Bing Cherry Biscotti with Kirsch

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It’s official. Spring is here.

This past weekend we spent the day in DC. We edged our way closer and closer to the curb so the kids could see the cherry blossom parade and we braved the masses at the tidal basin to get an up close view of the cherry blossoms. The cherry blossoms always remind us of our time in Japan, specifically a train ride to Hirosaki Castle where we picnicked and sipped sake on grass carpeted with pink fallen cherry blossom petals.

While in the city, we decided to see some sites too.

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Our daughter was adamant about seeing the Lincoln Memorial. As we walked passed the Washington Monument and made our way alongside the reflecting pool, we handed each of our kids a penny. They were amazed to find out that the image on the penny was the exact same one they were looking at in the distance. We counted the steps to the top, felt how cool the bricks were, and talked about how the hands of Lincoln are the letters “A” and “L” in sign language (which park services deny is intentional in the design). As we all gazed up at his statue, our son looks at us and asks, “Was that how big he was when he died?” We explained that you do stop growing at some point.

On our way to the tidal basin we passed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, with the inscribed wall looming behind statues of soldiers dressed for field combat. As we were explaining the purpose of the memorial to the kids, our son abruptly stops and asks in a very loud and anxious voice, “Was I ever in a war?” We assured him he was not.

As we passed through the entrance to the tidal basin, we looked up to see the face of Martin Luther King Jr. carved in granite. We’ve discussed Martin Luther King Jr. before and his story was shared with the students in our daughter’s kindergarten. Our son was standing a few feet away when he recognized the face and yelled over to me, “Is that the king that was shot?” We took a minute to refresh his memory privately.

Overall, the relaxing picnics we once experienced have been replaced with little feet that don’t stay in one place for too long, chants for ice cream, whines about tired legs, and questions peppered by urgency. So we walked a lot, ate ice cream, carried the little man on our backs, answered as many questions as we could before promising to look up more on the computer when we got home, and had a fabulous day!

With the cherry blossoms fresh in our memory, we created these Bing Cherry Biscotti with Kirsch, perfect for a picnic on a bed of cherry blossom petals.

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Bing Cherry Biscotti with Kirsch

YIELD: approximately two dozen

1 cup chopped dried dark bing cherries

½ cup Kirsch or Cherry Brandy, plus more for topping

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for topping

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup finely ground cornmeal

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs and 2 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 heaping cup of whole almonds

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

2.  Place the cherries in a small bowl with the Kirsch and sugar. Set aside.

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

4.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, and vanilla extract.

5.  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.

6.  Add the almonds. Knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 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.  Drizzle the top of each log with Kirsch and sprinkle with sugar.

9.  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.

10.  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 #73: Use the ends to prod the masses on your next trip to see the cherry blossoms.

Nutty Biscotti

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Christmas is over. Inglemauker, our elf, has returned to his family at the North Pole. Our stockings are folded and packed away for next year. And, our Christmas tree is losing its pine needles all over the living room floor.

The kids opened and are enjoying their gifts. Our son has been through three sets of batteries in his remote control fire truck, which he paraded around the neighborhood Christmas day at a snail-like pace, spraying the neighbor’s mailboxes to put out random fires we found on our travels. Our daughter went straight for the bag of books we traditionally give the kids each year, commenting on whether each book was a family favorite and relishing the new books she can’t wait to read.

And Big Biscotti Bake received its first piece of custom artwork by a local, yet somewhat undiscovered, artist. Thank you! We love it and will prominently display it, always thankful to have such inspiring people in our lives.

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Soon we will take down the lights outside, pull the tree to the curb, and pack away the decorations. Our house will return to whatever normalcy we can manage.

When I was a kid there was one thing that always outlasted the holidays. Every year well before Christmas, my parents would put out a bowl of nuts and a nutcracker. That little pick that comes with the nutcracker was always carefully hidden away because I am quite sure my parents thought we would accidentally poke our eyes out with it. My brother and I were always ready to crack a nut for anyone who requested one. But we were not always strong enough, grunting like Olympic weight lifters and often handing over the nutcracker to the closest adult after conceding our defeat. Eventually we got strong enough, but by then the nutcracker lost its appeal and bags of already cracked nuts were more common on grocery store shelves. Even then I loved the almonds best.

So as a nod to family tradition, we made these Nutty Biscotti with four of our favorites, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and cashews. Sometimes we spoon melted dark chocolate over half of these biscotti, but they are perfectly delicious on their own.

 

Nutty Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½cup almond meal

¼ cup finely ground cornmeal

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ cup roasted walnut pieces, roughly chopped

½ cup whole roasted almonds

½cup roasted and salted pistachios

½ cup roasted cashews

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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, almond meal, cornmeal, 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 nuts. 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.

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What to do with the ends #60: Use the ends to crack nuts.

Grand Marnier Biscotti with Dried Cranberries and Almonds

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Cranberry relish. For me it conjures images of a scarlet can-shaped jelly substance sliced in thick circles, lying and shimmering on a plate in the center of the table, jiggling as everyone jostles to find their seats for Thanksgiving dinner. At the adult table that is, because those of us seated at the kid’s table would never touch the stuff.

As we got older and became responsible for creating our own Thanksgiving feasts, we simply omitted the cranberry sauce. We’ve roasted 20 pound birds, created moist seasoned stuffing from scratch, and served up pies that were perfectly and not so perfectly set. Yet cranberry sauce was nowhere to be found.

It wasn’t until years later that we came across a recipe for fresh cranberry relish that incorporates oranges, apples, pineapples, and Grand Marnier that we reconsidered adding it to our holiday menu. Really, what fruit doesn’t taste better soaked in booze! Now, I make it every time we have turkey, Thanksgiving or not.

While pumpkin pie is still a staple Thanksgiving dessert in our house, these Grand Marnier Biscotti with Dried Cranberries and Almonds also find their way to our dessert table every year. On a holiday that is really all about food, no one should be limited to just one dessert!

 

Grand Marnier Biscotti with Dried Cranberries and Almonds

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

zest of one orange

3 tablespoons Grand Marnier

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup almonds

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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, orange zest, Grand Mariner, 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 cranberries and almonds. 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. Sprinkle the top of each log with Grand Marnier and spread with hands. Sprinkle the tops with 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 #49: Stuff the turkey with the ends rather than traditional stuffing.

Sun-Dried Pear, Fresh Sage, and Almond Biscotti with Pear Brandy

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In addition to being nominated for the Baltimore Sun Mobbies (don’t forget to vote daily until November 14th!), several of our photos and recipes have been featured in an article on Babble.com.  Our Chili Spiced Mango Biscotti with Chili Flavored Dark Chocolate and Homemade Chipotle Almonds and our Candied Bacon with Fresh Rosemary Biscotti were included in a recipe roundup about cookies that incorporate herbs and spices. You can read it here. It got us thinking about how to incorporate more fresh herbs into our biscotti.

We’ve (okay I’ve) also been thinking a lot about the Ricotta Pear Cake in Dolci: Italy’s Sweets, but was having a hard time justifying buying an entire bottle of pear brandy for the two tablespoons called for in the recipe. Yet, if we also used the brandy in some biscotti it would be worth the purchase, right?

With pear brandy in hand and sage in the fridge, our Sun-Dried Pear, Fresh Sage, and Almond Biscotti with Pear Brandy were born. The fresh sage lends a subtle earthy tone and an overall fragrant aroma, while the chewy pear and crystallized ginger contrast with the crunchy almonds. The pear brandy infuses each bite.

We love the idea of creating herbal infused sugars. So, for this recipe the kids rubbed the sugars and fresh sage together with their fingers to release the oil from the sage leaves to flavor the sugar. Herbal infused sugars are a wonderful addition to baked goods, tea, rubs, or oatmeal. You can make herbal infused sugars with a quarter cup of chopped or crushed herbs to two cups sugar. The longer you let the mixture sit, stirring occasionally, the more flavor the herbs impart in the sugar.

We were pleasantly surprised how much of a difference the fresh sage made and how the flavors in these biscotti complement each other. We will definitely be making these again. And since you will have plenty of pear brandy left, you may want to use it in a Thanksgiving Cider Sangria.

 

Sun-Dried Pear, Fresh Sage, and Almond Biscotti with Pear Brandy

YIELD: approximately two dozen

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed dark brown sugar

10 large sage leaves, chopped

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

10 large sage leaves, chopped

2 eggs and 2 egg whites

3 tablespoons pear brandy, plus 1 tablespoon for the topping

½ cup chopped sun-dried pears

¼ cup diced crystallized ginger

½ cup almonds, roughly chopped

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Herbal Infused Sugar

1. Place sugars and chopped sage leaves into a small bowl. Use your hands to mix and rub the sugars and sage together to release the herbal oils. Set aside.

Biscotti

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 herbal infused sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, and brandy.

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 pear, ginger, and almonds. 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 1 tablespoon of brandy over both logs and spread to coat with your hands. Sprinkle with plenty of sugar and press down lightly.

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 #45: Coat the ends with peanut butter and roll in bird seed to make a homemade bird feeder.

 

Persimmon Biscotti with Brown Sugar and Bourbon

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Our daughter has taken to spelling E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. I believe this is a side effect of kindergarten. If we ask her a question, she either spells out her answer, which at times can be difficult to decipher before coffee in the morning, or writes her answer in the air as she waves her arms around wildly, which reminds me of that game we played as kids where you would write things with your fingers on each other’s back and have to guess what it was. I was never very good at that game. She will constantly ask us, “Do you want me to spell (insert any word here) for you?” To which we dutifully reply, “yes,” wondering if we should start hardcore training for the county spelling bee contest.

Meanwhile our son has started asking us the same question, “Do you want me to spell (insert any word here) for you?” To which we again reply, “yes.” But he takes a different approach. He’ll think of a word, we are presuming, and then ask us what he was spelling, as if we were mind readers.

We tried persimmons today at breakfast for the first time. We’ve always seen these stout little golden-colored gems on the shelves in the fall, but never bought them. I asked our daughter if she liked them, and she spelled out something in the air, which I am assuming was Y-E-S because it appeared to be more hand waving than N-O would call for and she ate the entire bowl. Now we (well, my daughter and I) are hooked. Our son wanted nothing to do with them.

We made these Persimmon Biscotti with Brown Sugar and Bourbon for a birthday party. We are anxious to see how they were received, although they were already a winner at our house. The faint taste of the bourbon with the chewy sweetness of the persimmons and ginger is a perfect pairing.

 

Persimmon Biscotti with Brown Sugar and Bourbon

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup almond meal

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

3 eggs

2 teaspoons Bourbon

1 cup chopped dried persimmon (We used the Just Persimmons brand.)

½ cup almonds

¼ cup diced crystallized ginger

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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, almond meal, sugars, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

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

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 persimmon, almonds, and ginger. 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. Coat your hands with Bourbon and rub the top of each log. Sprinkle the tops of each log with 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 #43: Tap the ends on the table as you count syllables.