Whether you're a beginner cook or a seasoned pro, everybody seems to have their old standbys. You know what I'm talking about, the ol' faithfuls, the meatloaf, spaghetti, chocolate chip cookies, chicken parmesan, whatever it may be, you've got that recipe down pat so you could very well make it in your sleep. It's hard to stray from a recipe that you have become so comfortable with, especially when you know how delicious the results are! For me one of my most frequently made baked goods is biscotti. I have been making Williams Sonoma's recipe for Almond Cranberry Biscotti for years now, and it has become such a staple in my home that my sister has started baking them regularly as well. Ever since making our first batch years ago we've been telling everybody that they are simply "the best". So when my mom began hinting (pretty much with a sledgehammer with "hints" such as "we haven't had that biscotti in a while" or "I sure miss your biscotti" and even "my coffee would be better if I had biscotti on the side", all classic lines that she undoubtedly picked up from my aunt Angie) I knew it was time to whip up another batch.
With a half full (feelin' positive these days) bag of pistachios in the house that were just about to near their end, I decided to switch up my regular biscotti recipe and try Giada DeLaurentis' recipe for Holiday Biscotti. There's nothing particularly festive about these biscotti other than their colour. The combination of green pistachios, ruby red cranberries, and white chocolate drizzled on top give the biscotti their holiday name. Because it's only the beginning of Spring and I'm not much of a fan of chocolate drizzled or dipped with my biscotti, I decided to skip the white chocolate drizzle. The biscotti turned out better than I could have anticipated! I loved the flavour of the pistachios, and, just as always, I loved the chewy tart bites that the dried cranberries added to the cookies. What also stood out for me was that great brightness that was introduced into the cookie thanks to adding lemon zest. But above all, I was impressed by the texture of the biscotti. Perfectly crumbly, with a great mouth feel, these Pistachio Cranberry Biscotti make it into my top ranking due to their perfect texture!
As soon as the biscotti were all eaten up, I found myself already brainstorming other biscotti flavour combinations. Whenever I find a recipe that knocks my socks off, I try and break down the recipe and turn it into a guide so that I can use the guide next time to create my very own recipe.
An obvious update to the biscotti recipe would be switching up the pistachios for other nut varieties, as well as switching the dried cranberries for other dried fruits, or even types of chips like chocolate, white chocolate, toffee, peanut butter, etc. From here think about the background flavours. In this particular biscotti, the lemon zest acted as a great base flavour for the other additions, but there are so many more possibilities to try! Other citrus fruits like orange would be a great addition, add in some of the zest and even the juice. Or think of different extracts like vanilla and almond. This is where you can really get creative and make your signature old standby your own!
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt at high speed until mixture becomes pale yellow in colour. Beat in the eggs one at a time at medium speed.
3. At low speed add in the flour in 3 stages, mix until just combined. Stir in the pistachios and cranberries.
4. Turn dough out onto the parchment or silpat mat. Form dough into a 13-inch long log. Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden. Let cool for 5-10 minutes.
5. Place the log on a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4-inch slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake for another 15 minutes, or until pale golden. Let cool and serve with your favourite hot beverage.
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