be made a day in advance, chilled and well covered.

Must love peanut butter

When it comes to food, I’m always in search of something new and interesting.  This isn’t exactly new, but it is interesting.

It’s a very cool homemade cookie that requires only four ingredients—and very little time or effort.

Peanut Butter Cookies, Fast

Peanut Butter Cookies, Fast

Faster than it takes to preheat the oven, I had the aroma of freshly baked peanut butter cookies wafting magically from the kitchen.  A mere wave of the wrist resulted in crisp, slightly chewy cookies with perfectly balanced peanut-buttery sweetness.

Well, there is one small catch.

These addictive cookies are so good, any attempt at self-restraint goes right out the window. Enjoy for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and random snacking.peanut-butter-cookies-rack

 Peanut Butter Cookies, Fast

Inspired by a popular cookie originally in Gourmet magazine, reprinted in Gourmet’s Five Ingredients by Gourmet Magazine Editors.

Ingredients
1 cup peanut butter, either creamy or chunky
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking oil or line with silpat.
  2. In a medium-small mixing bowl, with a spoon beat peanut butter and sugar to combine; then beat in egg and baking soda.
  3. With hands, roll rounded teaspoons of dough into balls and arrange about 1” apart on baking sheets.  Flatten balls with tines of fork to about 1-1/2” diameter, making a crosshatch pattern.
  4. Bake in batches about 10 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.
  5. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 2 minutes to set, then transfer with spatula to rack to cool completely.  These will keep 5 days stored airtight at room temperature.  Yield: 2 dozen approximate.

Sweet or Salty?

When it comes to snacks, most of us tend to lean toward either sweet or salty treats, one or the other.   But all that is changing.  Thanks to the injection of Asian culinary influences, we are rejecting this limiting construct, this antiquated divide between the sweet and salty.  Why can’t we have both?  An extra hit of salt deftly applied to a dessert handily wakes up the tongue’s taste buds while further bumping up the sweetness factor.

It opens up all sorts of taste possibilities:  salt and caramel are naturals, so are maple sugar and bacon, or sea salt and chocolate.  This all makes my mouth water just thinking about it ― as it did recently while musing over my old Toll House Cookie recipe.

What makes a Toll House cookie the gold standard of cookies?  The combination of butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar merge into the well-balanced caramel flavor we all love. Throw in plenty of vanilla, a boost of salt, a bit of baking soda, an egg for lightness, stir in some flour to bind it all together, and you have the perfect batter. But, for most  it is the chocolate chips that have made it a classic.  One bite and your tongue is doing a tap dance in your mouth―it’s hard not to be happy!

Deb Perelman clearly has this figured out with Buttered Popcorn Cookies in her popular Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Shades of a Toll House cookie― I knew she was on to something, since I would take a bowl of popcorn over chocolate any day of the week. popcorn cookies rack The popcorn adds a nice toastiness, a little more bulk and crunch, and the extra nudge of butter and salt are prominent enough to tickle the tongue.   You really can’t eat just one.

It is a small recipe, but I suspect it doubles easily.  For hard core chocoholics, you could probably drizzle melted chocolate over the tops and have the best of bother worlds.  I’ll just have another cookie.  Thanks, Deb.

 Buttered Popcorn Cookie

Buttered Popcorn Cookies

Buttered Popcorn Cookies

Inspired by Deb Perelman’s recipe in Smitten Kitchen Cookbook 

Ingredients

1/4           cup popcorn kernels,about 4 cups popped and seasoned with 1 Tbsp butter and 1/4 tsp salt
1/4           cup butter, softened
1/2           cup brown sugar, packed
1/3           cup granulated sugar
1              large egg
1/2           tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4        cup all purpose flour
1/4           tsp baking soda

Method

  1. Prepare popcorn and set it aside to cool. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease, spray, or line baking sheet with parchment.
  2. In a small bowl whisk the flour and baking soda together.
  3. In a large bowl cream the butter with the brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Stir the dry into the butter mixture.  Fold in the popcorn to distribute evenly; there will be a lot of it and it will break up a little.
  4. Scoop heaping tablespoon sized mounds 2″ apart onto baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, until the edges are light brown. Let set on hot sheet for a few minutes to firm up before moving to rack to cool.  Yield:  20- 24 cookies.