Anise-Corn Biscotti

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I think I make too many biscotti. Must be my addiction to a hot cup of something. The writing life is a lonely one, and having a hot cup of coffee, tea, chocolate, even lemon-flavored water keeps my fingers nimble and my attention focused.

 

An unexpected mis-labeled bag of white flour turned out to be a new idea for biscotti. I usually make a traditional Greek biscotti, flavored with anise seed and Ouzo, and as I opened a new bag of flour yesterday, I noticed little brown flecks of outer bran? Whole-wheat flour was my guess, but really who knows. With only corn flour in my cupboards, I substituted my second cup of white flour for corn.

 

Now I know the Greeks discovered a lot of things, but corn isn’t one of them. Thankfully, the flavors didn’t clash and actually tasted rather nice together. The corn flour also lends a nice crunch and added layer of sweetness. It’s my version of the Old World meets New World sweet.

 

Anise-Corn Biscotti

Makes two small logs, and when cut, about 24 cookies.

 

1 cup white all-purpose flour

1 cup corn flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon whole anise seed, ground

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 extra-large egg

3 Tablespoons Ouzo or other anise-flavored liqueur

 

1. Whisk together flours, powder, salt, and anise in a bowl; set aside.

2. In another bowl, whisk together softened butter and sugar, either by hand or in a standing mixer, until light and fluffy. Add egg and Ouzo and mix well to incorporate. Add the flour mixture and mix  to combine. Cover the dough and chill for at least an hour.

3. Place oven rack in center of oven and pre-heat oven to 350°. Remove the dough and divide evenly in half. On a large sheet pan, form each portion of dough into a log, lengthwise on the pan, so that it is approximately 4-inches wide by 12-inches long.

4. Bake biscotti logs until they lightly brown on the edges and set to touch, about 15 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and allow the logs to rest for about 3 minutes. One at a time, remove a log and place on a cutting board. At a slight angle, slice log into 1-inch strips, and return biscotti to sheet pan. Repeat with second log and place pan back in the oven for another 7 minutes. Remove pan and cool cookies until room temperature. Store in an air-tight container for up to one week.

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Rosemary Shortbread

It’s that time of year again when I impulsively start buying extra flour, sugar, and butter, so don’t ask my why I ended up making a batch of pumpkin-flavored rice crispy treats. Finding a recipe off the web can be risky, and as I learned a few days ago, adding moisture like pumpkin puree to a perfectly good indulgence like rice crispy treats just doesn’t work (do you hear that ApartmentTherapy!). And since I was going to mail them to my son away at college, I’ve been eating them instead. Soggy, yes, but not that much different than when the plain cereal is doused with milk for breakfast.

So now I am going to use those baking ingredients that are taking up valuable counter space with a batch of Rosemary Shortbread. (His idea, not mine.) I got the recipe off of Epicurious.com and feel much better about using recipes where the comments are from people who actually make the recipe, confirming its accuracy, and not just responders saying they “look good”. Lesson learned. These are spot on perfect. Enjoy!

Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

2 Tbsp. honey

1/2 cup confectioners sugar

1. Mix together first four ingredients; set aside.

2. Place butter in a standing mixer bowl or large bowl and whip until light and fluffy. Add honey and sugar and continue to whip until well incorporated. Add flour mixture and blend just until dough forms.

3. Remove half of dough from bowl and place on a 12″ sheet of wax paper; flatten and lengthen to form a rectangular log 1″ thick. Fold wax paper over until dough is wrapped. Repeat with other half batch of dough and refrigerate until firm, up to overnight.

4. Remove dough from refrigerator, unwrap, and slice in equal pieces and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet in a 350° oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. Makes 32 cookies.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Maple Frosting

There’s a sweet little cafe in downtown San Carlos that serves the most amazing treats. My instincts tell me that originally it started out as a cupcake shop, but has slowly transitioned to a cafe that serves savory and sweet edibles, including cupcakes. The proprietor was smart to name her shop something broad enough to ride the cupcake trend without pigeonholing her brand and ultimately limiting the success of her shop.

Last Saturday I popped in with my daughter on a mission to bring home their amazing maple-glazed oat scones, but also walked out with a pumpkin spice brown sugar cookie. Divine. Soft and cake-like with a swirl of vanilla-spiked brown sugar frosting. Here’s my version.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Maple Frosting

These are best served the same day, but can be stored for up to three days in an airtight container. Pumpkin spice consists of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. Because I’m crazy for spices, I like to mix my own. If you have this blend on hand, feel free to substitute 2 tablespoons of it in place of the individual spices in the recipe below.

Cookies:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup pumpkin puree

Frosting:

1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar

5 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

3 tbsp. maple syrup

Cinnamon for dusting

1. In a bowl, sift together first seven ingredients; set aside. In another mixing bowl, beat butter using a hand-held mixer or standing mixer until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add sugars and beat again for another minute. Add egg and beat, scraping down sides of bowl, until well incorporated. On low speed, add vanilla and pumpkin puree and combine. Add flour-spice mixture and mix until batter forms, about one more minute.

2. Refrigerate batter for at least 15 minutes. If making ahead, cover and refrigerate for up to half a day.

3. Preheat oven to 350° and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Remove batter from refrigerator and, using an ice cream scoop, scoop batter onto lined cookie sheet. Each sheet should fit 12 cookies. Dip fingers in water and smooth the tops of each cookie to flatten so that each cookie measures about 1/4″ x 2 1/2″.

4. Bake cookies, one sheet pan at a time in the center of the oven, for 15 minutes. Remove cookies from pan and place on wire rack to cool.

5. To prepare frosting, sift sugar into a mixing bowl to remove any lumps. Add butter and whip on high; slowly add syrup. Whip until frosting is fluffy and smooth, about 2 minutes.

6. When cookies are cool, spread frosting on cookies  and dust lightly with cinnamon.

Blueberry-Lavender Ice Cream

An impromptu book club gathering (and the discovery of long forgotten culinary lavender in the back of my spice cabinet) led me to making this delicious ice cream. This type of ice cream is classified as “Philadelphia-style” since it doesn’t contain eggs or require any cooking.I found a  base recipe to work with off the web and altered it a bit to suit the lavender. Though not as decadent or complex as a custard-based ice cream, it certainly meets the needs of a quick dessert on a hot summer day.

Blueberry-Lavender Ice Cream

Make sure you are using culinary lavender and not lavender from the garden. Culinary lavender can be purchased from your local farmers market or online. Mine comes from Dixon’s Eatwell Farm.

1 1/2 cup half & half

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. culinary lavender

2 cups fresh blueberries

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 tsp. salt

1. Place half & half in a saucepan and bring to simmer on medium heat; add sugar and lavender and reduce heat to low. Keep on heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool.

2. Place blueberries, sour cream, salt and half & half mixture in a blender or  food processor and process until thoroughly blended. Strain mixture through a fine sieve or strainer and pour liquid into an ice cream maker. Make ice cream, following manufacturers instructions. Remove ice cream and place in a freezer-safe container and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.

Blueberry-Almond Coffee Cake

 

I don’t buy berries that often, especially out of season, but when I do I want them to live up to the hype. They should be juicy, plump, and have just the right ratio of tartness to sweetness. But, like many things in life, you can’t always believe (or trust) the hype. So when life serves you a pint of so-so berries, and you’re faced with what feels like an overwhelming serving of disappointment, just bake with them because a loving dose of butter and sugar really can do wonders.

Blueberry-Almond Coffee Cake

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. almond extract

1 cup light sour cream

1/2 cup low-fat milk

1 cup blueberries

Topping:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/2 stick of butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1. Combine first four ingredients in a bowl; set aside. In a medium-size mixing bowl, beat butter until fluffy. Add sugar until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated into butter-sugar mixture; add extracts and mix.

2. Add sour cream, milk, and flour mixture to mixing bowl and mix until smooth. Add blueberries, mix, and spoon batter into a buttered 9-inch square baking pan.

3. In the same bowl used for the flour mixture, make the topping by combining all of the topping ingredients except for the butter; mix until well combined. Add butter pieces and blend with topping ingredients until small pieces of butter are evenly distributed throughout topping ingredients.

4. Evenly sprinkle topping mixture over batter and bake in a 350° oven for 40 minutes, or until cake is evenly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Olive Oil-Citrus Cake

As a follow up to my previous post on Olive Oil Gelato, I wanted to also provide the recipe to the olive oil cake I made. There are several different cake recipes out there on the internet and in various cookbooks. After reviewing many of them, I came up with my own variation. For this cake I used a local Paso Robles olive oil, golden in color and very fruity on the palate. Unlike the gelato, the olive oil flavor is very subtle and provides a very moist end result. In the future I would always turn to olive oil in a cake batter recipe that calls for another oil such as vegetable or canola oil, especially if the cake has added flavorings such as citrus.

Olive Oil-Citrus Cake

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

2 tsp. orange zest

2 tsp. lemon zest

1/4 cup whole milk

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; mix well and set aside.

2. In another bowl, add eggs and sugar and mix until fluffy and sugar is well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add zests, milk, and oil; continue to mix until well blended. Add flour mixture and combine until flour is incorporated; don’t overmix.

3. Pour batter into a buttered and floured 8- to 9-inch cake pan and bake for 30 minutes at 350°, or until center of cake springs back when touched and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool and serve ,or cover with wrap and serve next day.

Olive Oil Gelato

I’ve been on an olive oil high as of late, writing articles for The Olive Oil Times, receiving generous samples from Cobram Estate, and generally consuming far too much of this golden elixir. But its good for me (and my skin) so until I see any adverse reactions, I’ll continue on course.

Last week I prepared an olive oil–centered meal for some friends and educated them about the extra virgin olive oil business, current terms and their meanings, and what to look for when shopping for the real deal. Most hadn’t given the topic of authentic extra virgin olive oil much thought so I felt I did my job as a food journalist (and friend).

There were olives and/or olive oil in several dishes I prepared, but the dish that received the most notice was the Olive Oil Gelato I served. Never having tried it before, I too was truly surprised by the depth of olive oil flavor and how it worked so well with the custard-like ingredients. If you have an ice cream maker, this should be at the top of your list the next time you pull it out of storage. In fact, keep it on your counter near your coffee maker because I promise you’ll be making it more often than you ever imagined.

Olive Oil Gelato

This really is just a basic custard recipe, with the addition of extra-virgin olive oil, chilled, and poured into an ice cream maker. Serve alone, with a dense chocolate ganache cake, or with an olive oil cake as I did. (See Olive Oil Cake post.)

3 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

6 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (Cobram Estate Fresh and Fruity or similarly fruity oil)

1. In a medium-size saucepan, combine milk and cream and slowly heat to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring often to avoid scorching.

2. While milk mixture is heating, place yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl and with a hand-held mixer, whip on high until yolks turn a light pale color and have doubled in size. While mixer is running, add olive oil in a steady stream and continue to mix until well incorporated.

3. Remove milk mixture from stove top and add a small amount to yolks, incorporating with mixer on low. Continue to temper yolks with another two additions of hot milk (about 1/4 cup each time), continuing to mix while adding. Once yolks have been tempered, pour yolk mixture into into pan with remaining milk and cook over medium heat until mixture reaches about 175° and coats the back of a spoon. Stir constantly and watch so that the yolks don’t cook. Once thickened and temperature is reached, remove from stove and stain if needed.

4. Chill custard, placing a piece of plastic wrap on top. Once custard has chilled, it can be poured in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions.