Thanksgiving Sides & Sweets

I love Thanksgiving, and yeah, that’s because of the meal, and family, and warmth on what is often a cold, blustery day here in the Great Pacific Northwet. And I truly love turkey, so it’s weird that I have to remind myself to cook one more than once a year. Now, all that said, there’s a truth to that holiday repast that needs to be admitted and embraced – Thanksgiving dinners are really all about the sides and the desserts. Think about it – What would turkey be without spuds, stuffing, great veggies, cranberry sauce, and gravy? The answer is, boring to no end. So, last week we covered the bird, this week, it’s all about the other good stuff – Thanksgiving sides & sweets.

When it comes to deciding what to put on the table for the Big To Do, I feel strongly that the answer should be, all of it. Don’t allow yourself to be limited by what you like – This is a meal made for sharing, for enjoying favorite dishes, and trying new ones, so make sure you allow that to happen. Ready?

First off, spuds, of course, and since this is a meal designed for pulling out all the stops, why not offer two, or even three different versions? Here’s the drill for roasted root veggies, perfect mashed spuds, and incredibly decadent twice baked potatoes.

First off, something fairly healthy, given that such a perverse wish might conceivably pierce the patina of excess that defines thanksgiving dinner. A blend of roasted root veggies is, relatively speaking, just that, (especially when compared to the two recipes that follow). Check out your local market and see what’s there. You’ll certainly find carrots and spuds, and probably parsnips, turnips, beets, and rutabaga too – They’re all common winter root veggies.

Roasted Root Veggies
2-4 Red Potatoes, (more if they’re babies)
2 medium Carrots
2 Parsnips
1 Rutabaga
1 Beet
2-3 cloves Garlic
2-3 Tablespoons Avocado Oil
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Grains of Paradise (Black Pepper is cool as a sub)

Rinse off, and trim ends from all veggies.

Cut root veggies into rough chunks about 1” in size – Equality makes for even cooking. Mince the garlic.

Put everything into a large mixing bowl, and toss to evenly coat the veggies with oil, salt, and grains of paradise.

Roast at 350° F for about an hour, until veggies are fork tender.

Serve hot.

Naturally, ya just gotta do mashed potatoes, too. Yes, ya gotta – it’s non-negotiable. For these, choose a high starch, non waxy spud like a Russet or Yukon. Doing so will give you dependably fluffy and smooth mashed spuds, (the waxy white or red varieties just never really get creamy, truth be told). The russets and Yukon’s are also more amenable to taking on necessary adjuncts, like butter and cream.

Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Plan on 1 Yukon or 1/2 Russet per person, plus a few more portions for seconds and leftovers.
1 Tablespoon of unsalted Butter per spud
About 1/2 Cup of Heavy Cream
Sea Salt and ground Black Pepper to taste

In a large stock pot over high heat, add plenty of water salted as you would for pasta, (should taste like sea water)

Add spuds and bring to a boil, then cover the pot, reduce temperature to maintain a low simmer, and cook until the spuds are fork tender, about 20-30 minutes.

Remove the pot from heat, drain all the water carefully, then return to the burner and gently agitate the spuds until they dry out.

Remove the pot from heat, and with a potato masher, process the spuds evenly, working around the pot until everything is evenly mashed.

Add butter and use a flat whisk to incorporate.

Add cream a little bit at a time and whisk in thoroughly, until you hit the consistently you like.

Add salt and pepper, whisk to incorporate, taste test, and adjust seasoning as needed. When they’re done right, the shouldn’t need anything else, except maybe gravy, of course.

Serve hot.

Twice Baked Potatoes
Russet Potatoes, 1/2 to 1 each depending on size and appetites; the rest of these ingredient amounts are based on a 4 large potato bake, so scale accordingly.
1/2 Cup heavy Cream
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1 Cup Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
4 ounces unsalted Butter
2 strips thick cut Bacon
4 Green Onions
Sea Salt
Fresh ground Pepper
Avocado Oil
Dash of Tabasco

Preheat oven to 325° F

Rinse your spuds and pat dry with a clean towel.

Coat whole spuds with avocado oil by hand, place in a glass baking dish. Season the skins evenly with salt and pepper.

Slide the spuds into the oven and bake for about an hour, until the spuds are fork tender.

Fry bacon, dry on paper towels and fine dice.

Rinse, strip roots from green onions, and fine dice.

Grate cheddar cheese.

When the spuds are ready, pull them out of the oven and let them cool just long enough to handle with a clean towel, (in other words, still quite hot).

Reduce oven heat to 250° F.

Cut the spuds into lengthwise halves, then carefully scoop the guts into a mixing bowl, keeping the skins intact.

Add cream, sour cream, half the cheese, bacon, onions, and butter to spuds and blend thoroughly. Add salt, pepper, and Tabasco to taste.

Refill the skins with the spud mixture, top with the remaining cheese, then slide them back into the oven; bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve hot.

Of course, stuffing is also a must. Try this recipe, redolent of herbs and citrus. It’s actually desirable to use bread that’s a couple days old, so buy ahead. Stuffing can be prepared a day ahead of service and chilled, covered. Bring the stuffing back up to room temperature before you bake.

Savory Sourdough Stuffing
1 large Sourdough loaf
1 large Sweet Onion
1 stalk Celery, with leaves
3 slices thick cut Pepper Bacon
2 large Eggs
1/2 Unsalted Butter
1 1/2 Cups low-sodium Chicken Stock
1 small Lemon
2 Tablespoons Lemon Thyme
2 teaspoons Savory
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon Grains of Paradise

Preheat oven to 325° F

Cut bread into roughly 1/2″ cubes. Spread cubes on 2 baking sheets and bake until dry, about 15 minutes. Allow bread to cool on pans, then transfer to a large bowl. Crumble by hand and add the lemon thyme, savory, salt, and grains of paradise.

Rinse and dice onion and celery. Zest and juice lemon. Lightly beat eggs.

In a large saucepan over medium high heat, fry the bacon until crisp. Set that aside on paper towels to drain, and reduce heat to medium low. Add the butter to the bacon fat and melt thoroughly. Add onions and sauté, stirring steadily, until onions start to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add celery and continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes. Transfer all to the mixing bowl.

Crumble the bacon, then add it plus the eggs, stock, lemon juice and zest to the bowl and combine thoroughly.

Transfer stuffing to a lightly buttered, shallow baking dish, cover the dish with metal foil.

Bake, on a middle rack for 30 minutes; remove foil and continue baking until browned, about another 30 minutes.

Allow to rest for 10 minutes prior to serving nice and hot.

And then there’s more veggies, ‘Cause, well, ya gotta. To me, green beans are the perfect choice, and you can usually find decent ones even at this time of year. Make sure you gets good ones at the store – If they don’t snap crisply when bent, they’re not the ones for you.

1 Pound fresh Green Beans
3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Small Shallot
1 small Lemon
Sea Salt and fresh ground Pepper to taste

Rinse and trim ends from Beans.

Trim and peel Shallot. Mince 1/4 Cup and set aside.

Zest lemon and cut in half.

Beans can be steamed or boiled. To me, steaming gives better flavor, fresher, if you will.

Prepare an ice water bath in mixing bowl.

Cook Beans for about 3 minutes, then remove from heat and plunge into the ice water bath.

When you’re about ready to serve, heat a sauté pan over medium heat, then add 1 Tablespoon butter.

Sauté shallots until they begin to turn translucent, about 2-3 minutes.

Add beans to pan, with the rest of the butter, toss to melt butter and evenly coat beans.

Allow beans to heat through and cook for 2-3 minutes until they’re firm but tender.

Remove pan from heat, then add lemon zest and juice from 1/2 lemon, and toss to incorporate.

Season with salt and pepper, taste test, adjust lemon, salt, and pepper as desired.

Serve hot.

Brussels sprouts, the red headed first cousin of cabbage, get bad press far more often than they should. They’re truly a lovely vegetable and a perfect side for the big feast. It’s a safe bet that overcooking and poor seasoning have far more to do with negative reviews than the veggie itself. Brussels sprouts contain glucosinolates, compounds that offer abundant health benefits, but have the unfortunate tendency to release sulfurous byproducts when they’re overcooked. Avoiding the all too common boiling of sprouts is your first line of defense against bad taste. Here’s a preparation with bright and earthy notes guaranteed to please.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Almonds & Apple Cider Reduction
Brussels Sprouts, about 6 per person; the ingredient measures here are scaled for 35 to 40 sprouts.
1 1/2 Cups Honeycrisp Apple Cider
1/2 Cup slivered Almonds
Extra Virgin Avocado Oil
2 small cloves Garlic
Unsalted Butter
Sea Salt
Fresh ground Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Remove sprouts from stem and soak in cold water for 10 minutes.

Inspect and trim any browned or yellowed leaves, and trim stems to about 1/4″. If your sprouts are large, you may halve them if you wish.

Mince garlic.

Place trimmed sprouts in a mixing bowl, and coat generously with olive oil. Add garlic and toss to incorporate. Add enough salt and pepper to lightly coat.

Roast sprouts in a middle rack for 35 to 40 minutes, turning once, until they’ve begun to brown.

While the sprouts are roasting, prepare the almonds and cider reduction.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add the almonds and a tablespoon of unsalted butter. Sauté, stirring regularly, until the nuts and butter start to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add the cider and bring to a simmer. Whisking steadily, simmer until the cider has reduced by roughly 50%. Add a tablespoon of butter and a very small pinch of sea salt. Whisk to incorporate, then remove from heat and set aside.

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk briskly to incorporate. Allow the dressing to sit while the sprouts roast.

When the sprouts are done, allow them to cool for about 5 minutes. Combine sprouts, almonds, and reduction; toss to thoroughly coat the sprouts, serve warm.

If you love cranberries, or even if you don’t, try this citrus infused sauce for a refreshing change. I’ve been making it for decades, and it’s still requested.

Urban’s Legendary Cranberry Sauce
1 12-ounce bag fresh Cranberries
3/4 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Agave Nectar (You may sub Honey, Maple Syrup, or light brown Sugar)
1 large Navel Orange
1 Lemon
1 lime
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Allspice
Shake of Sea Salt

Grate zest from all citrus; get all the nice bright orange, yellow and green, (Stop before you get to the bitter white part.)

Juice lemon and lime. Peel orange thoroughly and rough chop the meat from that; set aside.

Bring water to a boil in a saucepan over medium high heat.

When water is boiling, add cranberries and return to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium and add citrus zest, orange, and juice.

Allow sauce to continue to boil, stirring occasionally until about 3/4 of the cranberries have popped.

Add cinnamon, nut get and salt, stir in thoroughly.

Remove from heat and transfer to a glass or ceramic bowl.

Allow to cool completely at room temperature.

Cover and refrigerate until serving time. Will last in the fridge for about a week.

And finally, in addition to whatever pies you dig, try this pumpkin flan for a very cool twist on the gourd of the day.

Pumpkin Flan

For the caramel:
3/4 Granulated White Sugar
1/3 Cup Maple Syrup
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt

For the flan:
1 14 Ounce can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 12 Ounce can Evaporated Milk
1 15 Ounce can Libby’s Pure Pumpkin (Don’t use anything that reads ‘Pie Filling’)
1/2 Cup Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
4 Jumbo Eggs
1 Tahitian Vanilla Bean, (1 teaspoon pure extract is OK as a sub)
1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
1 large Navel Orange, (for zest and 1 Tablespoon of juice)
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Allspice
Pinch of Sea Salt

You’ll need an 8” round cake pan for this, and it can’t be a springform. Alternatively, if you’ve got enough of ‘em, you can do this as individual servings in ramekins, but you’ll need to have your mis together to make sure you can get the caramel poured into them all and spread evenly. If you go the ramekin route, having them sitting in a bath of hot water will help a bunch toward that end.

Preheat the oven to 350° F and set a rack in the middle position.

Have your pan or ramekins ready to go, as noted above.

Zest the orange, taking care to only get the colored part, leaving the white pith intact.

In a heavy sauce pan over medium high heat, add the sugar, syrup, and 1/3 cup of very hot water. Stir to incorporate well.

When the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to maintain a bare simmer. Allow the mix to cook, without stirring, until it’s golden brown and reading 230°F on a candy or instant read thermometer. Don’t leave the pan while this is cooking – It can go overboard quickly, so keep a sharp eye on things throughout the cooking process.

As soon as the caramel is done, pour it carefully into the cake pan or ramekins. Be careful, it’s molten sugar and will burn the snot out of you if you’re careless.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the two milks, the pumpkin, and the ricotta. Using a hand or stick mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the ingredients at low speed until the mix is smooth and uniform.

Add all other ingredients, and whisk on low to fully incorporate.

Make sure that your caramel is nice and hard, then use a spatula to transfer the batter from bowl to pan or ramekins.

Place the cake pan or ramekins inside a roasting pan, and carefully fill that with water until water level reaches roughly half way up your pan or ramekins.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until the flan has set, but still has some jiggle to the middle when you gently wiggle the roasting pan. A tooth pick inserted into the flan should come out clean.

Remove flan from oven, and from the roasting pan, and transfer to a cooling rack.

Allow the flan to cool completely to room temperature, then cover the pan or ramekins tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours prior to serving.

When you’re ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the pan or ramekins, and place a serving plate tight to whatever you’re transferring. Quickly but gently give the pan a flip and viola – You’ve got gorgeous pumpkin flan with a maple caramel ready to rock.

You can add whipped cream, if you like, but you won’t really need it.

Champagne Mangoes Three Ways

 

You might have been perusing the produce aisle recently and seen a fruit called a Champagne Mango. They’re somewhat new to many parts of the US, but they ain’t new in the Big Picture view. The Champagne, also known as an Ataúlfo, (and young, baby, yellow, honey, or adolpho), is a well established Mexican cultivar. Champagnes are gorgeous; big, heavy, golden-yellow beauties that are somewhat pear shaped. They’re thin skinned, with deep yellow, rich flesh and a very skinny pit. They’re quite high in sugar, with a tangy-sweet flavor, rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber.

Down in the Mexican state of Chiapas, when Ataúlfo Morales bought Some land back in 1950, there were already bearing mango trees on the property. Around eight years later, a researcher from the Mexican Commission of Pomology heard of Señor Morales’ mangoes and came to have a look. He went off with samples and stock which he named Ataúlfo, in honor of the property owner, and the rest is history.

If you like mangoes, (and even if you don’t), you owe it yourself to try these beauties. While they’re a real treat to peel and eat straight away, here are three of our favorite things to do with them.

Fruit Curds go back quite a ways in history. Technically, since they include eggs, butter, and require preparation like an emulsion, they’re probably more of a custard than a preserve, I guess. The 1844 edition of The Lady’s Own Cookery Book included a primitive version of a lemon curd;, using lemons to acidify cream, then separating the lemony curds from the whey. Further back yet you’ll find recipes for ‘lemon cheese’, used to make what was called a lemon cheese cake, but reads like what we’d call a lemon tart these days. Our version of Mango Curd is stunningly good, if we do say so ourselves…

2 ripe Mangoes
3 large Eggs
6 Tablespoons unsalted Butter
1/2 Cup Agave Nectar or Honey
1 fresh small Lemon
1 fresh small Lime
Pinch of Sea Salt

Rinse, Peel and roughly chop the mangoes; you’ll want to kind of shave the meat away from the skinny pit.

Purée the mango chunks with a stick blender or food processor. You want to end up with about 1 cup of purée.
Set that aside.

Rinse, zest and juice the lemon and lime, then set juice and zest aside.

Cut very cold butter into about 1/2″ cubes.

Crack eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk lightly.

For cooking the blend, a double boiler is best. If you don’t have one, work with a bowl or pan that will fit comfortably inside a larger one. Fill your double boiler bottom or pan about 2/3 full of water and heat over medium flame. You want the water steaming, but not simmering when you’re ready to cook.

Combine the eggs, lemon and lime zest, citrus juice, the agave nectar or honey, and a pinch of salt. Whisk the mixture until fully incorporated and evenly colored, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the mango purée to the blend and whisk for about a minute to fully incorporate.

Put your bowl with the blended ingredients over your pan filled with hot water, (Or double boiler). Allow the mixture to heat, stirring gently but continuously, for about 3 minutes. Start adding the butter in small batches of 6 to 8 cubes, whisking steadily and allowing each batch to melt and incorporate before adding the next.

Again, a curd is an emulsion, so the butter, (fat), needs time and gentle whisking to properly marry with the egg and fruit blend.

When all the butter is melted, continue whisking gently and steadily until the curd begins to thicken noticeably, about another 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the curd from the heat. Transfer the curd to a fine mesh strainer over a glass or steel bowl and use a spatula to gently strain the curd through the strainer. You’ll end up with some zest and fiber that doesn’t make it through.

Refrigerate in a glass jar or airtight container for at least four hours. The curd will keep for about a week refrigerated, but I’ll bet it won’t last anything close to that long…

A small dish of this lovely stuff is a remarkably delicious desert, or an excellent palate cleanser after a heavy course in a fancy meal. Try it on freshly made shortbread with strawberries for a real treat.

NOTE: You may substitute coconut oil for butter for a dairy free variation.

 

Granitas are the pure essence of fruit and natural sweeteners. With no diary on board, they’re actually not at all bad for you either. This version was the best we’ve made, of any fruit.

2 ripe Champagne Mangoes
2 Cups Water
1 fresh small Lemon
1 fresh small Lime
3/4 cup Agave Nectar or Honey

Rinse, peel and rough chop the mango flesh.

Rinse, zest, and juice the lemon and lime.

In a food processor or blender, purée the mango until smooth and uniform, about 1 to 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed.

Add the water and honey or agave to a sauce pan over medium heat. Thoroughly melt the sweetener, then add the purée, zest, lemon and lime juice, and stir to incorporate.

Add the puréed mango and stir steadily and gently until the blend starts to simmer. When the whole blend is evenly mango colored and starts to thicken slightly, remove it from the heat; the whole heating process will take around 3 to 5 minutes.

 

Remove the mixture from heat and pour the blend through a single layer strainer into a 9-inch-square shallow baking pan. This pan size works best ­because it provides a large surface area, a key point in speeding up the freezing process. To further hasten freezing, use a heavy steel or glass pan.

Put the pan in the freezer and stir about every hour with a large fork, times down like you’re raking the granita. Depending on your freezer temp, it will take around 3 to 5 hours for the granita to freeze completely.

You can eat the granita as soon as it’s frozen through, but the flavor will genuinely develop appreciably if you transfer it to an airtight container and freeze it over­night.

When you’re ready to serve the granita, just scape up the shaved ice and fill a chilled margarita glass, band top with a mint sprig.

 

 

Mango salsa is a real treat; the counterpoint of sweet and heat is great with fish, poultry, and pork. Try it on freshly scrambled eggs too.

1 Champagne Mango
2 ripe Roma Tomatoes
1/2 Red Onion
1-3 Jalapeño Chiles
2-4 sprigs fresh Cilantro
1 small Lemon
1 small Lime
Pinch of Sea Salt

Rinse all fruits and veggies. Peel and dice mango. Core, seed and dice the tomatoes. Dice the onion. Chiffonade the cilantro. Juice the citrus.

Combined all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes, (and as long as overnight – The flavors just get better.)

Fresh Berries!

Fresh berries are in season here in the Pacific Northwet. Driving pretty much anywhere, you’ll come across roadside stands offering blueberries, strawberries, raspberries – Not to mention cherries as well. While you might think you’d be better off in a store, it ain’t necessarily so. Stop by a few of these stands and you’ll quickly learn to spot good from bad, (and most are quite good). A roadside table put out by the growers themselves is almost always a sure winner for price, freshness, and truly supporting local small businesses.

Fresh berries are a catch!
Fresh berries are a catch!

Of course, the chief and oft unspoken danger of such stuff is not being prepared to store, preserve, or use what you buy – I don’t know how often I hear about great produce going to waste, but it’s all too often. As such, have a plan or plans in mind for what you intend to do. Canning, freezing, and quick use are all good ideas, but be sure you have the time set aside, and the equipment you’ll need – Last thing you want to do is find that you’re out of rings and lids after doing up a batch of preserves, right?

We freeze a lot of berries, because it does a good job of preservation, is relatively easy and quick to do, and lends itself to spur of the moment use down the road. Keeping in mind that berries are quite delicate, here’s what we do to get the best quality out of a batch.

Gently rinse berries in cool water, then place them in a colander lined with clean paper towels and allow them to dry a bit.

Cover a clean baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper, gently spread the berries evenly across the sheet.

Freeze fresh berries on a lined baking sheet.
Freeze fresh berries on a lined baking sheet.

Put the sheets into your freezer and allow a nice hard freeze before removing them, at least 3-4 hours, or more. Transfer berries to hard containers or plastic bags, mark them with the date, and you’re done.

We do different sized containers based on the amount needed for intended use – enough for a pie, a batch of ice cream, etc, and mark that volume on the bag or container as well. If you have a vacuum sealer, you certainly can and should package hard frozen berries that way, as it will minimize air contact, freezer burn, etc. if you don’t have one of those toys, sucking the air out of a filled ziplock will do a pretty good job as well. Carefully packaged and sealed berries will last 6 to 9 months in a freezer, no problem.

So, what about that immediate use? Try this amazing ice cream recipe – You can thank us later. The bourbon, for the record, adds a nice little hint of smoky, woody sweetness, but more to the point, it’s a fantastic little trick for home ice cream makers – The little bit of high proof booze keeps your scream from turning into a frozen brick, that all too common malady.

Blueberry, Vanilla & Bourbon Ice Cream

1 Quart Heavy Cream, (at least 30% milk fat)
1/2 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons local Honey
1 Quart fresh Blueberries
1 Tahitian Vanilla Bean
2 Tablespoons Bourbon

In a sauce pan over medium heat, add the berries, 2 tablespoons honey, and the scraped seeds from the vanilla bean, (put the remaining bean in some sugar, or vodka, and let it steep for future projects).

Stir steadily as the berries begin to simmer and pop. When roughly 3/4 of the berries have burst, remove the blend from the heat and transfer to a blender, (or use a stick blender if you prefer). Pulse until you have a smooth, uniform purée.

Pass the purée through a single mesh strainer into a smaller mixing bowl; send the skins, etc to your compost bucket.

Place the purée bowl in larger bowl 1/2 filled with ice and water, and allow it to sit, stirring occasionally to aid cooling.

In a large mixing bowl, combine cream, 1/2 cup honey, and bourbon. Whisk briskly until uniformly incorporated.

Blueberry, Tahitian Vanilla & Bourbon Ice Cream
When the ice cream is close to done, add the berry purée

Process the cream mixture in an ice cream machine or churn. When the ice cream is well formed, slowly add the puréed berry mixture. When it’s uniformly incorporated, send it to the freezer.

Blueberry, Tahitian Vanilla & Bourbon Ice Cream
Blueberry, Tahitian Vanilla & Bourbon Ice Cream

Chocolate & Toasted Almond Tart

I went down to my Sis’s place this weekend. I always try to cook when I’m down there, and this time around, I was determined to make up for the failed tart fiasco from my last visit. I was going to do something savory, but then Annie said, “if you want to do some fantastic dessert, you sure can – I’ve got chocolate, and cream, and nuts…” A chocolate tart was the natural answer. I did this one up on the fly, and it turned out so good, I’ve been flooded with recipe requests, so here it is – It’s actually quite easy, so do give it a try.

Chocolate & Toasted Almond Tart

For the Tart
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
1/4 Cup Cocoa Powder
4 Ounces Unsalted Butter
1 Egg

1/2 Cup whole Almonds for topping.

Have all ingredients at room temperature.
In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and butter, cream together with a fork until smoothly blended.
Add the egg and whisk it into the sugar-butter blend.
Add flour and cocoa powder and work by hand until fully incorporated.
Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Remove dough from fridge, flatten it into a roughly 6″ disk, and sandwich between sheets of waxed paper or parchment.
Gently roll dough out to about 1/4″ thick.
Carefully transfer dough to a tart pan, and gently press into shape.
Prick bottom of tart with a fork, across the entire bottom.
Bake on a middle rack for about 15 minutes, until tart looks dry and has started to pull away from the pan edges.
Remove and allow to cool.

Place almonds on a clean, dry baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes at 350° F, until nuts start to brown slightly, and you can smell a nice, roasted nut smell.
Remove from oven and allow to cool.
When cool enough to handle, carefully rough chop nuts and set aside for topping.

For the Ganache
1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream
8 Ounces Dark Chocolate.
4 Ounces Unsalted Butter
2 Tablespoons dark Karo Syrup.
Pinch Sea Salt

In a heavy sauce pan over medium heat, scald the cream – when small bubbles form at the edge of the cream, remove from heat.
Shave or grate chocolate, then transfer to the inner pan of a double boiler.
Carefully pour hot cream over the chocolate, and allow it to steep for 5 minutes.
Prepare bottom half of double boiler with a few inches of water and place over medium heat.
Place pan with cream and chocolate blend atop heated double boiler bottom, and gently whisk cream and chocolate together – take your time and let the chocolate determine the rate of incorporation – If you try to push things, your chocolate can seize, which is no fun…
When the cream and chocolate are fully incorporated, add the Karo syrup and a pinch of sea salt, and whisk them in.
Cut butter into 1/4″ cubes, then add a few cubes at a time to the ganache, and gently whisk them in until they’re melted and incorporated. Repeat until all the butter is worked in and the ganache is nice and glossy.
Carefully pour ganache into the tart.
Top ganache with chopped, toasted almonds.

Chocolate & Toasted Almond Tart

Allow to set at room temperature for two to four hours prior to serving.

Chocolate & Toasted Almond Tart

Oops

 

“Cooking is creating a big fucking problem and learning how to solve it”

Craig Thornton

 

“Learning to cook like a great chef is within the realm of possibility. However, it is something that is rarely taught; it must be caught.”

Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg

 

“Great chefs rarely bother to consult cookbooks”

Charles Simic

 

Forewarning; this piece is a muse, albeit one that does contain a recipe. Bear with me, I promise you it'll be worth it. It's really about Craig Thornton's quote above; one of the most succinct and honest evaluations of what cooking is all about. I put the other two up because they have bearing on what I'm going to talk about as well; I'll tell you why shortly. Onward.

So, I made shortbread last night. I dig shortbread. I'm part Scots. I've easily made shortbread a thousand times in my life. I screwed this one up. I was building my own recipe, which is something I often do, but this one, I blew. It was chocolate almond shortbread. I did a couple things extra in creating it, and changed a process step as well. It didn't come out very well. Shortbread is so simple, trained weasels could make it; hence one of my favorite quotes – 'Great cooking is almost always simple, but not always easy'. If you're wondering about the quote source, it's me. I said that a few years back.

I've always been an intuitive chef. I cook from heart and hip. That said, any good and curious cook is going to want to read what others know. I started, long ago, with Irma Rombauer, Julia Child, and James Beard. Over the decades, I've read hundreds of books about food and cooking, and gleaned great ideas and inspiration from many, but the list of what I consider truly go-to cooking books hasn't expanded all that much. Since my deepest cooking roots are French, I added Auguste Escofier, Larousse Gastronomique, and Saulnier & Brunette. Harold McGee, Claudia Roden, Marcella Hazan, Diana Kennedy, and Michael Ruhlman have also joined that initial group of three. These are the sources that I return to, time and again, when I'm stuck for ideas.

Charles Simic, while a wonderful poet, isn't a great chef to my knowledge, so my guess is that he was snowed by the ego of someone else when he said great chefs don't consult cookbooks. When it comes to our basic repertoires as a chef, we generally can do it in our sleep; we need no consultation for that, or for most variations on familiar themes. That said, we're all human, and pressure, fatigue, boredom, or a myriad other things can cause any chef to blow the easiest of recipes, just like I did.

What Page and Dornenburg refer to is nothing more than passion, in essence. On top of that, you need chops and practice. From knife skills to standard practices, classic combinations to the ability to turn out food at a high level of quality and at speed, all takes a lot of work. What I do now professionally isn't haute cuisine by any sense of the word. Yet I tell youngsters who are obviously interested in food and possibly in a career, that there is much they can learn in our little cafe. Repetition, focus, mis en place, attention to details, producing consistent quality under significant time pressure – All these things will stand you well in any professional kitchen, and all of them can sink you if you don't have them down pat. Fast casual isn't fine dining, but a busy lunch, one that runs around $3,000 to $4,000 over 2 hours time, turning out plates that retail for roughly $12 each is a lot of work. Get used to that, and the pressure won't seem such a daunting thing, regardless of what genre you work in down the line.

Those constraints really aren't any different for a home chef. Whether you're turning out food for your family or for guests, there's certainly pressure to perform; no cook wants to make bad food, and no cook wants to see or hear other people disappointed in what they've made. For an inexperienced chef trying new or complicated things, that pressure can achieve critical mass. My Sis is a spectacular cook; she's written cookbooks, and she's always a wizard in the kitchen – She blew exactly one meal I'm aware of, back in the '60s, and fact is, she still gets razzed about it from time to time…

A few of you know that I make and play guitars. I build instruments the same way I cook, grounded in basics and science, but definitely from the artistic side. As a musician, I've played professionally for several years. There are definite parables in cooking and musicianship, in a couple of critical regards;

Many people think they can cook as well as a Pro, and many people think they could play on stage; in most cases, they're wrong – If it was easy, everybody would do it. It's not. It takes passion, dedication, practice and persistence; that's what makes it so rewarding when we succeed, and such a joy to pursue.

Many beginners in either pursuit quit before they have a chance to be good; in either case, it's often reaching too far too fast that causes that. You're not going to be able to cut a perfect dice the first time you pick up a knife, and you're not going to be able to play the lead riff from Reeling in the Years after your first guitar lesson.

Those things said, I think it's important to keep in mind that not everyone has to be great, nor wants to be. Good is often good enough. Sound in the basics that really interest you may be all you have time and energy for, and that's just fine. I tell new guitarmakers the same thing I tell new cheesemakers; anybody can make good cheese, (guitars), with a little knowledge and effort – To consistently make really great cheese or guitars takes a significantly greater investment. Wherever you lie on that spectrum is an OK place to be.

Certainly at some point, chefs discover or invent. Ferrari Adrià is widely hailed as the Founder of molecular gastronomy, but Harold McGee wrote his book long before Adrià was big on the scene. Granted, McGee isn't a chef, and Adrià was clearly the first Chef to turn it into an art form and create one of the most successful restaurants in the world. Thomas Keller didn't invent haute cuisine, he's just way better at it than all the rest of us.

Before I started this blog, writing about food and cooking for magazines, and talking about it on live radio, I was a great cook, but I didn't write down my recipes. If you'd asked me back then how I did something, I'd look blankly at you for a moment and then answer, “I dunno, I just did it.” When I was 15, I became a ski instructor. I remember Danny, one of the guys who taught me to teach, saying, “Man, you really tore up those bumps, I mean you ski really well!” I mumbled a thanks, and then he said, “How'd you do it? 'Cause if you can't explain that, you can't teach.” Bingo, the light bulb came on…

I've had to learn how to make recipes that are accurate, repeatable, clearly explained, and that make great food – If I couldn't do that, we wouldn't be here now.

So back to Craig Thornton's blisteringly honest synopsis, and what happened with the shortbread – What did I do to understand and fix my mistake? It turned out that my ratio calculations weren't correct, and I didn't handle the butter correctly, so I tossed the bad batch and made another that came out just right.

When I was composing the recipe, I didn't subtract some flour in lieu of the added almonds, so my wet to dry ratio was off. I also didn't handle the butter correctly. Shortbread wants relatively warm butter creamed into the sugar with a spatula. Doing that allows the sugar crystals to form tiny air bubbles in the butter, and those allow the shortbread to rise when it's baked; skip this step, and you get the denser finished product I made first. It was good, but not good enough to post here and pass on to y'all. I needed that ethereal, melt in your mouth shortbread. I adjusted my ratio, and altered my method to get what I wanted.

For the record, the word 'Short', has very specific connotations in baking. Short bread/cake/etc, implies a specifically high ratio of fat to flour. These doughs and batters are always non-yeast raised, and characteristically produce a rich and crumbly finished product. Thorough and properly executed incorporation is critical to achieving great results.

The moral of this ramble is that you can become a good, or even great chef if you want to, but don't ever doubt that even great chefs make mistakes, some times on simple things. They also certainly do study their errors in an effort to understand their mistakes and avoid them in the future. Anybody who says otherwise is pulling your leg. Here's that recipe – It's a subtle, complex shortbread that's not too sweet.

 

Chocolate Almond Shortbread

1 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

1/2 Cup raw Almonds

1/2 Cup sweet cream Butter

5 Tablespoons Bakers Sugar

2 Tablespoons Dark Cocoa Powder

1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

 

Have butter at or near room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a skillet over medium, toast almonds until lightly browned.

Remove from heat and place in a food processor; process until reduced to a rough meal consistency.

In a mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar; cream with the side of a spatula until evenly mixed.

In a second bowl, combine flour, cocoa, salt, and almonds and blend throughly.

Add sugar/butter Belen to dry and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.

Press dough into a 9″ x 9″ baking pan, (or thereabouts – you want the dough about 3/4″ high). Prick the dough evenly across the entire surface, all the way through its thickness; this allows excess steam to escape and promotes flat, even baking.

 

Bake at 350° F for 12-15 minutes, until shortbread looks dry and has pulled away from the pan edges slightly.

Remove and cut into 3″ squares. Allow to cool before serving – Really hot shortbread is delightful, but it's also molten, so beware!

 

 

Coffee & Dark Chocolate Crème Brûlée

If it seems that I'm dessert obsessed lately, I sorta am. Fact is, my recipe files were sadly lacking in desserts, and an honest assessment lead to the realization that my chops were too – So I'm out to fix that; suffer through it if you can.

Crème Brûlée, Crema Catalana, Flan, Créme Caramel, and Burnt Cream, is essentially a custard. While many variants add the hard caramel or burnt sugar top, there's nothing at all wrong with putting that caramel on the bottom, and/or making it liquid rather than hard. Some might argue that this would not technically be a brûlée, based on the contention that theFrench verb form brûlée literally means 'to burn'. I'd counter that making a caramel is more or less burning sugar, hence such arguments are quibbling at best.

Crème brûlée in its more or less modern iteration first appeared in a 17th Century cookbook by François Massialot, though he is not the originator of the dish; regardless of claims, custards go back farther than Chef Massialot did. Interestingly enough, a later edition of his cookbook changed the name to Crème Anglaise, a pouring custard not usually associated with this dish. Later iterations fully anglicized the name to Burnt Cream. The derivations mentioned above come from England, Spain, Portugal, and Mexico. There are certainly other names for what is a quite universal treat, and whatever you call it, it's delicious.

The classic version is flavored only with vanilla; remove the chocolate and coffee, and reduce the sugar by one tablespoon from our version below, and there you are. That said, it'd be a shame not to try the full Monty as we did.

For the Crème

2 Cups Heavy Cream

6 Egg Yolks

2 Tablespoons fresh ground Coffee

5 Ounces 60% Cacao Chocolate

3 Tablespoons Bakers Sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

 

For the Caramel

2/3 Cup Bakers Sugar

1/4 Cup brewed Coffee

1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Pinch Sea Salt

 

Have ramekins right at hand.

In a sauce pan over medium high heat, add brewed coffee and reduce by 50%. Add sugar to reduced coffee and combine thoroughly. As blend starts to melt, reduce heat to medium, add vanilla and salt, whisking steadily. When the blend is smooth and consistent, pour equal measures into the bottom of each ramekin and tilt to coat the entire surface. Set ramekins aside. Note: blend will foam quite a bit when vanilla and salt are added, so be careful with heat, removing pan from burner when necessary to keep things under control.

Preheat oven to 300° F.

In a heavy sauce pan over medium heat, bring cream to a simmer.

Remove from heat, stir in ground coffee, cover, and allow to steep for 15 minutes.

 

Run cream mixture through a double mesh strainer, or doubled cheesecloth, returning steeped cream to sauce pan, and discard the coffee grounds.

Over medium heat, scald cream, (heat until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan); remove from heat.

Place chocolate in a steel or glass mixing bowl; pour cream over chocolate and allow to steep for 5 minutes.

Gently whisk cream mixture into the chocolate. Go slowly and feel the process out so that the chocolate doesn't seize. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla; whisk to incorporate.

Add the cream and coffee blend to the egg mixture and combine thoroughly; go slowly – you want to combine without adding air bubbles to the blend.

Divide mixture among 6 ramekins or custard cups; you want to fill each to within about 3/4″ of the tops.

Place ramekins in a baking dish as or nearly as tall as they are; leave about an inch of space around each ramekin.

In a kettle or pan, boil enough water to fill the baking dish to at last 3/4 the height of the ramekins.

Note: I violated my no bubbles rule, as you can see – They're purely a cosmetic issue, so…
Bake until custards set around the edges, but still jiggle a bit in the center when gently shaken, about 40 to 50 minutes.

Remove from oven and leave in the water bath to cool; when cooled to room temp, transfer to fridge and cool at least 2 hours before adding caramelized sugar top.

When ready to serve, run a thin knife around the edge of a custard, then quickly invert onto a desert plate.

 

Mocha Hazelnut Tart with Caramel Drizzle

Mocha hazelnut tart with sea salt

 

We roast our own coffee at home, as recently described herein. This morning, when M was handling brewing duties, the smell of that freshly roasted and ground coffee was intoxicating. I noted hints of sweet things, like cocoa and roasted nuts, and right then and there a tart made with coffee, chocolate, and hazelnuts popped into mind.

As I started to compose the recipe, a couple of things came to mind. The first was the best way to assure that those amazing coffee attributes made it into the finished product. That’s when I figured that steeping the ground coffee in cream would work to maintain the subtler notes that you might lose, were you to just use brewed coffee. I was right; the coffee aroma and taste that resulted was absolutely heavenly.

For the chocolate, a ganache seemed to make sense; it’s been around since the 18th century, though it’s arguable whether it was the French or the Swiss who first came up with the idea. Ganache is an incredibly versatile thing, made by heating cream, pouring it over chopped chocolate, and allowing it some time to steep and warm through. The blend is gently whisked until smooth; extracts, liqueur, or spices can be added as well. The addition of butter imparts a shine and silky smooth texture to the finished ganache. The ratio of chocolate to cream is infinitely variable, imparting a wide range of finished densities. Here, I used what generally comes out to about 2:1 chocolate to cream by weight, which yields a proper density to fill a tart, make truffles, or use as a layer in a cake. A 1:1 ratio yields a much lighter product suitable for glazing. Cool a ganache and whisk it fairly briskly, and you add enough air to lighten it notably, resulting in an excellent frosting. Work slowly and steadily when incorporating the chocolate and cream, and you’ll find this to be a fairly anxiety free method. You’ll note that I don’t call for refrigerating this tart; you can certainly do so, but know that a chilled ganache becomes rather hard. You won’t lose too much flavor, but it will be quite the brick in consistency.

I also wanted this to be a treat that celebrated the more savory aspects of chocolate and coffee, as opposed to being cloyingly sweet; the entire tart recipe has slightly over a half cup of sugar in it. The rest of the sweet notes come through the coffee and dark chocolate, and the overall impression is a very well tempered treat. The caramel sauce contributes a highly controllable degree of sweetness; you can use none, a little, or a lot as your tastes desire.

The tart crust is the only baking you need to do, so it’s really pretty simple to make. I’d go so far as to say that if you’ve never explored making ganache before this will be a fun intro for you. I made this with fresh, local cream and butter; I’d recommend you do the same.

This is truly amazing stuff, incredibly smooth, complex, and powerful. It’s also wickedly decadent, not the kind of thing you just have laying around the shanty all the time. Or maybe you do. Slice it thin and savor every bite.

 

Mocha Hazelnut Tart with Caramel Drizzle

 

For the Crust –

1 Cup All Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar

4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter

1 Large Egg

1/4 Cup Dark Cocoa Powder

 

Have all ingredients at or close to room temperature.

In a mixing bowl, add sugar and butter; whisk until well combined and creamy.

Add the egg, and whisk until thoroughly blended.

Add dry ingredients and fully incorporate.

Form dough into a ball, then flatten to a roughly 5″ disk.

Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

 

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Sandwich the dough disk between layers of parchment or waxed paper, and roll it out to about 1/8″ thick, sized for a tart pan with a 3/4″ to 1″ lip.

Transfer crust to tart pan and press gently to fit. Trim any excess dough flush with the edge of the pan.

With a fork, evenly pierce the dough all the way through to the bottom of the pan, across the entire bottom of the tart.

Bake until tart looks somewhat dry and pulls away slightly from the edge of the pan, about 15 minutes.

Remove and allow to cool completely.

 

For the Ganache –

1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream

10 Ounces Dark Chocolate, (64% to 72% Cacao is best)

4 Tablespoons unsalted Butter

1/2 Cup freshly ground Coffee Beans

1/2 Cup Hazelnuts

2 Tablespoons Bakers Sugar

Sea Salt

 

If you have a burr bean grinder, grind coffee beans on the coarsest setting. If you use a whirly blade grinder, pulse the beans to a rough grind and that’ll work. If, gods forbid, you have neither, carefully rough chop beans with a santoku or chefs knife.

 

Preheat oven to 350° F.

If you’ve bought shelled and skinned hazelnuts, place them on a dry baking sheet and roast them until lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes.

Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Once cooled enough to handle, carefully rough chop them and set aside.

 

If you have hazelnuts with the skins still on, (Which, by the way, are far cheaper than the former option), here’s the best way to completely remove those.

For every cup of hazelnuts, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium sauce pan.

Add 3 tablespoons of baking soda and stir; note that the mixture will foam quite a bit.

Add hazelnuts and boil for about 3 minutes; don’t be concerned when the water turns quite black, it’s par for the course with this method.

Fill a mixing bowl 3/4 full of ice water.

Use a slotted spoon to remove a test nut and plunge it into the ice water. Gently rub the nut to see if the skin comes off easily; if not, let the nuts boil for another couple of minutes, then try again. Once you’re getting an easy peel, transfer all nuts to the ice water and peel away.

Wrap nuts in paper towels and dry thoroughly.

Roast and rough chop nuts as per above.

 

Have butter at room temperature.

In a sauce pan over medium heat, bring cream to a simmer.

Add ground coffee beans, stir well to incorporate, then remove from heat.

Cover the pan tightly and allow the cream and coffee blend to steep for 30 minutes.

Run cream blend through a double mesh strainer, then return the steeped cream to the sauce pan and discard the ground coffee, (layered cheese cloth will work if you don’t have a strainer).

Place sauce pan back over medium heat.

In a measuring cup, add 2 teaspoons of hot water to the sugar, stir well to dissolve, then add to the coffee cream, and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Rough chop chocolate, then add to a mixing bowl.

Carefully pour hot cream mixture over the chocolate, then allow to steep for 5 minutes.

With a whisk, gently combine cream and chocolate, (going too fast and hard will cause the chocolate to seize – take your time and feel out the proper pace).

When the mixture is about halfway incorporated, start adding the butter a tablespoon at a time; allow each batch of butter to fully incorporate before adding more. Continue whisking until ganache is smooth and glossy.

Pour ganache into tart crust; smooth the top with spatula or pastry knife.

Top with chopped hazelnuts and dust very lightly with sea salt.

Let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.

 

 

For the Caramel Drizzle –

1 Cup Bakers Sugar

6 Tablespoons unsalted Butter

1/2 Cup heavy Cream

1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt

 

In a sauce pan over medium-low heat, combine sugar with 1/4 cup water. Stir steadily until sugar dissolves.

Increase heat to medium and boil without stirring, occasionally swirling the pan to aid even cooking. Continue until syrup is a deep golden amber, about 7–8 minutes.

Reduce heat to low; add the butter a tablespoon at a time and whisk to incorporate – Note that mixture will bubble vigorously, so be careful.

Slowly stir in cream, whisking steadily.

Add vanilla and salt.

Whisk until the caramel is smooth and creamy.

Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

Pour into a glass jar or small bowl.

Sauce will store for a week, refrigerated in an airtight glass container. Warm slightly before drizzling if stored.

Cut a nice slice of tart, drizzle a few lines of caramel over the top, and enjoy. You can make this a day ahead; the flavors will be fully developed, maybe even better than day one. One of my staff at the cafe commented after her first bite, “I’ve just seen God.” Now that’s a testament…

 

 

 

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

By multiple requests, here’s my peanut butter Nanaimo Bar. Something this good demands local, fresh ingredients, so please, don’t skimp. As decadent as this is, the final product has an amazing balance of salty to sweet, accented by the almonds and the peanut butter. We enjoy ours with freshly brewed, French roast coffee.

 

Bottom Layer

½ Cup Unsalted Butter

¼ Cup Dark Brown Sugar

5 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder

1 large Egg

1 ¼ Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs

½ Cup Almonds

1 Cup flaked Coconut

 

In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt 1 ounce of butter, then add the almonds, and sauté until golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a food processor, add graham crackers and process to a rough crumb. Add the almonds and coconut and pulse to a fine, even consistency.

In a double boiler over hot, but not simmering water, melt and combine the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder.

Add the egg and stir gently but continuously, until the blend is thoroughly heated through and the begins to thicken.

Remove from heat, add the wet to the dry mix, and incorporate thoroughly.

Press the mixture into an ungreased 8″ x 11″ pan; your base layer should be roughly 1/2″ thick.

Slide the pan into the freezer while you work on the next layer.

 

Second Layer

½ cup Unsalted Butter

3/4 Cup fresh Peanut Butter

3 Tablespoons Sour Cream

1 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar

 

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk briskly to a creamy consistency. You want to incorporate enough air to notably lighten the feel. Taste and adjust proportions so that you taste peanut butter over sweet for this layer. Spread evenly over the bottom layer, then return to the freezer.

 

Third Layer

4 Ounces 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate

2 Tablespoons unsalted Butter

2 Tablespoons Sour Cream

Pinch of Sea Salt

 

In a double boiler over medium low heat, melt the chocolate. Cut the butter into roughly 1/2″ squares, add a couple at a time and let them melt and incorporate before adding more. Finally, add the sour cream and salt and whisk to an even consistency.

Remove from heat and allow to cool until the blend starts to thicken.

Pour and spread evenly over the second layer.

 

Chill the bars in the fridge for at least 2 – 4 hours before cutting into roughly 2″ x 4″ bars.

 

Bars will be good for at least a week refrigerated, but there’s no way on God’s green earth they’ll last that long.

 

 

Almond Biscotti

 

Almond Biscotti are a delight, but as with all things baked, best when they're fresh. That said, they're meant to be crunchy; if you ever thought that their consistency was somewhat akin to hardtack, you'd be right on the mark. Biscotti have their origins in the same vein as that staple of old time sailors. Initially, biscotti was a twice baked, fatless ration carried by the Roman Legions, meant to last for months if not years. The almond flavoring we use here harkens back to that original version. Nowadays, we often add a little fat to make them more toothsome, at the expense of longevity.

Make this recipe fresh at home and you'll never go back to store bought.

 

2 Cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

3/4 Cup local Honey or Agave Nectar

1/2 Cup slivered Almonds

2 whole Eggs

1 Egg White

1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter

3/4 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 Vanilla Bean, (or 1/2 teaspoon pure extract)

1/4 teaspoon Almond Extract

1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

 

Preheat oven to 350° F and set a rack in the middle spot.

Line a heavy gauge baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Cut or process almonds to a rough chop.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the almonds until slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Carefully slice the vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape the seeds into a smaller mixing bowl. Put the pod into your sugar bowl to add a lovely vanilla note; you can also save the pod for a recipe that calls for a liquid and soak it therein.

In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the flour, almonds, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, blend the vanilla, almond extract, eggs, egg white, and honey or agave.

Add the wet mix to the dry and combine thoroughly. This will be a rather dry dough. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 15 seconds. Like a good pie dough, you just want to incorporate the ingredients and activate the gluten a bit; take care to not overwork the dough – 15 seconds kneading, max.

Divide the dough in two and roll each half out by hand to roughly 12″ length.

Place loaves on your prepped baking sheet and gently flatten them down to about 3/4″ thickness.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the loaves are firm and slightly springy to the touch.

Remove loaves from the oven, reduce oven heat to 325° F.

Place loaves onto a wire rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Slide loaves onto a cutting board and slice each at a 45° angle and 1/2″ thick.

Place slices on an unlined baking sheet, then bake for 10 minutes.

Flip each biscotti over and bake another 10 minutes.

Remove from oven, place biscotti on the wire rack, allow them to cool completely.

Store biscotti in an airtight glass container. They'll last quite a while, but they're best if eaten within a few days of baking.

 

VARIATIONS:

Dip biscotti about half their length in the chocolate of your choice. Set them on a wire rack until the chocolate has hardened completely.

Add 1/2 Cup of dried cranberries, raisins, dates, apricots, or other dried fruit to the wet mix.