Saturday, November 13, 2010

My First Biscotti

It took me a long time to love biscotti. Mostly because it took me a long time to love coffee. I can now navigate my way around a Starbucks like a pro, but it wasn't always that way. I grew up (for the most part) in a house with my mother & my sister. Nobody drank coffee. There was a jar of instant in the cupboard for when grandpa came, and a coffee maker whose age rivals mine which still lurks in the back of her pantry.

Coffee just didn't come in intravenous form in our household like it does in some. I remember being devastated after a 4th grade spelling test because I didn't know how to spell "coffee". And I knew that I would have been able to spell it had there been a can of Folgers on our kitchen counter like there was everyone else's. Devastated that my mother's fluid intake choices were affecting my grades.

Coffee & biscotti seem to go hand in hand, and while I can't grab any cookie goodness out of a jar at Starbucks alongside my Caramel Macchiato, that hasn't stopped me from whipping up a mocha at home to dunk my still warm from the oven biscotti into.

Chocolate Cranberry Biscotti

Adapted From: Mary Bailey's "Gluten Free Holiday Baking" found in Nov/Dec 2010 issue of "The Tomato"

1/4 cup potato starch (not flour)
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour/starch
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)

1/2 cup organic butter, softened
1 cup sucanat
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla*
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries

*I LOVE my vanilla (in fact I make it myself!) so I tend to be a little overzealous with my usage while baking. Feel free to measure generously.

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a medium sized bowl, sift first 8 ingredients together (any lumps from almond flour can be thrown in). Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until well incorporated. Add eggs, mix, then vanilla & lemon zest (make sure you get it all!). Add the dry ingredients a bit at a time, ensuring they are thoroughly mixed in before adding more. The batter will be very thick. Once all the dry ingredients have been added (you may now lick the beaters) stir in the cranberries & chocolate chips by hand.

Wrap up the dough in a large sheet of plastic wrap for at least an hour (or overnight).

Once it's chilled & firmed up a bit, split your ball of dough in half & form each one into a log. Don't assume that you need to flatten it (like biscotti should be shaped). It'll flatten out lots in the oven- trust me dahling! Each log should be 3-4" wide. Place each one lengthwise on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray (be sure to rotate your cookie sheets in the oven so that they bake evenly if both of your cookie sheets don't fit on one rack in your oven). Bake your logs for 15-20 until they are golden brown (like a chocolate chip cookie!). Place the cookie sheets onto cooling racks (leave the biscotti ON the cookie sheet while it cools)

Turn the oven down to 325F.

When the "biscotti" aka giant cookies have cooled down (enough that they're not going to fall apart when you take them off the cookie sheet) transfer them to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut them into 1/2"-3/4" slices. Place the slices back onto the cookie sheets and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

10 minutes will give you soft biscotti, and closer to 20 minutes will give you a 'crisper' biscotti more suited for dipping in your favorite hot beverage. Or MY favorite hot beverage. Let the poor little biscotti cool down before you maul them though- they'll just fall apart otherwise :( Makes 2-3 dozen biscotti. Suitable for freezing

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Homemade Vanilla?

It's easy, honest!

I tend to use a little bit more enthusiasm than is required when I'm pouring vanilla into just about anything I'm baking. For starters, I don't really measure it... I just pour. And that gets pricey if you're spending $12 or so on a teeny little bottle. So here's what you need:

1 bottle (750ml) vodka, rum or bourbon:
Now in order for the beans to fit in the bottle, you need to pour some of the alcohol out. Depending on what you'd like to do with this excess liquid may dictate what type of alcohol you wish to use! I prefer vodka because it doesn't have a taste and you get the full flavor of the bean, but some of the photos below are using a bottle of bourbon whiskey which does have a lovely complimentary flavor.

15 vanilla beans:
Vanilla beans are expensive if you're buying one or two at a time for $5 each from your grocer. I go through so much vanilla that I buy my beans in "bulk". The Light Cellar down in Bowness (Calgary, AB) sells vanilla beans that are of the utmost quality and at an affordable price!

Once you've acquired these two items from your scavenger hunt list, you'll need a paring knife & a cutting board. Cut each of the beans lengthwise starting just below the top of the bean )where it was attached to the rest of the plant) but leave the bean intact. You want to expose the seeds which are the little specs of black that will get everywhere during this process. You can see them in this bottle:


Once you have cut open all of the beans, stick them into the bottle. Place the bottle in a dark place & let it be. This is where your patience comes into play. You can shake the bottle as often as you remember to, but try to do it once a day for the first week & once a week after that. I've read on some websites that 8 weeks is enough time, but I disagree. The first batch of vanilla I ever made was part of several gift baskets that were done up as Christmas gifts, and the vanilla still smelled boozy. It shouldn't.

These two bottles shown were started in May of this year. I'd give it three months. At least. If you'd like to gift some homemade vanilla for Christmas this year (6 weeks to go dear!) you'll want to bottle it as close to Christmas as possible & leave one or more of the beans in the bottle. Maybe attach a note telling the recipient not to remove the bean(s) & not to use it for a month or so.

Good luck dear... not that you'll need it- This is SO easy


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thanksgiving- a little different this year...

American Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and while I do in fact live in Canada, and have already celebrated Thanksgiving for the year, there are more than a few blogs out there supporting our neighbours to the south. With ten times the population, no wonder us canucks are still inundated with turkey, cranberry and pumpkin recipes!

This year, we decided to do things a little different for Thanksgiving... here's  how our afternoon went down:

 Sushi Rice: more complicated than it should be!

Complete with sake, gf soy sauce, wasabi, ginger, spicy mayo... the works!

Enjoy your holidays should you be celebrating them in a few weeks (while the rest of us prepare for Christmas!). This time of year is wonderful for spending time with family, and of course eating great food (allergy free!)