Posts Tagged gift idea

Hazelnut and Dried Cherry Biscotti with Orange and Cardamom

It feels good to sit down.

I’m taking a minute for myself. Elf is playing on the television, my (turquoise-themed) Christmas tree is twinkling in the background, and my cat is snuggled up next to me. It’s been a busy month, and I’ve not had many moments to myself recently. I blinked, and before I knew it my December schedule was filled with meetings, holiday parties, food swaps, catering gigs, meetings, baking, cooking, crafting, and so much more.

To be honest, I sort of love the hustle and bustle of it all. I’m the queen of overcommitment and I’m always busy, busy, busy. But, that gets old quickly. In fact, it’s downright exhausting. I have to remind myself to slow down, and to take things one day at a time. I desperately want to enjoy this holiday season, and the only obstacle standing in the way of a peaceful and restful holiday is me.

But, I’m working on it. Baby steps. Tonight, I snuggled with my cat and watched Elf and all felt right.

And the cherry hazelnut biscotti? They were part of my holiday stress-reducing plan. I needed something to bring to the PDX Winter Food Swap and I needed a treat to bring to a holiday party. So I made a double batch of biscotti and I killed two birds with one stone. The biscotti were an absolute hit at each event (i.e. they disappeared quickly), they were easy to make, and they crossed two things off my to-do list. Huzzah!

I’d like to say thank you (yet again) to my sister, Danielle, for baking with me. We baked the biscotti together while her baby and my bunny played together on the kitchen floor (and made a giant – but adorable – mess). Baking is so much better with company (if I do say so myself)…

Adapted from Williams Sonoma

Note: This recipe could easily be adapted to include various dried fruits and nuts (cranberries, blueberries, dates, pistachios, almonds, pecans, etc), I just used what I had on hand. And, of course, I decided to dip each biscotti in dark chocolate…because it seemed like the right thing to do.

8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup dried bing cherries, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
12 oz. (1 bag) dark chocolate chips (I used extra dark, 60% cacao from Ghiradelli)

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line one large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), beat butter on high speedy, until fluffy (1-2 minutes). Add in the sugar, and continue beating until well combined. Reduce the speed to low, and add in the eggs one at a time. Mix until blended, and then mix in the vanilla.

In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat on low speed or stir with a wooden spoon just until incorporated. Gently stir in the hazelnuts, cherries and orange zest until evenly distributed. The dough should be very soft.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured work surface and divide in half. With well-floured hands, transfer one-half onto one side of the lined baking sheet and shape into a log about 12″ long and 1.5 inches wide. Repeat with the remaining dough on the other side of the sheet, leaving at least 4 inches between the logs.

Bake the biscotti until the edges are golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Gently (and carefully) transfer the biscotti “logs” to a flat surface. Using a serrated knife, cut off slices of biscotti (1/2 inch wide). Place biscotti pieces on the baking sheet (on their side) and bake for 10 minutes more, or until golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire racks.

Optional: Once the cookies have cooled, melt the chocolate chips, using a double boiler. (You could always try the microwave to melt the chocolate, but you can easily overcook the chocolate and then it becomes gritty and gross. I prefer the double boiler method.) Dip each biscotti in the chocolate, coating 1/4 to 1/2 of the cookie (I just like to coat the tip of the biscotti, so I dip it 1/4 of the way in the chocolate). Carefully place each biscotti on a piece of parchment or wax paper, and allow to cool.

Store biscotti in an airtight container. Makes about 2 dozen biscotti.

A photo of my biscotti at the PDX Winter Handmade Food Swap

Slow Cooker Apple Butter (and an Apple Recipe Roundup)

You know what’s funny about the typical grocery store Red Delicious apple? The fact that, chances are, that apple is decidedly not delicious. They are mealy, waxy, and completely devoid of flavor or nutrients.

It is for this reason that I’ve been mostly ambivalent to apples my whole life. Sure, I’d eat apples if they were smothered in caramel or baked into a pie. But, for the most part, I avoided apples like the plague. Biting into a mealy apple is one of my least favorite things on the planet.

While bad apples are really bad, I’d argue that good apples are really, really good. Biting into a crisp, juicy apple is one of life’s simple pleasures. Last weekend, I attended the Portland Nursery’s Apple Festival and was overwhelmed by the sheer apple-ness of it all. The Apple Festival boasts 30+ varieties of local apples, all picked at the height of apple season. They offer apple tastings, as well as apple cider, caramel apples, apple pastries and so much more. Oh, and did I mention that they sell all the varieties apples for .99 cents a pound (!). It was like I died and went to apple heaven.

Naturally, I bought ten pounds of apples. I could have easily bought more, but I have a whopping two people in my household (and 5 pounds a person seemed reasonable?). After perusing and tasting the countless apple options, I finally settled on 6 pounds of King David apples (for canning) and 4 pounds of Winesaps (for eating).

From the outset, my plan was to make apple butter. I’m a sucker for a good apple butter, and I happen to think that apple butter tastes like autumn. I love that apple butter isn’t butter at all, it’s just glorified apple sauce — apple sauce that has been cooked down for hours and hours, until it is thick, dark, rich, and wonderful. I’d seen a few recipes for making apple butter in the slow cooker, and I was keen on the idea of filling my slow cooker with apples in the evening and then waking up in the morning to apple butter.

Let me tell you, waking up in the morning to the aroma of slow cooked apple butter is nothing short of magical. The whole house smelled like apples, cinnamon and cloves…and it was fabulous. Sadly, the apple butter wasn’t quite as thick and rich as I wanted it to be, so I wasn’t able to slather any on my morning toast. I finished cooking the apple butter that evening (after work) and I’ve been happily eating it ever since. And while eating apple butter is much different than biting into a fresh apple – making apple butter is a fantastic way to preserve the apple harvest. I plan on devouring as many fresh apples as I can over the next few weeks, but I now have multiple jars of apple butter to get me through the winter. A few jars might even end up as Christmas gifts…

So, then, happy apple season to you all! I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am. I’ve included a roundup of some of my favorite apple recipes at the bottom of this post (and feel free to include any of your favorite apple recipes in the comments).

Slow Cooker Apple Butter
(Canning instructions for this recipe taken from Simply Canning)

5 lbs* of apples, peeled, cored, and cut into slices (*amount may vary, just slice enough to fill your slow cooker to the very brim)
1.5 cups sugar (I used a combination of muscovado and white sugar)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice berries (or ground allspice)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Place apple slices in your slow cooker, and fill to the very brim. Pour sugar and spices over the top of the apples. Place the lid on the slow cooker and set the heat to low.

Allow apples to cook down on low heat for 10 (or more*) hours, stirring occasionally. For the last two hours of cooking, remove the lid (or place the lid on partially) to allow the moisture to cook off. Once the mixture is thick and brown, turn off the slow cooker. If you desire a smooth consistency, use a potato masher, immersion blender, or food processor to ensure the apple butter is smooth. (*Note, after I pureed my apple butter I allowed it to cook down for another hour as I like my apple butter really thick & dark).

If canning, pour apple butter into hot, sterilized jars and process in a water bath for 5 minutes. (*Note, please can at your own risk. Some sites say to process for 10 minutes, but please refer to official canning guides for processing times).

A few of my own apple recipes:
Pork and Apple Pot Pie with Rosemary Gruyere Biscuits
Raw Kale and Apple Salad
Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
Curried Quinoa and Apple Salad

A few apple recipes from other lovely people:
Whole Grain Pumpkin Pancakes with Apple Maple Compote
Roasted Apple and Butternut Squash Soup with Dill
Apple and Honey Challah
Dutch Baby Apple Pancake
Apple and Carrot Shortbread
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apples
Baked Apple Donuts