Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Extra Rich and Buttery Toffee Biscotti

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

One last cookie recipe - just in time for Christmas. 

Question: What happens when you accidentally double the amount of butter in a biscotti recipe?
Answer:  Delicious, rich, buttery biscotti

It was an honest mistake.  A happy accident.  The recipe said 3/4 of a stick of butter and I saw 3/4 of a cup.  It only dawned on me halfway through baking, which is when I started writing this.  I took a look at last year's recipe and thought - only a 1/3 cup butter in this one, that's funny. Whoops.

Similar to last year, I divided the dough in half and made two varieties:  Toffee and Dark Chocolate & Cranberry.

Toffee Biscotti

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup toffee bits

To make half Dark Chocolate & Cranberry
Divide dough in half, then add 1/3 cup toffee bits to one half of the dough, and 1/3 cup each dark chocolate chips and cranberries to the other half.  Follow rest of recipe as below.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Combine flour with baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
Cream butter with sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, 1 at a time.
Stir in flour mixture until combined. Stir in dark chocolate chips and cranberries.

Gather dough together in a large ball and divide in half. Shape each half into a 2-in.-wide and 3/4-in.-high log. Place logs 3 in. apart on parchment paper lined cookie sheet as they will spread.

Bake in centre of oven for 20 minutes, then flip pans (bottom rack moves to top rack and vice versa). Bake for an additional 15 minutes until tops are nearly firm but golden.  Remove from oven and let stand until loaves are cool enough to touch, about 10 min. Cut each diagonally into 1/2-in. slices and lay each cookie on its side. Continue baking until very firm and golden brown, about 20 more minutes.  Store in an airtight container up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Brown Sugar Cookie Cut-outs

If there is one cookie recipe that I make every year, without exception, it is these brown sugar cookies.  Our family calls them 'brown sugar cookie cut-outs' - not as inspiring as 'Spectacular Sugar Crusted Christmas Stars', but honest and straightforward.  These treats don't need a fancy name - they are simple and fun and easy to make and decorate.  A kid pleaser (inner child, too).  You can get as crazy as you want with the decorating - I usually stick to sprinkling colourful sugar on top before baking.

Normally, there is a variety of shapes - from trees and sleighs, to snowflakes and bells.  This year I chose stars, as I received a nice set of different shaped stars as a gift.   Look how pretty they are!  Too pretty to eat.  These stacked stars would make a nice centrepiece for a cookie tray.

Brown Sugar Cookie Cut-outs
a family recipe, origin unknown

1 cup all purpose flour, sifted, plus another 1 cup set aside
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Blend 1 cup of the flour with baking powder and salt.

Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla and continue to beat until well blended.

Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture, then add enough of the remaining one cup flour to make dough stiff enough to roll,

Work together with your hands and form a large ball of dough, or two smaller balls of dough.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Roll dough out to about 1/8 inch on a well floured surface.  Use cookie cutters or (biscuit cutters) to cut into shapes and transport to a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle liberally with coloured sugar and bake at 375 for 7-8 minutes.  Let cool on cookie sheet for 3-4 minutes before setting on wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Dark Chocolate & Pistachio Cookies

It's that time of year 
When the world falls in love 
Every song you hear seems to say
"Merry Christmas - May your new year dreams come true"

My new year dreams have dark chocolate, pistachio and sea salt in them - how about yours?

Dark Chocolate & Pistachio Cookies
slightly adapted from Joy the Baker

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
coarse sea salt for topping (optional)

Cream butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix well. Mix in pistachios and chocolate chips.

Spoon dough (1 to 2 tbsp depending on how big you like your cookies) onto greased or parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 16-18 minutes or until golden brown.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Mulled Wine Crumble Squares

If you are looking for something a little different to add to the traditional shortbread, sugar cookie, and brownie tray this holiday, try these little squares out.  I was intrigued as soon as I saw the title, and added it to my baking list immediately.

The cranberries add a nice little tang - and the sugar in the crumble and crust balance the tartness nicely.  In all honesty, if you are not a fan of cranberries, these may not be your first choice. However, if you are like me, and enjoy the fresh tang of grapefruit, cranberries or lime - I guarantee these won't disappoint.

Mulled Wine Crumble Squares
adapted from Butter me up, Brooklyn!

For the crumble:
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened and cut into pieces

For the filling:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp orange juice
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups whole cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
pinch of salt
1 tbsp sugar, as needed

Start making the filling first.  In a medium sized saucepan, bring cranberries, orange juice, red wine, sugar and spices to a simmer.  Leave the lid on for 8 minutes, stirring every once in a while, and then remove lid and continue to simmer for another 8-10 minutes.  Cranberries are tart - so take a little taste - stir in an additional 1 tbsp of white sugar as needed.   Let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

While you are waiting for the filling to cool, make the crumble.  Combine flour, oats, sugars, cinnamon, and baking powder in a medium-large bowl.  Work the butter in until crumbs the size of flakes and peas form.

Press 2/3 of the oat mixture firmly into a 8x8 pan lined with parchment paper.   Once the filling has cooled, spoon over top and distribute evenly.  Scatter the remaining oat mixture over top, and bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Let cool completely before removing from pan.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Sweet & Spicy Pecans

Last Christmas, our friend Lindsay brought these over as a little hostess gift, and my husband raved about them.  Lindsay graciously provided the recipe and I safely tucked it away until the festive season rolled around once again.  After one thing or another, we finally got around to crafting these little fellas last night.

These are so easy and fast to make - and an equally simple and fast clean-up.  Guests show up unexpectedly? Home-made snack in 20 minutes.  Creating a cheese tray?  Perfect addition.  I think these are being added to our annual holiday must-make list. The only problem? Ensuring they last until the guests arrive.

Sweet & Spicy Pecans

3 cups plain, unsalted pecans
4 1/2 tsp maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp salt 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and lightly brush with oil.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  If you prefer more sweet than spicy, reduce the cayenne pepper to 1/4 tsp and increase the sugar by 1 tsp.
Spread pecans in single layer on baking sheet.

Bake in for 8-9 minutes, and flip the pecans.  Return to oven and bake for an additional 9 minutes.

Immediately upon removing from the oven, use a spatula to lift pecans from sheet.  This will prevent them from sticking to the foil.  Let cool on baking sheet.  Store in a tightly sealed container.