Chocolate Nerd Biscotti

Nerd 4 

For those of you with kids, I am sure you are wondering what to do with all that leftover Halloween candy…unless you are one of those parents who let them eat as much as they want knowing it will only make them  sick. It’s not a bad plan and I’m not judging! Ultimately you are hoping that it will teach them a lesson. Yet, I’ve seen the “eat as much as you want” plan backfire on more than one parent. However, I’ve discovered as a parent, you are either a “rationer”, who saves the candies for school lunches, road trips, or even party favors, doling out only a little at time, or you are a “hands-off and all in” parent, who lets them go at it.

Put simply, we are the rationers. In our house we currently have enough candy to put a 700 pound man into a coma. In fact, I once had a friend, who was benignly looking for a glass in our kitchen when he come across our stash and described it as the “Willy Wonka cupboard.” In fact I think there is still candy in there from last Halloween. We’ve got to clean it out. So I started thinking about what to do with all the candy we are storing in the cupboard like a squirrel hoarding nuts for the winter.

We do have a tradition on Thanksgiving morning in our house. We watch the Macy’s Day Parade and in an attempt to give the kids the full experience, we hand them paper bags with their names on them and occasionally throw candy to them on the living room floor. They love it. But this year was the first year our daughter asked, “Where are you getting all this candy?” We are going to have to give that some careful thought for next year.

You can use extra Halloween candy to decorate gingerbread houses, make edible necklaces, stuff stockings, or even…you knew it was coming…bake in biscotti!

So this year, as every year, our kids discover a new candy around Halloween. This year our daughter fell in love with Nerds. You remember those little hard candies that resemble pebbles and come in a variety of colors and flavors. So when I asked if she would like to experiment and make biscotti with some of her Halloween candy, Nerds was her pick.

As we were almost ready to make the logs, she threw me a curve ball. In addition to the Nerds she insisted on melted chocolate, which is something we have topped biscotti with, but never put into the batter. We found a full-size Hershey’s Dark Chocolate bar in our s’more stash and melted it down. As we kneaded it into the dough, it left a marbled effect that was wonderful and delicious.

Chocolate Nerd Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup Nerds candy (any flavor or mix them all together)

1 full-size Dark Chocolate Hershey bar, melted

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract.

4.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5.  Add the Nerds. Knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.

6.  Add the melted chocolate. Knead until the dough has a marbled effect, about 5 – 10 times.

7.  Separate the dough in half.  Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

8.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

9.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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What to do with the ends #88: Use the ends to create a long curvy parallel pathway on a table top. Then grab two straws and some Nerds and see who can get their Nerd to the finish line first by blowing them down the pathway with the straw. The winner gets to eat both Nerds.

 

Spree-ilicious Biscotti

Spree 1

I affectionately refer to us as the traveling circus, you never quite know what you are going to get. Our kids are usually ready to pack a bag and pile in the car at a moments notice. We love a good road trip and boy do we seem to have the stories to go with them.

I’ve always loved hitting the road. On college road trips I developed a love of Sprees. Those round brightly colored little disks of sugar made me over the top happy or at least set me off on a sugar high. It’s hilarious what can transpire in a car with four people who have been in close proximity for way too long, so it’s hard to tell sometimes if it’s the candy or the company, or a combination of both. I don’t enjoy the newfangled chewy kind, but the old school hard almost chalky kind you find in the long slim silver wrapped package at most convenience stores. I would always try to pace myself so I didn’t eat the entire sleeve at one time, but it hardly ever worked. 

Later in life, when my husband and I hit the road to visit family or head to the beach, I still craved Sprees. I was often taunted about my obsession. Yet when sent in for snacks, on the rare occasion that I didn’t actually need to use the restroom, my husband knew my weakness and would always walk out the doors with a smile on his face and a sleeve of Sprees in his hand. 

My tastes haven’t changed and although I don’t indulge in them much, and when I do I now have to share, I get giddy when I find them in the store.

We have a tradition of going to the beach for a week in the spring, before the masses hit the beaches, it gets too hot, and it gets too expensive. We’ve gone to the beach every year except one.

One year, when I was seven months pregnant with our son and our daughter was a toddler (a potty training toddler), we decided that rather take a her to the beach (we envisioned disaster) we should drive through the state of Tennessee…Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis. So you have a toddler that figured out if she said she had to use the bathroom, we would stop immediately. She was telling us every 15 minutes she had to pee, a game neither my husband or I found particularly funny. We eventually didn’t know when to believe her or not.  And then there was a seven month pregnant women who really did have to pee every 15 minutes and was just praying on those long stretches of empty highway that she wouldn’t go into labor and deliver her child on the side of the road by herself, since her husband faints at the site of blood. And a driver who was reexamining our idea of a vacation. In fact I think his last words were, “Next year we aren’t going anywhere. We are putting a tent up in the backyard!” Overall it was a very memorable trip. We drove through the Smokey Mountains. We ate some great BBQ. And, we stood on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. However, pink monkey was dragged by the stroller through the mud on the bank of the Mississippi River, which required us to promptly locate a laundromat. We stayed in a shady hotel along the way and saw some shady stuff, but made it back on one piece with some great stories.

Over the years we had some wildly entertaining times on the road and a series of rather unfortunate events as well, from ambulances, hospital stays, vomit in purses, and speeding tickets that cost more than our hotel room. Yet they all make for good stories. This year our trip to Myrtle Beach was no different. As we were packing up on the last night, a hail storm like we’ve never seen before, with hail the size of baseballs, severely dinged up our car, which has been held hostage for four weeks now by the collision company.

Sprees are hard colorful candies made by the Willy Wonka Candy Company, which produces a large selection of widely distributed sweet treats. Yet, I had a hard time finding Sprees. After searching two big box stores and several grocery stores, my husband found them on a recent road trip to Richmond at a Sheetz, which is like mecca for my husband. Every time we drive through Breezewood on the way to see our families in western Pennsylvania, we stop at the Sheetz. I’ve recently found out we even have a frequent buyer card of some sort! It is like a cult following. I’ve also been told they have the best hot dogs in the world.

While one of our little bakers can usually use a meat tenderizer to pulverize any ingredients safely tucked inside a plastic storage bag, we found that the only way to get the finely ground consistency we were looking for was with a food processor. You might want to cover with a damp kitchen towel when you grind them in the food processor because they create quite a large bit of dust, which we found out the hard way. But we wanted to be sure those sweet fruit flavors were in every bite. And in case you were wondering, the red is cherry, orange is of course orange, yellow is lemon, green is apple (although I don’t get that at all!), and purple is grape.

Although a young baker suggested that we grind up the other package of Sprees and mix them with some whipped topping to dip the biscotti in, we couldn’t resist just eating them. But we will most certainly try that next time!

Spree 4 Spree 3

Spree-ilicious Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

¾ cup crushed hard Spree candies or a 5 ounce box (You’ve got to go old school and stick with the hard candies, not the chewy ones!)

2 eggs and 1 egg white

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat-bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and Sprees.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg white, and vanilla extract.

4.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5.  Separate the dough in half.  Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

6.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

7.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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What to do with the ends #78: Write the number “1″ on one side and the number “2″ on the other. Use the end on your next road trip as you would a coin for heads or tails, to solve any disputes emanating loudly from the backseat…like which CD to listen to for the 32nd time, whose turn it is to use the tiny computer, or whose pink money gets to be strapped into the middle seat. I’m sure you get the idea.

Indian Candy Coated Fennel Biscotti

candy coated fennel seed 4

This month marks the ten year anniversary of our Semester at Sea voyage. I worked on-board and my husband took a relaxing 4 month leave of absence from work. We circumvented the globe with over 700 college students, explored 12 ports of call, and made some amazing memories. One of the places that really touched us on our voyage was India.

While docked in India, my husband and I served as field trip leaders for 40 students on a five day tour of four cities, Chennai, Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. In those five days we traveled by ship, plane, rickshaw, elephant, train, and bus. Despite an six-hour cockroach infested train ride, water leaking on our heads from somewhere on the airplane, and many near death collisions with other vehicles as our bus speed down narrow congested roads, we managed to keep everyone together. After traveling for several days without showering, we arrived back to port only to realize that since the ship was unable to take on clean water, the water was simply shut off. We were a smelly bunch.

While we traveled, my husband kept a daily journal. His personal highlight was cutting the grass at the Taj Mahal with an ox and cart. In his journal he wrote:

“0400 wake up in Delhi. Then we took a two and a half hour train ride to Agra…I was watching two men with cows mow the grass at the Taj and I asked if I could take their picture. They did better! They let me up on the mower and I actually cut the grass for the Taj Mahal!”

While we traveled, we were also encouraged to find a “toothbrush person,” someone you would remember daily as your brush your teeth, realizing how connected you are to the world. I found my toothbrush person in India. I never spoke to her and saw her for only a second as we whizzed past in our bus. She was no older than seven and wore an over-sized brilliant sapphire dress that was dusty from the dirt road. Her hair was a wild dark black tangled mess that probably made her look half a foot taller than she really was. In her bare feet she teetered on the curb and stared inside our bus as we drove by. Her eyes were heavily outlined with dark makeup and her face did not bear a smile. There was something about her that was jolting, yet mesmerizing, and I could only imagine what her story might be.

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We loved India, the experiences, the people, and the food. While we don’t have the opportunity to experience India in the same way, we are fortunate to have some great Indian restaurants and groceries close by.

These Indian Candy Coated Fennel Biscotti were inspired by the bowl of these treats that we find at the door of most Indian restaurants. Intended to freshen your breath and cleanse your palate, these candy coated fennel seeds are the perfect combination of sweet and savory. The Sambuca adds a hint more of fennel or anise flavor to an already delightful treat.

 

Indian Candy Coated Fennel Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar, additional for the topping

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs and 1 egg white

¼ cup Sambuca, additional for the topping

1/3 cup candy coated fennel seeds

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg white, and Sambuca.

4.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5.  Add the candy coated fennel seeds. Knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.

6.  Separate the dough in half.  Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

7.  Drizzle the top of each log with Sambuca and spread with your fingers. Sprinkle the top of each log with a healthy coating of sugar.

8.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

9.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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What to do with the ends #76: Find your own “biscotti being” and think of them every time you eat the ends.

 

Root Beer Biscotti

root beer 1

There is something addictive about root beer. Root beer barrel hard candies, root beer floats, or root beer flavored baked goods top my list of food obsessions.

Growing up, there was a candy store in our hometown that stacked small wooden barrels of hard candies, taffies, and other little individually wrapped sweet treats all along one wall. When I got my allowance, it was one of two places I was sure to spend it, the other being the news agency across the street. I would come home with a book and little bag of root beer barrels. As I read I would hypnotically pop those little treats into my mouth, sometimes sucking them until they almost disappeared while other times chewing them into little glass-like shards that would get stuck in my teeth.

On one cold Colorado night in the late 19th century, Frank Wisner created the first root beer float, originally known as the “black cow.” As a kid, root beer floats were my favorite way to consume perhaps my other favorite food at the time, ice cream. Of course we can always make a root beer float at home, but enjoying one at a drive-in is even more nostalgic. We lived half an hour from a drive-in that made the absolute best root beer floats, so it was always a treat when we got to take a road trip on a hot summer night to enjoy a frosty mug. As a family we each employed different techniques for savoring them, either eating the ice cream first or stirring and stirring until the ice cream melted into the root beer to create a truly creamy delight or sucking up all the root beer through the straw before scooping up the ice cream with an extra long spoon.

Yet, root beer in baked goods is a new thing for us. This past summer we discovered a recipe for a glazed Root Beer Bundt Cake that we think is to die for! We are also looking forward to trying Root Beer Float Sandwich Cookies. We decided to add our Root Beer Biscotti to the list of root beer inspired baked goods.

Of course it goes without saying, these Root Beer Biscotti are perfect for dipping into a frothy root beet float.

 

Root Beer Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup granulated sugar, plus more for topping

½ cup firmly packed light brown dark sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon root beer extract

½ cup crushed root beer barrel hard candies, plus more for topping

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and root beer extract.

4.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5.  Add the crushed root beer barrels. Knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.

6.  Separate the dough in half.  Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

7.  Mix one part granulated sugar with one part crushed root beer barrels. Press the mixture firmly on the top of each log.

8.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. CAUTION: The melted hard candies will be very hot!

9.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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What to do with the ends #66: Use the ends as fire starters.

Mint Chocolate Chip Biscotti

mint 5

Our family is divided. On quite a few things actually….wheat bread versus white bread, whole milk versus skim milk, and a bowl of emulsified vegetable soup versus a bowl of hearty chili.

Three of us love mint, one of us does not. Mint chocolate chip gum, mint flavored Oreos, and mint chocolate chip ice cream are overwhelming favorites around our house. So when asked what he’d like to create for his signature holiday biscotti, our son responded quite confidently with mint chocolate chip. Then he discovered the bag of spearmint leaves we had stashed away to set out over the holidays. And of course those needed to be added as well. The spearmint stud the top of these mint infused chocolate covered biscotti with just a bit of holiday green and one more dose of mint.

While we’ve made different versions of mint chocolate chip biscotti over the years, his signature holiday biscotti incorporate what we love best about all the ones that came before, mint flavored chocolate, mint extract, and filled with Creme de menthe baking chips.

 

Mint Chocolate Chip Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

2 teaspoons mint extract, plus ¼ teaspoon for flavoring the chocolate

¾ cup Creme de menthe baking chips

½ cup semisweet milk chocolate morsels

10 spearmint leaf candies, diced

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat-bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and mint extract.

4.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5.  Add the Creme de menthe. Knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.

6.  Separate the dough in half.  Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

7.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

8.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

9. Put the chocolate morsels and ¼ teaspoon mint extract in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 15 seconds and stir. Continue microwaving for 15 seconds until the chocolate melts and is spreadable, similar to the consistency of butter. With a small spatula, spread the chocolate on the top of each biscotti and sprinkle with spearmint leaf candies.

10. Transfer the biscotti to the refrigerator for 10 minutes to set.

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What to do with the ends #58: Sample the ends after the first bake for quality control.