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Let’s say that you are going out of town and need to thank a friend for looking after your cat. Or perhaps you’re visiting people over the holidays and want to have a gift for your hosts. Or it could be that you want a treat for the people who are visiting you. Or maybe you just want a snack to celebrate the holidays that is a little more restrained than cookies or cake but will still be appreciated as a snack or dessert. Let’s also say you, like me, prefer not to dirty more than one bowl if you can possibly avoid it. Might I introduce you to this new Biscotti recipe I came across; just in time for Christmas.

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I don’t know what time spent with your family looks like but time spent with my family often involves hanging out in the kitchen while someone, or all the someones, are involved in a cooking project. Measuring cups and spoons are passed around, the oven is heated and then cooled and then heated again, and there is inevitably flour or oil or both spilled on the floor. Sometimes the dishes are long and involved and require multiple hands but it’s nice to have some one-bowl treats that you can sneak in quickly while everyone else is chopping. Granted Christmas is a little different here, generally spent on Chinese food and movies, but there’s still time spent in the kitchen.

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What I wanted was a biscotti recipe that didn’t require creaming butter and sugar together because what if I wanted to make savory biscotti? Or make not-as-sweet biscotti? Plus this recipe helps in my never-ending quest to figure out how to use up leftover milk or cream. The end result comes together quickly with nothing more than a bowl, a spatula, and your hands. It can be dressed up or down and given virtually any flavor you can think of. And because the cookies are twice-baked (biscotti is from a Latin word for twice-cooked) they keep for longer than other baked goods without tasting stale.  If they last that long. And if not, I’d consider that a success.

Merry Christmas friends, however you celebrate it.

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Biscotti – a choose-your-own-adventure recipe
Adapted from Gourmet’s recipe for Parmesan Black Pepper Biscotti

Make two cookie logs and about 40 biscotti

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbs sugar (if you’re making a sweet flavor)
6 tbs (3/4 stick) butter, cold and cut into 12 pieces
2 eggs
1/3 cup milk or cream
1 cup mix-ins (optional) *
1-2 tbs complimentary spice

Preheat the oven to 350F and line a cookie sheet with parchment or a silpat.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the sugar only if you plan to make a sweet biscotti recipe. Add the pieces of butter and work them into the dry goods using your fingertips (not unlike you could do for pie crust). Rub the butter into the flour mixture until the bowl is filled with a lot of little grainy bits of flour and a few larger pieces of butter are still there. It should only take a minute or two. Add the eggs and milk and stir to combine. When the mixture is almost combined but there’s still come dry bits of flour, add any mixins and spices you want. Stir to combine.

Divide the dough in to and put half of the dough onto one side of the cookie sheet. Shape it into a log 2-4 inches wide and 8-12 inches long, depending on how long/tall you want the cookies to be; there’s no right choice. The dough will be a little sticky so you may want to dust your hands with flour before you start. Repeat with the second half of the dough. You can sprinkle the tops of savory biscotti with 1 tbs of coarse salt or sweet biscotti with 2 tbs of sugar (not included in recipe ingredients). Bake the cookie log for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan and cook for another 15 minutes or until the log is browned on top and firm.

Remove the logs from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes so you won’t burn your fingers. Reduce the oven temperature to 300F. Then put the logs on a cutting board and slice them into 1/2 inch thick slices. Put the slices back on the cookie sheet and turn them onto their sides. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the slices over and bake another 15-20 minutes, until the cookies are crisp and lightly browned. Let them cool and serve them warm from the oven or room temperature. Store the cookies in an airtight container and they’ll last for at least 2 weeks.

* So, what flavors should you choose? Well I split the recipe in half and made two – chocolate cranberry with 3/4 cup of finely chopped chocolate and 1/4 cup dried cranberries and cheddar black pepper with 1 cup of shredded cheddar and 2 tbs of freshly ground black pepper. I would recommend dried fruit rather than fresh (too juicy) but that could mean things like orange zest, sundried tomatoes, chopped olives, or nuts. For sweet flavors spices could mean cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, or clove. Savory gives you more options – chili powder, cayenne, thyme, oregano, fennel seed, any flavor you like really. Not sure how well flavors will go together? If I’m not sure about a combination I put a small amount of the combined flavors in a bowl and smell them – if they smell good together they’ll probably taste good too.


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