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Traditional Italian Almond Biscotti recipe

“There is no beating grief. There is no getting over it. Yet, the beauty of grief is that it stretches your emotional bandwidth. Joy, happiness, love, compassion: The degree to which you can feel them is directly proportional to the amount of pain, grief, sadness, and devastation you have felt.” This is a quote from Beautiful Grief, a book I read recently. It came into my life at a time when I was experiencing more than my fair share of grief. I’m trying to focus on this idea of letting my grief expand my capacity for joy. Baking is where I often find joy.

One of the reasons I am grieving is the loss of my dear friend Susan Russo. I met her in the early days of blogging. She was a terrific writer and recipe developer but mostly just a wonderful person. I am trying to hold on to my happy memories of her and celebrate her with one of her recipes, Traditional Italian Almond Biscotti.

The cookies are chock full of toasted almonds, scented with vanilla and orange. The recipe makes a big batch, so there are plenty to keep and to share.

I associate many recipes with Susan—Italian American dishes of course, and ingredients like fennel and olives. Her two blog posts, one on Kitchen Window and another on her blog about biscotti capture so much of what I loved about her—the way she shared her heritage, humor, and warmth, all while caring for others. I hope these cookies bring you, and anyone you share them with, some joy.

Traditional Italian Almond Biscotti

The recipe is from Susan Russo’s mother, I’ve adapted the instructions.

Makes 36 (3/4 inch-wide cookies)

3 cups whole raw almonds
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 jumbo eggs (if you don’t have jumbo eggs, use 4 medium eggs)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 large orange (about 1 -2 teaspoons)
1 egg, lightly beaten for brushing the tops of loaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper.

Place almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.

In a large bowl, stir together the toasted almonds, sugars, cinnamon, baking powder, and flour.

In a small mixing bowl, combine 3 jumbo eggs, vanilla and orange zest and whisk until well blended. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture. Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be very sticky. Squeeze the dough and once it comes together, form a ball. Divide the ball into four equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface place one piece of dough, and roll into a log approximately 8 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 3/4 of an inch high. Repeat with the remaining three pieces of dough. Place two logs on each baking sheet. Brush the tops of the dough with the beaten egg.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing. Place a loaf on a cutting board, and using a large serrated knife, slice cookies 3/4 of an inch thick on the diagonal. If the slices crumble, then let cool a few more minutes before slicing. Place slices on their sides back on to the baking sheets; place in the still warm oven with the temperature off and the door closed for 30-60 minutes. The longer they stay in the oven,the harder they will become. Remove from oven and cool completely before storing up to one month in a tin or another air tight container.

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Spring Puff Pastry Tart by Erica

If you’re going by the calendar, spring officially arrived on March 20th. But most years here in northern Minnesota, that’s kind of a laugh. As a general rule, there’s still plenty of snow and chilly weather without much hope of green growing things. Some years we’re lucky and get an early thaw. For the most part though, we have to watch in envy as our southern friends post pictures of their gorgeous spring weather.

 
 

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy spring-inspired cooking! In fact, changing the way I cook by the calendar and not the weather makes this in-between time a bit more bearable.

This Spring Puff Pastry Tart is a wonderful way to usher in the season. It has some lovely, fresh flavors from the asparagus, pesto, and green peas.

Let me show you how it’s made.

 
 

Here is the short list of ingredients: puff pastry (of course), cream cheese spread, Parmesan, prosciutto, asparagus, pesto, and frozen peas. Simple, yet full of flavor!

Notes:

  • If your asparagus is really thick, slice it in half lengthwise before chopping. You want it to be able to cook quickly in the oven.
  • I used arugula pesto because it’s cheaper than making basil pesto. But feel free to use whatever kind you please.
  • Also, I’m pretty sure you could use regular cream cheese instead of the spread—it’s just easier to not have to bring it room temperature before using it.

 
 

Start by rolling the puff pastry out on a piece of parchment paper to about 10×15 inches. It’s okay if you can’t get it to roll out quite that big.

 
 

Next, fold up about 3/4 inch of the puff pastry on each side. I find that it’s easiest if you fold the parchment paper up as well…

 
 

And then peel it back off of the puff pastry. If that makes sense.

 
 

Next, cut off a thin slice all along the edges of the tart. You can save these slices and bake them along with the tart as a little snack.

 
 

Pierce the pastry all over with a fork to prevent it from puffing up too much in the middle.

 
 

Bake in a hot oven until it starts to go a nice golden brown color. If the pastry puffs up too much in the middle, just poke it back down with a fork.

 

Smear the cream cheese spread over the warm puff pastry in dollops.

 
 

Add the pesto in the spaces between the cream cheese.

 

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

 
 

Add the prosciutto, asparagus, and peas.

 
 

Bake for an additional 10–15 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked through and the asparagus is tender-crisp.

 
 

Allow to cool enough so you don’t burn your mouth when you devour it. Serve warm.

Now, you don’t have to stop here with the flavor combos. You can use this basic method for creating the puff pastry form, and top it in many different ways!

Here are a few suggestions:

  • smoked salmon, poached eggs, seasonal vegetables, and a Hollandaise sauce (kind of like an eggs benedict tart!)
  • spinach, bacon, and artichokes
  • shrimp, roasted garlic, parsley, and lemon
  • wild mushrooms, bacon, arugula, and caramelized onions

 
 

I’m curious: What is spring like where you live? Let us know in the comments!

 

Method for cooking the puff pastry adapted from Coley Cooks and idea for the tart from Zen Can Cook

 


Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Microwave Brownie Mix, reviewed

Microwave single-serving cakes are a trend that aren’t going away any time soon. You can make them from scratch, of course, but the section of mixes dedicated to these quick-fix sweets is getting bigger all the time. One of the newest entries to the category is Ghirardelli, with a variety of single-serving microwave brownie mixes.

The Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Microwave Brownie Mix box contains four packets of mix, each of which just requires a little bit of water and can be mixed up in the mug that you microwave it in. The mix is made with ingredients that you would find in any brownie mix – flour, sugar, cocoa, etc – including real chocolate chips and it takes just seconds to put it all together. The brownie cooks in the microwave in about 1 minute and is ready to eat as soon as it has cooled down enough not to burn your tongue.

The brownies are fudgy and moist when you dig into them warm, and tended towards being slightly underbaked (not a bad thing, for a brownie) when I opted for the lower end of the cooking time recommended on the packaging. I think that brownies are well-suited to microwave cooking because you don’t run into the dry/spongy texture that over-microwaved cakes can develop. The brownies had a great chocolate flavor and the pockets of melted chocolate from the chocolate chips made them very satisfying, reminiscent of a molten chocolate cake. I served them with a bit of whipped cream on top for contrast.

I have to admit that I prefer these microwave brownies to some of the microwave cakes that I’ve tried. They’re easy to make and deliver a generous dose of chocolate in each bite, with a texture that is better than most microwave cakes. For a quick-fix, this is one worth trying. Ghirardelli also makes a few extra flavors, if you want to mix things up (haha) and try out salted caramel or peanut butter in your brownies, as well.

The post Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Microwave Brownie Mix, reviewed appeared first on Baking Bites.


7 Trends from the Winter Fancy Food Show 2019

The Winter Fancy Food Show is a great place to identify trends. It’s also a way to see how trends are evolving. Here is a short list of what caught my attention. 
Cauliflower is everywhere! This isn’t new and you’ve probably seen cauliflower rice in stores. From the Ground Up makes gluten free pretzels and crackers from cauliflower. I wasn’t crazy about the pretzels, but the cheddar crackers taste a lot like Cheez-its. The other brand I liked was Caulipower. They make gluten free cauliflower pizzas, pizza crusts and tortillas. They each have the right texture, something I found lacking in other brands. 
I wrote about mushrooms before but this year I saw even more innovations, including snack bars with mushrooms, from a brand called Shrooms offering a sweet and savory version as well as one with chocolate. Mushrooms are also showing up more in tea and coffee including one from the Republic of Tea called Restore and Reset that combines Reishi and cocoa. 
Long a favored ingredient in skin care, collagen is moving into food. I saw it in fuel bars and drink mixes from the Paleo focused Primal Kitchen, teas and added to random products like a sweet and creamy “granola butter” from Kween. Will ingesting collagen peptides help support healthy joints, tendons, and muscles, skin, hair, and nails? From what I’ve read, the jury is out.
One of the coolest things I noticed at the show this year were all the new ways food is being packaged, new form factors in particular. Lots of individual packets of things like ghee from Fourth and Heart, extract pastes from the British company Taylor & Colledge, nut oils from La Tourangelle. Remember the Altoids tin? It’s back but ingeniously filled with teas for travelers from Numi, and with tubes of curry and harissa from Jacobsen Salt. Fit Fit Bites offers fruit snacks in little pucks. Uncle Dougie’s solves the frustration with barbecue sauce bottles by packaging their product in a squeeze-able pouch. Another cool innovation is the Slingshot with chia granola to add to an accompanying yogurt based drink. 
Hummus has been trending for a while, but now in addition to being available in tons of flavors, it’s showing up as an actual ingredient. A couple of examples include Firehook’s hummus crackers and O’Dang hummus dressing which comes in a variety of flavors. 
Turmeric is another trendy ingredient. This year I saw it in ghee, in “shots” that a coming soon from Numi, in a particularly delicious hummus from Blue Moose of Boulder, in tonic from Turveda, in crackers from RW Garcia, in bone broth from Nona Lim, in pinchetti pasta from Al Dente Pasta, in ice cream from ReThink and even in Ritrovo balsamic vinegar. 
Frico is a cheese crisp from Italy, traditionally made from heating Parmigiano Reggiano until it melts and forms a thin crust. But companies have created products that mimic this treat, Sonoma Creamery, Whisps and Parm Crisps were a few I noticed this year. Crunchy, cheesy and available in a variety of flavors and shapes, these snacks are gluten free, low in carbs, high in protein. 
A few other things I took note of this year that were new to me included: 

Schizandra which sounds like the name of a Disney princess, but is really a berry and showed up in an elixir from Rebbl called Schizandra Berries & Creme as well as in the Daily Beauty tea from Republic of Tea. It’s used in traditional Chinese medicine for and is adaptogenic, which means it supports the adrenal system and combats stress on the body. It supposedly tastes sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. 
You know about probiotics, but what about prebiotics? Prebiotics complement probiotics, basically providing food for probiotics grow, which in turn help promote better digestive health. When you see prebiotics on labels it means generally some kind of fiber. 

My favorite prebiotic product was Zen Basil, a line of organic drinks made with basil seeds. Basil seeds are similar to chia seeds, they plump up when added to liquid but compared to chia seeds they have more iron, fiber, potassium and calcium. Used in ayurvedic and Chinese medicine they purportedly have antioxidant, anticancer, antiviral, antibacterial, antispasmodic and antifungal properties. The drinks which are made from a family recipe are fruity, juicy and delicious. They also offers bags of the basil seeds. 

Last but not least, I don’t remember seeing eggs at the show before. This year several companies were featuring eggs from pasture raised chickens. 


Coconut Oil 101 by Erica


Kitchy Pizza Cutter Wheel – Super Sharp and Easy To Clean Slicer, Kitchen Gadget with Protective Blade Guard (Green)

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Professional Cooking

The Ninth Edition of Professional Cooking reflects the changing nature of our understanding of cooking and related fields such as food safety, nutrition, and dietary practices, as well as new thinking about how best to teach this material. What has not changed is the core material that focuses on the essentials–the comprehensive understanding of ingredients and basic cooking techniques that are the foundation of success in the kitchen, and the development of manual skills to apply this knowledge.


Holstein Housewares HH-0937012SS Omelet Maker – Black

Making the most out of the most important meal of the day, the Holstein Omelet Maker makes two fluffy omelets in just a few minutes. Just pour in your mixture and close the lid. The Omelet Maker has a non-stick coating for easy clean up and upright space saving storage. Its non-slip base makes for safe cooking and its indicator light lets you know when it is ready to start cooking. Holstein’s Omelet Maker simplifies life in the kitchen and makes everyday cooking and entertaining easy. To clean, simply use a damp, non-abrasive cloth to wipe down the maker after each use. To extend the lifespan of the non-stick it is recommended to cover the plates with cooking oil every so often.

Product Features

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12 Best Tips for Homemade Pizza by Erica