House Biscotti

biscotti

This is a recipe near and dear to my heart. I first made biscotti soon after getting married, in our tiny basement kitchen oven. It’s a very simple recipe that can be easily adapted to your preferences. David often brings a batch of them to work for quick breakfasts / snacks (they keep really, really well), and now some of his co-workers come looking for them as well. 😉

I recently made a batch with Marcus for the first time. He loved using a whisk and dumping all the mix-ins in…and, of course, eating the crumbs off the tray.

stir biscotti

biscotti logs unbaked

biscotti log sliced

A few notes:

  • The dough should be fairly stiff and you shouldn’t need any additional flour to shape it into logs. If it’s sticky, just pop it in the fridge for a few minutes before shaping.
  • The trickiest part of making biscotti is cutting them. I find it’s all about the timing — you want the biscotti logs to be cool enough to handle, but not completely cold or they’ll be more likely to crumble. Twenty minutes after the first bake is usually the sweet spot for me.
  • This recipe is very adaptable. My personal favorite flavor combination is below, but as long as you keep the add-ins to ~1 1/2 to 2 cups you should be able to swap in your choice of nuts/fruits/chocolate/seeds and even jazz up the spices if you want.

House Biscotti

Makes 3-4 dozen biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 3 large eggs, straight from the fridge
  • 200g (1 c) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp almond extract
  • 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 400g (3 1/4 c) AP flour (I have swapped out 50% of the flour for sifted whole wheat flour with good results)
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 85g (1/2 c) dark chocolate chips
  • 75g (1/2 c) raisins
  • 140g (1 c) toasted and chopped almonds
  • Handful of flax seeds

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat (if your baking sheets are small, use two).
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, sugar, and extracts until smooth. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to gently combine.
  4. When the dry ingredients are almost fully incorporated, mix in the chocolate chips, raisins, and almonds. Stir just until everything is combined and there are no streaks of flour remaining. If the mixture is sticky, cover the bowl with plastic and chill for ~15 minutes before proceeding.
  5. Divide the dough into two equal parts. Working with one part at a time, transfer to the prepared baking sheet and pat into logs about 1/2 an inch thick. Leave at least 3 inches between the two logs as they will spread a little.
  6. Bake until the tops are lightly golden, firm, and beginning to crack – about 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool for about 20-30 minutes, or until the logs are cool enough to handle but still slightly warm.
  7. Use a large offset spatula to transfer one log at a time to a cutting board. Use a sharp serrated knife to slice each log crosswise into ~1/2″ logs. (I find it easiest to just press down firmly with the knife rather than saw.) Place the cookies back on the baking sheet(s) cut side up and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until lightly toasted. (You can flip the cookies over halfway through baking, but I usually don’t bother.)
  8. Cool completely on a wire rack (cookies will crisp us as they cool). Serve biscotti with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Leftovers store well for weeks in an airtight container.

Whole grain banana bread, and baking with kids


Over the last few months, my two year old has started “helping” me in the kitchen. This is kind of a big deal because for the first almost two years of parenthood, the kitchen was my safe place. Not just because I would cook / bake to relax, but because we literally put up a gate to keep our inquisitive toddler out of the kitchen.

But when we moved earlier this summer, my husband and I, figuring we’d have to teach kitchen safety sooner or later, decided it was time to rip off the band-aid and go gate-free in our new house. I’ll be honest — those first couple of months were a struggle. Being a normal 2-year-old, Marcus wanted to touch everything and open all the cabinet doors. (I found toys in the freezer a couple of times.) Now, about 6 months later, I can’t remember the last time I had to say, “Don’t touch the stove!” Progress.

So now we’ve graduated to Mommy-Marcus kitchen adventures. I’m trying to make it a point to choose one or two recipes a week where he can actively participate. At first I was concerned with the mess, the safety, and the unpredictability of it all. I quickly realized that I just needed to let go. Baking with kids is not about being picture-perfect or detailed or anything close to fancy. It is about creating memories, teaching independence, and having fun. Marcus absolutely loves helping, and I’m thrilled to be able to share one of my hobbies with such an eager little buddy.

Marcus with flour

One of our current favorite things to make together is banana bread. Marcus likes it because he gets to smash bananas and later eat the banana bread. I like it because there’s no mixer or special ingredients required. I’ve been making our house banana bread for years, but we tried this King Arthur recipe recently and it was a hit — it’s a little more cake-like and moist (thanks to a full pound of bananas). Both will be in our recipe rotation this year.

Marcus eating

Some tips:

  • When baking with Marcus, I prepare some things in advance: I pre-measure the ingredients, toast/chop the nuts and fruit, and line the pan. I’ll give him a few tasks like smashing up the bananas, pouring in the pre-measured ingredients, stirring, and sprinkling on the topping. And he definitely helps with clean-up too (I give him a damp cloth to help wipe down the counter).
  • I used 100% sifted red spring wheat flour and it worked beautifully — not heavy or stodgy like completely whole grain products can be. I think you can definitely play around with the flours in this recipe; white whole wheat or spelt would be good choices, or you could mix regular AP and regular WW.
  • I like baking quick breads in my 9x4x4 pullman pan for nice straight sides (baking time is generally about the same for me), but this recipe certainly works in a regular loaf pan.
  • Like a good banana bread, this recipe holds up well to substitutions. Switch up the nuts and dried fruit for chocolate or omit them completely. Change the spices to suit your tastes. I’d love to try this with a teaspoon of espresso powder.
    One of Marcus’ favorite things about helping in the kitchen is getting to wear his apron (and making me wear mine). I absolutely love the aprons from Hedley & Bennett — not sponsored, though they can if they want. 😉
  • The key to really good banana bread is really ripe bananas. Like so ripe they’re “dead” — basically black all over. I usually let them get to that state then pop them into the freezer. When I want to bake with them, I measure out the amount I need into a bowl and defrost in the microwave. There will be a lot of liquid; just add it to the recipe.
  • I generally lower the sugar in my baked goods a bit, so if you like a sweeter loaf you can increase the sugar to 200g (1 cup). I think this recipe would actually be fine with even less sugar and will probably lower to 150g next time (especially if dried fruits are added).
  • Please don’t skip the topping! The caramelized crunchy lid is one of my favorite parts of this banana bread.

Other kid-helper-friendly recipes on Cook Til Delicious:

Whole Grain Banana Bread

Makes one 9×5 loaf | Barely adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

  • 454g thoroughly mashed, very ripe banana (4 – 5 medium bananas)
  • 99g vegetable oil (I prefer grapeseed)
  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 226g sifted whole grain flour (see note above)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 57g chopped, toasted walnuts (optional)
  • 57g chopped dates (optional)

For topping:

  • 15g coarse or granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center position. If your nuts aren’t yet toasted, put them in while the oven is preheating (just don’t forget about them!). Lightly grease or line a pullman pan/loaf pan with parchment.
  2. Place the bananas in a large bowl and mash them with a wooden spoon or fork until mostly smooth (a few lumps are ok). Whisk in the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to combine gently. When the batter is almost completely combined (there should still be a few streaks of flour visible), add the nuts and dried fruit. Mix until just combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and level the top with a palette knife. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the batter.
  5. Bake the bread for about 60 to 75 minutes, until the bread feels set on the top, and a paring knife (or other thin knife) inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs (but no wet batter). If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 15 to 20 minutes of baking.
  6. Remove the bread from the oven. Cool it in the pan for 15 minutes, then loosen the edges, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely. Store leftover bread, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

Three years, and Everyday Chocolate Chunk Cookies

chocolate chunk cookiesHappy New Year, folks. We’re in Seattle visiting my family for a couple weeks. Despite a long travel day due to weather, we got to wake up to a white Christmas — possibly my first ever! All of my brothers eventually made it in town and we spent the day opening gifts, eating our fill of prime rib and cookies, watching Marcus race his new fire engine toy all over the house, and falling asleep to “Jingle All the Way.” So basically, a perfect Christmas. Since then, we’ve been keeping it pretty low key — catching up with old friends, trying old and new coffee shops and bakeries, and going to sleep long before midnight.

And guess what? Cook Til Delicious is turning three years old! I’ve never celebrated this blog’s birthday before because I’m generally too lazy to blog while on vacation. But in reality, CTD was started as sort of a new year’s resolution to document recipes and become a better baker. When we first started out here, I had never made a layer cake, let alone a wedding cake; I had yet to bake a good sourdough loaf, choux pastry was far out on the horizon, and I didn’t own a tart pan. My to-bake list is still a mile long, but progress has been made — one bake at a time.

One of the things I’ve been focusing on more this past year (and hopefully into the next) is building a library of solid “base” recipes — go-to scones, everyday brownies, and the like. And, of course, chocolate chunk cookies.

I definitely believe in different recipes for different occasions. My “special occasion” chocolate chunk cookie is a riff on Sarah Kieffer’s now-famous pan-banging chocolate chip cookie recipe. But this recipe here is my everyday go-to. You don’t need to soften butter, and you don’t need a mixer. This is the recipe I turn to when I want to make cookies for a crowd (I actually made dozens of these for my brother’s wedding), or just need to refill the cookie jar at home.

Notes:

  • For the gooiest, chocolatiest cookies, I definitely recommend using chocolate callets or chopping up chocolate bars — unlike chocolate chips, they melt into puddles, which is definitely a good thing. I like Callebaut 70%, but I often just use good quality chocolate bars.
  • I love experimenting with different flours in this recipe. My favorite combination is to use 1/3 AP flour, 1/3 spelt flour, and 1/3 bread flour — the spelt adds some wholesome nuttiness and the bread provides height and chew. But all AP definitely works, if that’s what you have on hand — the cookies will just be flatter.
  • I love subbing a little bit of turbinado sugar for some of the brown — it adds a delightful crunch (I learned this from Not Without Salt’s recipe, which I also love.); espresso powder or finely ground coffee adds a slight bitterness that offsets the sweetness beautifully.
  • If you keep the total add-ins to ~240-300 grams, you can certainly make this cookie your own by adding in toasted nuts, dried fruit, toffee bits, etc. The base itself is plenty sweet so I sometimes cut both the sugars by a couple tablespoons if I am adding sweeter add-ins, or just feel like being slightly healthier.

Everyday Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Makes 26-28 cookies | Adapted from Tara O’Brady, with a HT to Not Without Salt

Ingredients

  • 225g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 415g all-purpose flour (see note above)
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp espresso powder, or very finely ground coffee (optional)
  • 300g light brown sugar (optional: swap out 50g for turbinado sugar)
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 240g chopped semi or bittersweet chocolate (I recommend at least 55%)
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling

Method

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder/coffee (if using). Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, stirring occasionally. Use the lowest heat possible — you don’t want to boil or brown the butter or lose any more moisture than necessary.
  3. Pour the melted butter into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar all at once and whisk until combined. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to combine. Whisk in vanilla.
  4. Pour in the dry ingredients and stir to combine, using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. When the flour is almost all incorporated, stir in the chocolate. Mix only enough to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl and scooping from the bottom of the bowl to make sure all the flour is incorporated.
  5. Chill the mixture for five minutes while you line three cookie sheets with parchment or Silpats.
  6. Portion cookie dough into golf ball-sized rounds (~50 grams or 3 Tbsp) and place on prepared cookie sheets (I can fit 9 cookies on a normal sized cookie sheet). Sprinkle with flaky salt.
  7. Place cookie sheets in the freezer and preheat the oven to 360F (yes, 360!) with an oven rack in the middle. If you don’t have enough room in your freezer for all three sheets, put all the pre-shaped cookies on one sheet and remove 9 at a time to bake, using a cold/room temperature sheet for each batch.
  8. Bake each sheet one at a time for ~10 minutes, rotating halfway through. The cookies should be lightly golden and cracked, but still soft in the center.
  9. Sprinkle on a little more flaky salt, if desired (I like to sprinkle some on any large chocolate puddles), and allow to cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies keep well for up to 5 days in an airtight container.

Rice Krispies Snowmen: Treats for Toys

Rice Krispies Snowmen

This post is sponsored by Kellogg’s Rice Krispies. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

I grew up in the mild Pacific Northwest, where snow doesn’t necessarily make an appearance each winter. So when it did snow, it was a huge deal — school would get cancelled for the lightest of dustings, and we’d all bundle up and head outside to make snow angels and build snowmen (largely because there was hot chocolate waiting for us afterwards). My Canadian-born kids, on the other hand, will probably build more snowmen before kindergarten then I did my entire childhood.

But whether you have half an inch or twenty inches of snow outside, you can make these cute Rice Krispies Snowmen! They’re a breeze to whip up (no oven required!) and are a great creative activity for the little ones in your life. This is the second year that I’ve made something for the Kellogg’s Treats for Toys campaign (remember last year’s DIY Christmas Forest?), which donates funds to provide real toys for children in need. If you’re looking for a way to make a difference this season, I encourage you to make your own Treats for Toys, either using this recipe or something from your own imagination! It’s simple: create a toy-inspired Rice Krispies treat, upload it to the Treats for Toys site or social media (using the #treatsfortoys hashtag), and Kellogg’s will donate $20 to the Salvation Army to buy real toys for children in need.

A few notes:

  • These Rice Krispies snowmen are easy to make, but you have to work fast! The cereal mixture is easiest to mold within the first 5-8 minutes, so it definitely helps to have an extra pair of hands — one person can portion out the cereal and the other can shape the portions into balls.
  • Grease your measuring cups and hands well — otherwise you will spend more time scraping sticky marshmallow than making snowmen.
  • Use a skewer or chopstick to make light indents for facial features and arms. This makes it much easier to stick your candies/pretzels in place.

rice krispies balls

snowmen undressed

snowmen couple

Rice Krispies Snowmen

Ingredients

  • 56 g / 1/4 c unsalted butter
  • 250 g marshmallows (I used mini)
  • 168 g / 6 c Rice Krispies cereal
  • Flaked coconut
  • Pretzel rods
  • Assorted candies for decoration (such as mini chocolate chips, gummies, mini candy canes)
  • Melted white chocolate / royal icing / frosting for glue (optional)
  • Measuring cups
  • Cooking spray
  • Parchment paper

Method

  1. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Melt the butter over low heat in a large pot (big enough to hold the Rice Krispies).
  2. When the butter is melted, add the marshmallows, stirring frequently to avoid sticking. When the marshmallows are melted, turn off the heat, add the cereal, and stir with a silicon spatula or wooden spoon to coat evenly.
  3. Using well-greased measuring cups, portion out cereal in a few different sizes (I used 1/4, 1/3, and 1/2 cup measures) onto the prepared sheet pan. When all the cereal is portioned out, use well-greased hands to shape the portions into round balls. Pack firmly but not so hard as to crush the cereal.
  4. Roll each ball in flaked coconut for a snowy effect. Press two or three balls together to form snowmen of various sizes. Use a bit of melted white chocolate / royal icing / frosting for glue, if desired.
  5. Use pretzels and candies to decorate snowmen as desired. Some ideas:
    • Pretzel sticks for arms
    • Mini chocolate chips for eyes and mouths
    • Small orange gummies or candy corn for noses
    • Small round candies for buttons
    • Mini candy canes for skis

Matcha Mint Oreos


Matcha mint Oreos! I’m pretty excited about these cookies, because homemade Oreos have been on my baking bucket list for awhile now. I’ve tried a few different recipes in the past, but none of them really did it for me. But the base recipe for these Oreos comes from Stella Park’s fantastic book, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts, and they are the real deal. Bake a batch of these and your house will smell like an Oreo factory.

For a festive twist, I decided to go with a matcha mint filling, inspired by the perennially popular Candy Cane Joe Joe’s from my favorite grocery store not in Canada (sad face). I added matcha mostly for color, but its earthy flavor also tempers the sweetness from the candy canes.

matcha mint oreos

A few notes:

  • When making the wafers, I find it easiest to roll the dough to the desired thinness right after mixing. Divide the dough in half and roll each half between two sheets of parchment paper. Stick the rolled out dough in the fridge for about half an hour just to firm it up, then cut your rounds. This way, you don’t have to use any extra cocoa powder for rolling and you can use the parchment to line your sheet pans.
  • Make and completely cool your wafers before making the filling, as the filling sets quickly and must be used right after mixing. (The wafers keep really well, so you can definitely make this recipe over a couple of days.)
  • Crush your peppermint candies really finely. Otherwise your piping tip will get clogged when you fill the cookies and it’ll be hard to get your cookies to lie flat. Also, someone could break a tooth.
  • Matcha powders vary quite a bit in potency. I liked how my filling tasted with 1 Tbsp, but if you’re unsure start with less and add more to taste. You can also omit the peppermint extract if you want a more prominent matcha flavor.

Matcha Mint Oreos

Adapted from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts | Makes about 20 2-inch sandwich cookies

Ingredients

For the Oreo wafers:

  • One batch of this recipe, cut into 2-inch rounds and completely cooled

For the matcha mint filling:

  • 170g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp pure peppermint extract
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 240g powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp matcha powder
  • 1/3 c finely crushed candy canes or peppermint candies

Method

For the matcha mint filling:

  1. Before making the filling, flip half the chocolate wafers upside down so they can be filled immediately after preparing the filling.
  2. Sift the matcha powder and icing sugar together and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, completely melt butter over medium-low heat. Simmer, stirring with a heat-resistant spatula, while butter hisses and pops; if you notice brown bits forming along the edges, reduce heat to low. Continue cooking and stirring until butter falls silent, then strain into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add the peppermint extract and salt, followed by powdered sugar and matcha. Mix on low to moisten, then increase to medium and beat until creamy and soft, about 5 minutes. If your filling is runny, stick it in the fridge for a few minutes to stiffen slightly (this should only take a few minutes). Stir in the peppermint candies. Transfer to a heavy-duty pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch tip and use immediately.

To assemble:

  • Pipe about a tablespoon of filling onto each upturned wafer, then sandwich with the remaining halves. Gently twist the cookies to evenly distribute the filling. Allow cookies to set for about half an hour before serving. Store leftovers (if there are any) in an airtight container. They keep well at room temperature for about a week. (For longer storage, keep in refrigerator or freezer; serve at room temperature.)

Matcha Mint Oreo stack

Granola Biscotti

Granola biscotti
A couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to receive a copy of Deb Perelman’s new cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites. I’ve been reading Smitten Kitchen for…well, probably about as long as it’s existed. In an internet now overloaded with food blogs (sorry, not sorry) it’s one of the few that I still enjoy reading regularly. Deb’s clear and candid writing style is a breath of fresh air, and her recipes strike that rare balance between “stuff I want to attempt” and “stuff I’ll actually make.” (Her hidden kid pictures are a genius touch as well.) Can you tell I’m a fangirl? OK, moving on now.

While there are plenty of recipes that caught my eye (hello pretzel linzers with salted caramel and chicken and rice, street cart style!), I knew right away that granola biscotti would be the first I’d tackle because 1) we’d just run out of granola, 2) my 2-year old asks for “two cookies, please” most days (yes, he’s very specific about the “two” and no, he doesn’t always get them) and 3) previously mentioned 2-year-old is also obsessed with “helping” in the kitchen. (Recipes with lots of add-ins are perfect for little helpers, because they get to dump lots of things in bowls.) These have been a hit with the big and little people alike, and I can personally vouch that they’re equally good dunked in coffee or dipped in yogurt.

Smitten Kitchen cookbook with biscotti

As Deb notes, these biscotti are very tweakable. I’ve included the recipe here as it appears in the book and my own substitutions in brackets. Also, I think these would make great Christmas cookie gifts — perhaps dunked or drizzled with chocolate. You can make these biscotti ahead of time as they keep very well, always a plus at this time of year.

A couple of notes:

  • While I love butter and never shy away from it in baking, I used grapeseed oil because I prefer the texture of oil-based biscotti (they’re generally crisper and less crumbly than butter-based).
  • I also like my biscotti bakery-style (i.e. long), so I made mine bigger than indicated and got 24 instead of 36.
  • Slicing biscotti can be tricky business. If the logs are either too warm or too cold, they tend to crumble rather than cut. I have the best success when I cut them when they’re still slightly warm and push down (not saw) firmly with a sharp, serrated knife.

Granola biscotti 2

Granola Biscotti

Makes 36 biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for your work surface [I used half spelt flour by weight]
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (130 grams) rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table or fine sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted, or virgin coconut oil, warmed until liquefied [I substituted 64g grapeseed oil]
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated or raw (turbinado) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) light- or dark-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional) [I also added 1/2 tsp almond extract]
  • 1/2 cup (45 grams) thinly sliced almonds [I used whole almonds, roughly chopped]
  • 1/2 cup (40 grams) shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup (about 150 grams) dried fruit of your choice, such as raisins, cranberries, cherries, or chopped dried apricots or figs, or a mix thereof
  • 1 egg white [I omitted this]

Method

  1. Mix the flour, rolled oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk the melted butter and sugars in the bottom of a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients, nuts, coconut, and dried fruit. Expect a stiff batter.
  2. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. On a floured counter, using floured hands roll half the dough into a log a little shy of the length of your baking sheet, 12 to 14 inches. Transfer the dough log to the baking sheet, and pat lightly until it becomes more oval- shaped. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Beat the egg white until foamy, and brush it over logs. Bake the logs for 20 minutes, until they are lightly golden brown and beginning to form cracks.
  4. Let cool almost completely (it’s okay if the centers are still lukewarm), about 1 hour. With a serrated knife, cut the logs on the bias into 1/2-inch-thick slices. They will be crumbly; cut as gently as possible. Transfer the slices back to the parchment-lined baking sheet, and lay flat in a single layer. Bake for another 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. (If you like, you can flip them halfway for more even browning, but you will have good color on them either way.)
  5. Cool the biscotti on the baking sheet, or transfer to a rack.

Note: This recipe should prove very tweakable; you could use cinnamon, or almond extract, add citrus zest, vary the fruits and sweeteners. You could swap half the flour for whole wheat or even oat flour. Or you could add some chocolate chips. Who could blame you?

Do ahead: Biscotti keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks, and longer if well wrapped in the freezer.

Excerpted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites. Text and photographs copyright © 2017 Deb Perelman. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Really Good Brownies

brownies from top

A couple of weeks ago I posted a photo of a batch of brownies, and I was flooded with requests for the recipe. I get it — as much as I love tinkering with flavors and techniques, hands down the dessert I crave most often is a good old brownie.

I realize that what constitutes a good brownie varies tremendously from person to person, which is why this is the millionth brownie recipe on the internet. To me, a good brownie is crackly-topped, chewy but tender, and deeply chocolatey. Oh, and well-salted.

brownie in hand

These brownies check all those boxes for me. I still have some tweaks I want to try so I won’t go as far as to call them “perfect,” but for the time being this is the batch to beat.

Without getting too brownie-nerd on you (there’s plenty out there should you wish to delve into that world), here’s a little bit of the rationale behind this recipe:

  • Both butter and oil for a mix of flavor and moisture
  • Both cocoa powder and melted chocolate, the first for a rich chocolate flavor and the second for texture and that crackly top
  • A touch of brown sugar for moisture, flavor, and chew
  • A modest amount of flour to keep things from getting too cakey, but enough so we’re not completely in fudge territory
  • Espresso powder to enhance the chocolate flavor
  • The eggs and sugar are whipped together to provide structure and also to aid in getting that crackly top
  • Baked in an 8×8 square pan for thick, non-wimpy brownies

brownie cut

This recipe is the result of a lot of tinkering, which is why the measurements are a bit weird. I developed it using gram measurements (I bake by weight 99.9% of the time), but the cup measurements are below as well — just know I haven’t tested them myself.

To great brownies!

Really Good Brownies

Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients

  • 85g (6 Tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 75g neutral vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 85g (3 oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I like Callebaut 70%)
  • 100g (3/4 c + 2 tsp) AP flour
  • 57g (2/3 c) Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
  • 169g (3/4 c + 1 Tbsp) granulated sugar
  • 56g (1/4 c + 1 tsp) brown sugar
  • scant 1 tsp coarse kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8 square pan with foil and lightly grease.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, oil, and chocolate. Melt over low heat, then set aside to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and cocoa powder.
  3. Combine all ingredients from the sugar through the espresso powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on low briefly to combine, then crank up the speed to medium high and continue whisking until the mixture is thick and pale (about 5 minutes).
  4. Reduce the speed to low and drizzle in the butter-chocolate-oil mixture. Once incorporated, add the flour-cocoa mixture, mixing just to combine. Use a silicone spatula to stir from the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is well-mixed and there are no pockets of unincorporated flour.
  5. Pour into the prepared pan, sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt, and bake until the top is cracked and glossy and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few wet crumbs (not raw brownie batter, but not completely dry), about 25-30 minutes (start checking at 20 minutes — baking these just the right amount of time is critical to getting the right texture!).
  6. Allow brownies to cool completely before slicing. Store leftovers in an airtight container, or freeze for later. (I actually like chilling my brownies in the fridge for an hour before eating — I find this gives them the perfect amount of chew!)

Pear Cranberry Frangipane Tart

pear cranberry frangipane tart

This recipe is part of a Pie Squad Party organized by Nate at Terminatetor Kitchen. Be sure to check out the delicious pies created by fellow bloggers via the links at the bottom of this post!

It’s no secret around here that I love frangipane. I used to think frangipane was some secret ingredient bakeries used to make their pastries and tarts extra fancy. Then I learned that it wasn’t all that fancy — basically just equal parts butter, sugar, eggs, and ground nuts. Plus, it’s really easy to make, which kind of makes me want to put frangipane in everything. (The price of nuts keeps me in check, though.)

This tart is a twist on the classic French pear and almond tart, one of my all time favorite desserts. I’ve added some cranberries for color and tartness, which balances out the buttery richness of the frangipane and the mellow sweetness of the pears. All the elements of this tart can be made in advance and it’s best served at room temperature, making it a great candidate for Thanksgiving dinner or a holiday potluck.

spreading frangipane
pear cranberry frangipane tart unbaked

Pear Cranberry Frangipane Tart

Makes 1 9-inch tart

Ingredients

For the Poached Pears:

  • 150g / 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 100g / 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 4 c water
  • 4 ripe but firm Bosc pears, peeled, halved, and cored
  • Optional poaching spices: One cinnamon stick, 2 teaspoons whole cloves, black peppercorns or allspice berries, one lemon half, one split vanilla bean, 2-3 star anise, 6-8 fresh ginger slices

For the Quick Cranberry Sauce:

  • 8 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/3 c ginger ale (or water, or orange juice if you prefer)
  • 1/3 c maple syrup
  • A few gratings of orange zest

For the Almond Frangipane:

  • 115g / 4 ounces / 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100g / 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 130g / 1 cup almond flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch of salt

To finish:

  • A handful of fresh or frozen cranberries, for garnish
  • Icing sugar or honey, for serving

Method

For the Poached Pears:

  1. Combine the sugar, maple syrup, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve all the sugar.
  2. When the liquid is at a simmer, add the poaching spices and pears. Cover the pears with a round piece of parchment paper with a hole cut in the center. (This keeps the pears submerged in the liquid while still allowing steam to escape.)
  3. Simmer pears for 10-15 minutes, turning ever 5 minutes or so, or until just tender.
  4. Allow pears to cool in the liquid. (Pears can be refrigerated in the poaching liquid for a few days.)

For the Quick Cranberry Sauce:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. When the mixture begins to boil, turn the heat down to medium low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped and the sauce has thickened to your liking (about 5 minutes).
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the orange zest, if using. Taste and adjust sweetness if needed. (The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated up to a week in advance.)

For the Almond Frangipane:

  1. Beat butter and sugar together on high speed until fluffy, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating the first in thoroughly and scraping down the bowl before adding the second. Mix in the vanilla and salt.
  3. Fold in the almond flour until just combined. (The frangipane can be made ahead and refrigerated a couple days in advance. Bring to room temperature before using.)

To assemble:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spread an even layer of cranberry sauce over the bottom of the tart shell (you won’t need all the sauce — save the rest for accompanying turkey,or for spreading on toast). Spread the frangipane evenly over the sauce.
  2. Arrange the pears on top of the frangipane, pressing them in lightly. You can thinly slice and fan them out as pictured or leave the halves intact — up to you. (Depending on the size of your pears and your mode of decoration, you may not use them all.) Add a few cranberries on top, if desired.
  3. Bake until the frangipane is browned and puffed, about 45 minutes. While the tart is still warm, you can glaze the pears with some of the poaching liquid or some warmed apricot jelly for a bit of shine.
    Serve at room temperature with a dusting of icing sugar or drizzle of honey.

More Pie Squad Creations:

Cloudy Kitchen:
Chocolate Cream pie with whipped peanut butter cream

Cook Til Delicious:
Pear Cranberry Frangipane Tart

DisplacedHousewife:
Five-Spice Cran-Apple Handpies

The Farmer’s Daughter:
Apple Ginger Pie

Harvest and Honey:
Apple Apple Pies

Lyndsey Eden:
Maple Cream Cheese Pear & Pistachio Galette

Salvialimone:
Tarta Tine with White Chocolate Caramelized Pears

TermiNatetor Kitchen:
Brown Butter Chai Pumpkin Pie with Sugared Sage

Topless Baker:
Apple & Blackberry Flower Lattice Pie

The Wood and Spoon:
Chocolate Chess Pie

Veggie Pakoras with Brussels Sprout Slaw

veggie pakora salad

This post was created in partnership with Spice it Up Foods, whose Veggie Pakoras are now available at select Costco stores in Eastern Canada. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

We’re approaching two months with two kids. The transition to becoming a family of four has gone as smoothly as I could have hoped (thank God for grandparents!). But even so, some days it’s…shall we say, challenging getting dinner on the table.

Spice it Up’s vegan and all-natural Veggie Pakoras are perfect for those days when I need a little help whipping up a quick and healthy meal. These crisp and well-spiced baked fritters make tasty snacks on their own, but here I’ve turned them into a light meal with a brussels sprout slaw and a spiced yogurt dressing/dip. The pakoras take about 15 minutes to bake, which conveniently is about as much time as you’ll need to make the salad and dressing!

veggie pakoras

brussels sprout slaw

pakoras and slaw

Veggie Pakoras with Brussels Sprout Slaw and Yogurt Dressing

Serves 4-6 as a light meal

Ingredients

For the brussels sprout slaw:

  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, finely shredded
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely sliced
  • 1/2 c almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 c dried cranberries
  • Cilabtro, for garnish (optional)

For the yogurt dressing:

  • 1 1/2 c plain yogurt, preferably low or full fat
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground tumeric
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • 1 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • Large handful of cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with foil. Place frozen pakoras on the baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until crisp, turning once midway through cooking.
  2. While the pakoras are baking, toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant. Cool slightly, then grind using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients from the yogurt through the ginger. Stir in the cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside 1/2 a cup for dipping.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the slaw ingredients. Toss with the remaining dressing.
  5. To serve, top slaw with hot pakoras and cilantro and serve with reserved dressing on the side as a dipping sauce.

Pumpkin Apple Butter Pie

pumpkin apple butter pie

Today is all about pumpkin, because it’s the 2017 Virtual Pumpkin Party! If you’re not a pumpkin fan or totally over pumpkin spice, hopefully this recipe (and the ton of other creative pumpkin-y recipes hitting the interwebs today) will inspire you to give pumpkin another chance.

When it comes to pie, are you Team Apple or Team Pumpkin? I quick-polled this question on Instagram Stories a couple weeks ago, and it seems that most of my followers are apple pie devotees. I, personally, am a proud member of Team Both. I also believe that a slice of cold pumpkin pie the day after Thanksgiving is one of life’s simple pleasures.

But as a nod to all you apple lovers out there (well, that and the several jars of apple butter in my fridge…), I’ve included apple butter in today’s pumpkin pie recipe. While you could go equal parts pumpkin and apple butter, I prefer a little heavier on the pumpkin, with the apple butter adding a subtle fruity sweetness and another layer of flavor.

Pumpkin pie is pretty easy to make, but here are a few tips to getting it just right:

  1. Don’t overbake! Seriously, turn off the oven when the middle is still a little wobbly. Otherwise it’ll be tough and probably crack when it cools.
  2. Speaking of cracks, the best way to avoid them is to cool it gradually (like you would a cheesecake). I had the best results when I left mine in the turned off oven for a few minutes before cooling at room temperature. That being said, a few cracks aren’t the end of the world and that’s why whipped cream (or, even better, homemade marshmallows or marshmallow meringue) exists.
  3. Use butternut squash instead of pumpkin. Maybe this is a little sacrilegious considering this recipe is for a Virtual Pumpkin Party…but I think butternut squash (or other flavorful winter squashes) taste better than pumpkin in pie. I definitely prefer the texture and color of butternut as well. And hey — if you’re using the canned stuff (which totally works), chances are it’s got some non-pumpkiny squash in there too.
  4. I prefer a cookie crust to a traditional all-butter crust with pumpkin pie because I like the contrast of textures. (However, according to another of my Insta-quick polls, I’m in the minority, heh.) Whichever you prefer, I definitely recommend taking the extra step of pre-baking the crust to prevent sogginess.

Pumpkin Apple Butter Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 9-inch pie crust (either all-butter or cookie-based), pre-baked (optional but recommended)
  • 280g pumpkin (or butternut squash) puree
  • 200g apple butter
  • 130g light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
  • A few turns of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 c heavy cream

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Combine all the ingredients from pumpkin through salt in a food processor and process until smooth (you can also use an immersion blender). Add the cream and eggs and process until just combined.
  2. Scrape the filling into a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until just warm. You don’t want to cook the filling — just heat it through so the custard bakes more quickly and smoothly.
  3. When the filling is warm, pour it into the prepared pie shell. Bake until the edges are set but the middle still wobbles, about 30-40 minutes.
  4. Turn off the oven, crack open the oven door, and let the pie cool for 10 minutes; then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. For the cleanest cuts, refrigerate uncovered before serving. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

This recipe was created as part of the 2017 Virtual Pumpkin Party. Don’t forget to check out the many other fantastic pumpkin recipes created by food bloggers around the world!