Temptation, Thy Name is Biscotti

DSCN5621

Who can resist the crunchy, sweet, buttery goodness of fresh Biscotti?  Every year at Christmas I make batch after batch of an amazing chocolate chunk version to put in my goodie baskets.  It’s easier than you might think and way better than most of what you get at the store.  Of course, if it’s homemade it’s got to be better, right?  🙂  I put a bag of these beauties in a basket with some homemade cappuccino mix and some spoons dipped in melted chocolate, add a festive ribbon and, voila!  The perfect gift for the chocoholics in your life.

I looked at several different recipes before coming up with this one.  One of the things I love the most about baking is that you can customize anything to suit your own tastes.  And even though I’ve tweeked it to make it a little better for you, I do need to put in this disclaimer.  THIS RECIPE DOES NOT EVEN REMOTELY RESEMBLE, IN ANY WAY, A HEALTHY FOOD.  So, you know, pace yourself.  🙂

Now that you’ve read the warning label, let’s get baking!

Chocolate Chunk Biscotti Recipe

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups dehydrated sugar cane juice

4 pastured eggs

2 teaspoons homemade vanilla

4 1/4 cups flour of your choice*

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp instant coffee

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 pkg semi-sweet chocolate chunks (you can find soy-free semi-sweet chocolate chunks here)

*I have never used a gluten-free flour in this recipe, so I don’t know how well that would work

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Light and fluffy!

Light as a cloud!

Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Now beat in the vanilla.

Eggs and vanilla beaten in well

Eggs and vanilla beaten in well

Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, instant coffee, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.  Add to butter mixture a little at a time, beating well between each addition.  Add the chocolate chunks and mix with a spoon untill evenly distributed.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.

Ready to pat out onto the baking sheets

Ready to pat out onto the baking sheets

Butter and flour 2 cookie sheets.  On each cookie sheet pat out 2 pieces of the dough into logs about 1/2 inch high, 1 1/2 inches wide, and 14 inches long (ish).  Make sure the logs are at least 2 inches apart.

Ready to go in the oven

Ready to go in the oven

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Put on a cooling rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

DSCN5616

Coolness is relative…

Put the logs on a cutting board and using a serrated knife, slice the logs on a diagonal into 1/2 inch wide pieces.

Cuttin' up

Cuttin’ up

Put the pieces back on the cookie sheet about 1/2 inch apart and put back in the oven for 10 minutes.  I don’t always get the very end pieces to fit back on the cookie sheet.  There’s usually someone around to take care of those pesky pieces, though!

Ready to go back in the oven

Ready to go back in the oven

Let cool completely and then store in an airtight container.  These also freeze beautifully.  Just take them out, let them thaw, and serve.

Ah, Biscotti

Ah, Biscotti

And if you really want to get wild and crazy, you can dip some of them in melted chocolate.  Oh my!  Sometimes my children just don’t know what to do with me…

What kind of biscotti is your favorite?  Let us know by leaving a comment below or click on the balloony thing at the top.

This post was shared at Real Food Wednesday, and at Ginger Jamboree.

 

My Big Fat Greek Baklava

 

a little bit of heaven

Well, OK, not really fat.  But Big.  And Greek.  And Baklava.

This stuff is amazing.  Really.  It’s quite time intensive if you don’t have a food processor.  Which I don’t.  But worth it.  And I just happened to be home all alone so I decided to go play in the kitchen.  I love being home all alone.  I can crank up my music as loud as I want and don’t have to see anyone stomp into the kitchen, roll their eyes at me and say, “Mo-ther!  Turn your music down!  You’re not the only one who lives here ya know!”  Not that that has anything to do with Greece.  Or Baklava.  It just makes me giggle.

But back to the Baklava.  I looked at many different recipes and combined several to make this.  It uses several different spices, but no worries if you don’t have them all.  Some of the recipes I looked at only called for cinnamon.  So just use what you have on hand.

Baklava Recipe

1 pound of nuts (I used walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans because that’s what I happened to have in my kitchen.  You can use any kind as long as they are raw and unsalted.)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp mace

1/2 tsp ground cardoman

1/2 tsp allspice

1 16oz package phyllo dough

1 cup melted butter

Syrup

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon juice

peel from 1 orange, washed, cut in strips, and pith removed

2 cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Chop the nuts very fine.  You can do this by hand or in a food processor.

Chopped nuts are so fine! Or is that finely chopped nuts?

After the nuts are fine, mix the ground spices into them.

Don't the spices look pretty?

Ok, now comes the tricky bit.  Unroll the phyllo and place it on a cookie sheet (or your counter top if it’s clean enough).  Mine measured 9×14 so I had to cut an inch off of one end so it would fit my baking dish.  Now, cover the phyllo with plastic wrap and then with a damp cloth.  Some people say to just cover it with the damp cloth, but mine made the phyllo kinda soggy and it stuck together.  So now I cover it with the plastic wrap first.  Place 4 to 6 sheets of phyllo in the bottom of your baking dish.  Brush generously with butter.

Phyllo brushed with butter

 Sprinkle 5 to 6 tablespoons of the nut mixture evenly over the phyllo.  You can put more than that if you want, just keep in mind that too much at a time will make the Baklava not stick together as well.

 

First layer of nuts

Now, add 2 more sheets of phyllo dough and brush with butter.

Second layer of phyllo

Continue to layer the nuts and phyllo sheets, brushing the sheets with butter as you go, until you have used all of the nut mixture.  For the top layer of phyllo, use 6 to 8 sheets, buttering each one.

Last layer of phyllo

Now, using a very sharp knife, cut the Baklava all the way through, into 4 long rows.  Then cut diagonally to make diamond shapes.

Cut and ready for the oven!

Confession time.  I didn’t cut mine in small enough pieces before I baked it.  So, after it cooled, I cut the pieces smaller.

Bake the Baklava for 40 to 50 minutes until golden brown.

Golden loveliness!

While the oven is doing its thing, it’s time to make the syrup to pour over the golden loveliness.

To make the syrup, combine the brown sugar and the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Brown sugar and water

After that comes to a boil, add the honey, cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange peel.  Again, if you don’t have add of these things, it’s ok.  Just use what you have.

All the good stuff added to the pan

Let that come back to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Simmer, simmer...

After the simmering, the syrup will be reduced and nicely thick.  Remove and discard the cloves and cinnamon sticks.  The orange peel is now “candied” orange peel and can be used in other recipes.  Or, you can discard that as well if you want.  Add the lemon juice and the vanilla and mix well.  Remove the syrup from the heat and allow to cool slightly.  After removing the Baklava from the oven, immediately spoon the syrup over the top.

Ta da!

Let the Baklava cool completely before serving.  I like to put it in cupcake papers to serve it.  That makes it easier to handle and looks pretty.

Isn't it pretty?

Here’s a close up.

See all the layers?

This is wonderful served as a dessert, or for a mid afternoon snack.  Or you can take it to a party and really impress your friends!  For best results, store your Baklava uncovered.  That way it stays crispy.

Enjoy!

Does It Get Any Better Than Chocolate?

Chocolate Poundcake

This happened to be an experiment that turned out amazingly yummy.  I had some chocolate left over from making eclairs and couldn’t bear to see it go to waste!  So I decided that I needed something to pour it on :).  This is the result, and according to my tasters, is something I need to make fairly often.  Here is how I made this masterful use of leftover chocolate.

Chocolate Poundcake

Cake

4 oz semisweet chocolate

1 cup butter

2  cups sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

3 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup buttermilk

Melt 4 oz chocolate in microwave  until soft enough to stir.  Don’t over heat or it will scorch.  Mix into buttermilk until smooth.

Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each one.  Beat 2 1/2 minutes on high.  Add vanilla.

Sift dry ingrediants and add alternating with buttermilk/chocolate mixture.  Beat 3 1/2 minutes.

Pour in buttered and floured Bundt pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Turn out of pan onto a cooling rack.  When cool transfer to a serving plate.

Glaze

4 oz semisweet chocolate

2 Tbsp water

2 Tbsp butter, cup into pieces

Melt chocolate and water together in microwave.  Don’t over heat or it will scorch.  Stir until smooth.  Gradually stir in the butter.  It should be thin enough to pour.  If not, reheat until it is.  Pour over the cake.  Let cool til set.

Serve yourself a slice of this amazing chocolatey yumminess with a hot cup of tea or coffee and your day will instantly improve!

This is a really good chocolate fix, but not cloyingly sweet.  Perfect to make for your sweetie for Valentine’s Day.

Perhaps next time I’ll add some instant coffee to the cake and see what happens…

Enjoy!