Less than a week till Christmas, which means jingle bells a-ringing, carolers singing, cookies baking...oh and long line ups, crowds, crying children, and most of all, stress from not having all of your Christmas gifts ready in time! Sure it's a pretty pessimistic way of looking at the holiday season, but let's face it, that's a reality when it comes to Christmas shopping during those last two weeks before the big day. So if you're like me and you still have those few last minute gifts to get, take my advice and avoid shopping altogether! I don't know about you, but it seems like no one even has a Christmas list this year anyway. Whenever I ask anyone about what they would like for the holiday this year, I always get the same few responses, either "I don't know", "I don't need anything", and lastly (and the most sappy of all) "just time with you". I have to admit, that I'm actually one of those people this year who doesn't have anything on my list. I'm at a point in my life where I would much rather receive something personal and/or sentimental rather than some new clothes or jewelry.
So this year when my mom was stressing over what to get her staff for Christmas, we decided upon homemade baked goods. Sure, there are some nice gift baskets out there, and hey, who doesn't need another Santa figurine (I kid!), but a nicely gift-wrapped bag of homemade treats tops any gift you can buy at the mall. Making homemade treats as holiday gifts allows you to give the people you care about something unique, personal, and most importantly, it shows that you took the time to make them something really special.
One of my favourite cookies, and a good ol' no fail standby, is my Almond Cranberry Biscotti. Perfect for gift giving, this biscotti has just the right amount of sweetness to keep everyone happy, it's really easy to make, looks pretty and festive with flecks of ruby red cranberries, and the best part...drum roll please...you can make these cookies as much as a week in advance because of their dry and crumbly texture. Because we were giving the biscotti as gifts, we thought it would be extra special to give two different flavours of biscotti. So I developed a recipe for Chocolate Almond Biscotti. Although the most prominent flavour in the cookies is chocolate, they aren't too sweet, making them a great accompaniment to your morning coffee. I promise you, your friends and family will light up like a Christmas tree when you hand them a beautiful bag of my homemade biscotti!
Tip: If you prefer your biscotti on the sweeter side, melt some semi-sweet chocolate to drizzle over the baked biscotti. This also makes the biscotti look more "store-bought".
1 cup whole almonds, toasted and chopped
1 1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar at high speed until light in colour and the mixture no longer feels gritty when rubbed between your fingers.
2. Add the eggs, one at a time, at low speed until combined. Add the vanilla and combine at low speed.
3. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Add the flour to the sugar and egg mixture in several increments, while mixing at low speed. Stir until just combined.
4. Stir in the almonds. Separate the dough in half and, on a floured surface, form each half into a log about 3 1/2 - 4 inches in width. Carefully transfer logs to a lined baking sheet and bake at 350º for 30 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and carefully transfer logs to a wire rack. Let cool for about 10 minutes.
6. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs into slices about 3/4 of an inch thick. Lay cookies on their side on baking sheet and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Let cool and serve with coffee. Store in an airtight container.
Marilyn Monroe - Santa Baby
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