Gingerbread Biscotti with Vanilla Ginger Penuche Frosting

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Technology. It is supposed to make our lives easier, right? But does it? Does it make us focus more on quantity or quality of life? Does increase stress or reduce stress? It certainly depends on how we interact with technology. I’m not sure it is a debate that is going to find resolution anytime soon. But here’s my take on it.

It is the beginning of the semester and as I venture into the classroom I am surrounded by technology, technology that I am expected to use to my advantage and technology that I am trying to tear students away from for the mere three hours that we find ourselves confined in a classroom with each other, where the expectation is to talk and discuss ideas without word limits, hashtags, and ringtones.

As I do at the beginning of each semester, I hand out the syllabus and watch as they quickly flip through the pages to the assignments, to see what is expected of them throughout the next 15 weeks. I introduce myself and begin to cover the course content and expectations. When I get to the point in the syllabus where I note my contact information, the fun begins.

When I mention the number on the syllabus is my home number, and kindly request that they not use it after 8:00 pm, due to a husband and two small children that go to bed rather early, they snicker. I reassure them that I am a night-owl and more than happy to call them after 8:00, since that is more than likely when they are just sitting down to actually look at what they need to accomplish before their head finds a pillow around 3:00 am.

But I request that in order to assure marital bliss (eh-em) they refrain from calling our house late in the night. Before I issued this warning I was sure to get phone calls in the wee hours of the morning. I don’t ever remember calling my professors at 2:00 am or even thinking it was okay to do so.

So after I deliver my speech about proper teacher-student interaction, one student will inevitably ask, “Can we have your cell number?” To which I respond, “I don’t have one.” Then I smile…and wait for the collective gasp to subside. At which time I always feel like I need to provide some justification so they don’t think we are living in a primitive yurt just outside of town.

We are not technologically backwards. I can boast that we have wireless Internet, we occasionally read books on the Kindle, and we can operate all four remotes that are required to simply watch a DVD. My husband is a systems engineer, although he does have trouble getting the laptop to talk nicely to the printer.  On most days I can operate the AV equipment in the classroom, although there have been plenty of instances where a tech savvy student saved me.

We think we’ve been able to pinpoint our resistance to cell phones on one momentous life experience. When my husband and I live in Japan we climbed Mt. Fuji. It was a grueling climb, which left us both with an altitude headache and spaghetti legs for days. We needed assistance just to climb the 3 steps to get back in the bus taking us to the hotel at the end of the day.

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But at the summit, as we watched airplanes circling below us through the clouds, we realized no one in the world knew where we were or could reach us. It was a freeing feeling that we promised never to give up.

Of course since having kids that attitude has been tempered somewhat. We do have a prepaid cell phone, with minutes that expire before we are ever able to use them. We don’t even know the number.

So I started thinking, maybe we like making biscotti so much because it is simply about using your hands to create something good. No technology involved.

These Gingerbread Biscotti with Vanilla Ginger Penuche Frosting remind me of simpler times.

 

 

Gingerbread Biscotti with Vanilla Ginger Penuche Frosting

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½  cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup finely ground cornmeal

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cloves

1 ½ teaspoon ground ginger

1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup molasses

¾ cup finely chopped 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, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon.

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

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 crystallized 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.  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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Vanilla Ginger Penuche Frosting

¼ cup butter or 4 tablespoons

½ cup packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 cup sifted confectioner or powdered sugar

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1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add brown sugar and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and stir constantly for 2 minutes.

2. Add cream and salt. Return mixture to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

3. Whisk in ground ginger.

4. Whisk in powdered sugar until completely dissolved. Frost the biscotti while the frosting is warm. The frosting will harden as it cools.

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What to do with the ends #63: Use the ends like a spatula to spread frosting.

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.

 

Pumpkin Biscotti with Crystallized Ginger, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds and Almonds, Glazed with Pumpkin Spiced Milk Chocolate

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Fall is our favorite season. Sweatshirts and jeans, football, the smell of a roaring fire, and a steamy bowl of soup. Fall is always a very busy time for us. The seasonal festivals, parties, and celebrations really bring people together.

This week my son and I took a trip to a local farm with his preschool for a tractor ride and a romp in a hay maze. We also visited the pumpkin patch to pick out the perfect pumpkin. It’s been in the 80′s here, but that morning it was in the 50′s and threatening rain. Due to the cold, our son decided to cover us in the hay from the tractor, which made its way into some unsavory places. As we plucked out the hay or straw or whatever, there was actually a conversation in our tractor about the difference between the two, we climbed down and made our way to a massive rolling field dotted with bright orange pumpkins. While many of the kids were trying to find the biggest pumpkin in the field, our son wanted one that was according to him “just about the size of my (his) head”. It took about 2 minutes and he found the perfect one.  Then he quickly demanded my camera to take several hundred photos of random pumpkins lying in the field. All in all, we had a good day with some great friends!

In honor of fall, and the birthday of a friend who has a fetish for pumpkin spiced coffee (you know who you are!), we made some Pumpkin Biscotti with Crystallized Ginger, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds and Almonds, Glazed with Pumpkin Spiced Milk Chocolate. Perfect for dunking in any coffee really but for an over the top pumpkin flavor brew yourself some pumpkin spiced coffee.

We really tried to think of how to infuse these biscotti with as much pumpkin flavor as possible. We added some spices before roasting the nuts. We used only a quarter for the biscotti and the remaining sweet and spicy nuts were gone the very next day. In addition, we sprinkled the chocolate with some pumpkin pie spice before melting it to give it a little kick. We’d say these are a definite keeper. The recipes for the nuts and chocolate are below.

 

Pumpkin Biscotti with Crystallized Ginger, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds and Almonds, Glazed with Pumpkin Spiced Milk Chocolate

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

3 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

3 eggs and 1 egg white

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup chopped crystallized ginger

1 cup pumpkin spiced roasted almonds and pumpkin seeds (see recipe below)

½ cup pumpkin spiced milk chocolate (see recipe below)

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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, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie spice.

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.  Add the crystallized ginger and the spiced almonds and pumpkin seeds, and 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. Glaze the top with spiced milk chocolate.

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Pumpkin Spice Roasted Almonds and Pumpkin Seeds

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1 ½ cups whole almonds

½ cup raw pumpkin seeds

4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 tablespoons agave

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1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and place rack in the middle of the oven.

2. In a bowl, add the almonds, pumpkin seeds, and the spices. Stir to combine.

3. Add the vanilla extract and the agave. Stir again to incorporate all the ingredients and to ensure all the almonds and pumpkin seeds are coated.

4. Spread the mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

5. Roast the mixture in the over for 15-20 minutes, stirring once or twice.

6. Let cool completely in pan before incorporating into biscotti. You will only need about a quarter for the biscotti, so snack on the rest!

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Pumpkin Spiced Melted Chocolate 

¾ cup milk chocolate chips

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

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1. Place chocolate chips and pumpkin pie spice in a microwave safe bowl.

2. Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove the bowl and stir to combine.

3. Continue warming chocolate for 20 second intervals until the chocolate has melted to a spreadable consistency.

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What to do with the ends #35: Use the ends as a ruler to measure something, like who can jump or spit the farthest.

Ginger and Cardamom Biscotti with Almonds

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Saturday morning at 8:00 am I did something I’ve never done before. I parked my car in a field with only two dozen other cars and passed through unmanned gates. Hours later there would be long lines and thousands of people in this very spot. Just inside the gate was an elderly woman with a “volunteer” name tag. Apparently we were going to the same place, so she kindly offered to show me the way. What should have been a 5 minute walk took us instead 20 minutes, which had me wondering what I had gotten myself into. We walked past the funnel cake, corn dog, pit beef, hot dog, and snow cone stands. It was drizzling and I was hoping the rain would hold off until I completed my mission. I entered the small white building through a set of plastic curtains that looked like they belonged in a meat locker and was surprised to see a brightly lit room with lots of activity. Plenty of older women, like bees in a beehive, were ushering the young and the old through a myriad of lines and a gauntlet of forms located at various tables.

I approached a table, handed the elderly woman my form, and carefully set my package down. “Great! You are all set,” she remarked. And that’s all there was to it. Mission accomplished. I entered my first baking contest. No band, no streamers, no high-fives. Nothing. It was all very anticlimactic. Now we wait.

And while we wait, I want to share with you my submission. We first created these Ginger, Cardamom, and Almond Biscotti for a friend’s birthday. Our friend and I trade cooking lessons. She teaches me some amazingly flavorful Indian recipes, that no matter how much I try, never quite taste as good as when she makes them. In exchange, I pass along some of the traditional Italian recipes that my family enjoys. In her honor we tried to replicate some of the flavor profiles that we relish in the dishes she shares with us.

Ginger and Cardamom Biscotti with Almonds

YIELD: approximately 2 dozen

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

1 ½ teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoons cardamom seeds, crushed

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 eggs and 2 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup diced crystallized ginger

1 cup whole almonds

¼ cup ground almonds

Agave nectar

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

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

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

4. Crush the cardamom seeds with a mortar and pestle. Sift through a fine mesh sieve into the flour mixture and discard the larger pieces. Whisk to incorporate.

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

6. 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.

7. Add the crystallized ginger and both the ground and whole almonds, and knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 to 20 times.

8. 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. Press the top of each log with brown sugar and drizzle with honey.

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 #8: Put the ends in a plastic container and shake like maracas.

 

Matcha with Crystallized Ginger and Almond Biscotti

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At the age of 24, I boarded a plane for a fourteen hour direct flight to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. I traveled with one golden retriever tucked away in the belly of the plane, two suitcases that were to last me the duration of my three years in Japan, and countless muscle relaxants, intended to help me endure the flight without hurling myself out an emergency exit. My arrival in Japan was eventful to say the least, but my husband and I were married three days later on Misawa Air Base in northern Japan. 

There were three couples professing their love for each other that morning in the judge magistrate’s office, so I often joke it was literally a first-come first-serve wedding. After the ceremony, we ate Burger King on the floor of his military dorm room. It is a tradition we’ve honored every year on our anniversary. We actually celebrate with what we refer to as an three day “anniversary festival,” because while we were married on the 7th in Japan, it was the 6th in the States, and some unnamed family members gave us gifts engraved with the 8th.

Over the next three years, we observed many traditional tea ceremonies and drank our fair share of green tea. Traditional green tea is rather bitter stuff. Our requests for sugar or cream were often meet with bewildered looks. Yet one of us grew to enjoy the friendships and conversations that came with sipping a steaming cup of green tea on a brutally cold day, with heavy snow coming down outside while with feet were tucked under a warm kotatsu.

Matcha is a finely ground green tea powder used in traditional Japanese tea. Most Asian grocery stores sell it alongside other teas. These Matcha with Crystallized Ginger and Almond Biscotti have much more sugar than I could ever convince anyone to give me for my tea in Japan and are wonderful dipped in any green tea.

Matcha with Crystallized Ginger and Almond Biscotti

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons matcha green tea powder

3 eggs

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

½ cup roughly chopped 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, sugar, baking powder, salt, and matcha powder.

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 crystallized ginger and almonds, and knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 to 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.  Press the top of each log with granulated sugar.

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 #6: Mark you trail through the woods.