December 12, 2012

Cranberry Almond Biscotti & The 2012 Food Blogger Cookie Swap

Hi Friends!

I am back, and I promise I did not abandon my blog, even though it looks like it. The holiday season always seems to catch me by surprise and it has been a little tough staying on top of my to-do list lately. I am in awe of so many of my blogging friends who are posting almost daily. My hat is off to you all! I am trying hard to work my way to that level of awesomeness. :)

I am so excited to share this post with you today. This year, I participated in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. It is only in its second year, but it has become one of the most popular food blogging activities to participate in. The cookie swap was created and is hosted by two wonderfully talented food bloggers, Lindsay of Love & Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen. Food bloggers who want to participate sign up and then receive the names of three food bloggers who are also participating. They then bake and send each of their assigned matches one dozen homemade cookies. It is kind of like "Secret Santa" but with cookies! One of the most fun things about this cookie swap is that you do not know who has your name until you receive your cookie packages. It is a wonderful way to meet new bloggers and sometimes receive cookies from a food blogger you may already know. By the end of the cookie swap, everyone "meets" a total of six food bloggers: the three bloggers you bake for and the three bloggers who have baked and sent cookies to you. Fun!

This year, The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap partnered with Cookies for Kids Cancer, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds to support research and therapies for pediatric cancer. As part of our participation this year, each food blogger donated $4.00 to Cookies for Kids Cancer, which was then matched dollar-for-dollar by OXO. It was a privilege for me to donate to such a wonderful cause. 

Before I share the recipe for the cookies I shipped out to my new food blogging friends, I want to introduce you to them as well as the three lovely ladies who sent me cookies. What a great way to discover new food blogs, right? I sent my cookies out to LeAndra of Love and Flour, Liz of Yum at First Bite, and April of Sutch a Delight. Delicious cookies arrived to my mailbox from Lauren of Foodie in Flight, Jenna of Little Kitchen, Big Flavors, and Jackie of La Casa de Sweets. It was such a pleasure baking for three new food blogging friends and receiving cookie care packages from three fellow food bloggers.

And now for the cookie recipe I made!

As you can see from the title of my blog post, I sent LeAndra, Liz and April these Cranberry Almond Biscotti. I had to make an Italian cookie, of course! Biscotti are one of my favorite cookies to make because they are easy and lend themselves to a variety of flavors. I used Dorie Greenspan's recipe from her cookbook, Baking: From my home to yours. I knew I would find both an excellent recipe and method in her cookbook.

The word biscotti means "twice baked", which is exactly how these cookies get their crunchy texture and golden color. They take a little more time to make than most other cookies, but there is nothing complicated about the process and the extra time spent in the kitchen is definitely worth it. The sticky dough first gets formed into two long, rectangular logs that are baked side-by-side on a baking sheet. They double in size during thier time in the oven and are then removed and left to cool almost completely before the logs are sliced crosswise into biscotti's signature long, tapered shape. Then they are lined up on the baking sheet to bake again for a few minutes until golden and fragrant. Making biscotti is an exercise in patience, because they must be left to cool completely before being eaten. It took a lot of willpower, but I waited until the next day to taste-test one! Again, totally worth the wait because the cookies had time to dry out to develop that delightful crunch we all love about this cookie. The ingredient in these cookies that you may find on the unexpected side is cornmeal, but you cannot taste it; rather, it adds to the biscotti's texture. The dried cranberries add sweet-tart bursts of flavor, the almonds offer a subtle nuttiness and for extra festivity, I drizzled the cookies with melted white chocolate. 

if you have never made biscotti before, give this recipe a try and experiment around with the mix-in flavors to customize them to your tastes. These are an excellent cookie to make if you are sending cookies to family and friends through the mail because they are sturdy. They are also great for dunking into your morning latte at breakfast, as a midday snack or served on a platter for a light dessert. Enjoy! 

Please be sure to also browse the Cookie for Kids Cancer website. They are a 365-day non-profit organization, which means that you can hold a bake sale any day of the year or make a donation to support their efforts in fighting pediatric cancer. And if you are a food blogger who missed this year's cookie swap and wants to participate next year, be sure to sign up here to receive notifications for the 2013 swap. 

Cranberry-Almond Biscotti
Adapted from Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (fine grind)
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla (or almond) extract
3/4 cups sliced almonds (blanched or unblanched)
3/4 cups dried cranberries (such as Craisins)

Place the rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cornmeal. Set aside. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each egg is added. Continue beating the mixture until it is smooth, light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add in the vanilla (or almond) extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add in the flour-cornmeal mixture and mix just until all of it is incorporated. Do not over-mix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add in the sliced almonds and cranberries and mix just until they are evenly incorporated throughout the batter. 

Scrape half of the dough onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet and form it into a rectangular log, about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Tip: moisten your hands with cool water to help prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. Just make sure your hands are not too wet. Form the second log the same way on the other half of the baking sheet, making sure to leave about 2 inches of space between the two logs of dough.

Bake the dough logs for 15-17 minutes, or until the logs are light golden but still springy to the touch. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and allow the logs to cool for about 45 minutes. Note: If the logs of dough have stuck together during baking {it can happen}, do not cut the logs apart until they have cooled off completely. 

Once the logs have cooled, carefully transfer them to a cutting board using a large spatula or two small ones. Use a serrated knife to trim the ends off of each log and then cut the logs into 1-inch thick slices (crosswise). Do not cut the logs on a diagonal or you will end up with some biscotti much larger than others. Line the biscotti back onto the baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. 

If you have turned the oven off, heat it back to 350 degrees. Place the biscotti back into the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until they are golden and firm. Transfer the baking sheet of biscotti to a cooling rack and cool them completely on the baking sheet

Option: Melt white chocolate and drizzle over cooled biscotti for extra decoration. 

To store: Biscotti can be stored carefully stacked on top of each other in a covered container, or on a platter with no covering for about 1 week. 

Comments (5)

I love biscotti and I just made it for the first time last good! Yours looks beautiful and tasty!! And so glad you participated in our cookie swap!! :D

Posted by JulieD

I love biscotti but I've never tried cranberry almond - you've inspired me! :)


Flavia, I received your card in the mail yesterday - what a wonderful surprise! Glad you liked them. Your's look great too. I love DG's recipes, so I'll have to try this one out!

Posted by Lauren

Thank you, Flavia, for sharing these delicious biscotti! I am putting biscotti - which I've never tried to bake - on my list of New Year's baking resolutions. Thanks for the inspiration!

Posted by LeAndra

These are just gorgeous Flavia! I used some similar flavours in my cookie swap cookies, almond and cranberry go together so well don't they?

Posted by Kathryn
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