Gingerbread Biscotti with Vanilla Ginger Penuche Frosting

Gingerbread 2

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.


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


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.


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


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.


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