Coconut Biscotti

 

Coconut Biscotti

Coconut Biscotti

When you serve biscotti, you’re styling’, did you know that?  These crunchy, nutty, hard cookies are custom-made for dunking in a frothy cappuccino, or nibbling on between sips of dark, thick, espresso.  Or maybe you’re having them at the end of the day with a glass of sweet dessert wine.  If it’s wine you’re having, make it a wine from Tuscany, the reputed home of biscotti.

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A surprising fact to me is that biscotti were first developed for Lent, when all types of festive and fancy baking was curtailed. Their plain appearance is deceiving.  You may think that the cookie is plain and boring, but not so.  In going through my recipes recently, I noted that I have quite a number of recipes for biscotti, and they are all different.  The several characteristics they all share are the elongated shape, usually cut on a diagonal, the inclusion of toasted nuts, and the fact that they are twice baked, making them crisp and crunchy.

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The name of these cookies, when translated, breaks down to bis (twice) and cottare (to cook).  Because they are a firm, sturdy cookie they are perfect for packing and shipping to someone far from home.

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This recipe utilizes coconut in several forms;  toasted and finely ground in the dough, and coconut oil used for shortening in the dough; there is also coconut cream (liquid) and coconut flavoring in the glaze.  The basic cookie is not sweet, but the glaze they are dipped into adds a touch of sweetness at the end.  If you choose not to dip them into the glaze, they will still be a very enjoyable mildly sweet treat.

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The nuts called for in the recipe are salted macadamia nuts, chopped; however I didn’t have any so I used a combination of hazelnuts and cashews from a jar of salted nuts, and they worked just fine.

If you have never made biscotti before this could be the recipe to get you started,  especially as we approach the start of Lent.  I have never given up sweets for Lent because I can’t survive without a goodie now and then, but I do try to abstain from rich decadent desserts.   With biscotti on hand, I know I can have my “goodie” without going overboard.

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COCONUT BISCOTTI

Yield:  Makes about 24 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1  1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

    Coconut oil, melted, is the shortening in this recipe.

    Coconut oil, melted, is the shortening in this recipe.

  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup salted macadamia nuts, chopped
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut cream ( may use milk or cream instead)
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. coconut extract
  • coarse sugar for decorating, if desired

Directions:

1.  Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350*F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2.  Spread 1 cup coconut flakes on a baking sheet and bake until toasted, about 3 minutes.

Coconut flakes, toasted

Coconut flakes, toasted

Let cool completely.  Transfer to a food processor; add the granulated sugar and pulse until finely ground.

Pulse in processor with sugar.

Pulse in processor with sugar.

3.  Whisk the coconut-sugar mixture, the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.

Mix all the dry ingredients together.

Mix all the dry ingredients together.

Melt the coconut oil in the microwave;  add to the flour mixture along with 1/3 cup water and the vanilla, and mix with a wooden spoon until a stiff dough forms.

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Stir in the chopped nuts and the remaining 1/2 cup coconut flakes, gently knead until the dough comes together.

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4.  Divide the dough in half and shape into two 9-by-2-inch logs;  place 1 log on each baking sheet.

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Bake, switching the pans halfway through, until the logs are firm and golden, about 25 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 300*F.

I baked them both on one sheet and they spread into each other.

I baked them both on one sheet and they spread into each other.

5.  Let the logs cool 10 minutes, then transfer to a cutting board.  Slice diagonally, with a serrated knife, into 3/4-inch thick pieces.

Cut on the diagonal and lay flat on baking sheet to be re-baked.

Cut on the diagonal and lay flat on baking sheet to be re-baked.

Arrange the slices cut-side down on the baking sheets.  Bake, flipping halfway through, until just golden and centers still have a little give, 20 to 25 minutes.  (It has been my experience that over-baking can happen at this stage of the game, so I underbake a little to be cautious.)  With these cookies, I baked 8 minutes on the first side, turned them over and baked for 10 minutes more.  They were plenty crispy, and they continue to crisp up as they cool.  Cool completely on wire racks before glazing.

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6.  Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, coconut cream, (or milk) and coconut extract in a small bowl until smooth.  Dip the biscotti in the glaze and sprinkle with decorative sugar if desired.

To store:   Allow the glaze to harden completely before storing in an air-tight container.  Separating the layers with wax paper will keep the cookies from sticking together.  They will keep “forever”, but we always eat them up way before then 🙂

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SOURCE:   FoodNetwork Magazine

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Pear Hazelnut Bread

Pear-Hazelnut Bread

Pear-Hazelnut Bread

Quick breads often meet my need for something sweet, without a guilt trip about how many calories I’m ingesting.  Of course not all of them meet that description, but this one is a nice compromise between a little sweetness and something you feel good about eating for breakfast.  It bakes up nice and hearty, with shredded pears and chopped hazelnuts folded into a cardamom-scented batter.

This bread would be a welcome addition to a holiday brunch or just nice to have with your morning’s coffee, on an average day.  Although, in my opinion, no day is average when it starts with a home-baked bread or muffin.

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Fresh, firm pears are needed for this recipe, so when they are grated you will not have a pile of mush.  I like Bosc pears but firm Bartletts work well also.  Wait to prepare them until you’re ready to put the bread together or the shredded fruit will turn brown.

While the original recipe for this bread called for 1  1/2 cups white all-purpose flour, I use a mixture of whole grains to make a total of  1 1/2 cups.  Examples are oats, spelt flour, whole wheat flour, and barley flakes.  The proportions should be about 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour, and 1/4 cup something else like oats or barley flakes.  This will give you a bread that is tender with good texture.   Toasting the hazelnuts in the oven for about 5 minutes improves their nutty flavor, but watch them carefully so they don’t get too browned.

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PEAR-HAZELNUT BREAD

Yield:   1  9″x5″ loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shredded, peeled, ripe pears that are still firm (about 2 )
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, or coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (see recommended types above)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  •  1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

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Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350*F.  and line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides.  Coat well with cooking spray and set aside.

2.  Whisk together the vegetable oil, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla together well.  Stir in the shredded pears.

3.  Whisk together all the dry ingredients,  adding in the chopped nuts also.

Whisk together all the dry ingredients.

Whisk together all the dry ingredients.

4.  Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ones, mixing just to moisten thoroughly.

Mixing wet ingredients into dry.

Mixing wet ingredients into dry.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Test carefully as the top of this loaf may brown and look done while the center is still moist because of the pears.

5.  Let cool in the pan for about an hour, then remove from pan and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

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SOURCE:   Adapted from Whole Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon

Coconut Oil…the next best thing?

Coconut Smoothie

Coconut Smoothie

It seems as if coconut oil is taking the grocery stores by storm.  It’s so rich, versatile, and vegan.  Has it become one of your kitchen staples yet?

It’s popularity seems to be well-deserved–after all, it’s as rich as butter (without the cholesterol) and as versatile as vegetable oil.  And now we can find the good stuff in our grocery stores:  organic, non-hydrogenated varieties.  It’s pressed from the raw coconut, so the oil has a subtle nutty flavor, and it’s a wonderful substitute for butter in baked goods.  You can also use it in cooking for a flavor boost in savory dishes as well.

Did you know that coconut oil turns to liquid between 75 and 81 degrees F., so its consistency may change from day to day. To maintain its solid, spreadable state and keep it from turning rancid, store it in a cool, dark cupboard.

This natural moisturizer is going gangbusters in beauty products as well.  Organic sugar mixes with organic coconut oil to make a wonderful exfoliating body scrub.  Try putting a small amount of coconut oil into the palm of your hand, let it melt, then add a few grains of sugar and mix in.  Use as a facial scrub.  After rinsing well, your face will feel very soft and smooth.

Crack the coconut trend, and keep an eye out in stores where beauty products are sold.  I’ve seen a nourishing coconut oil body mist that you can spritz on after a shower, or add some to your bath for a rich soak.  Coconut water can also be found in body cleansers; and coconut oil and shea butter make a soothing, smoothing skin softener.

I have been using coconut oil at night as a hand moisturizer.  At the first sign of cool weather my hands become very dry, and the skin around my nails develops painful cracks.  As I prepare for bed, I rub coconut oil generously on my hands and nails, then put on cotton gloves to sleep in.  In the morning my hands are soft, and in repeating this ritual, I believe my hands are improving and are less dry and cracked.

I came across this recipe for a smoothie that incorporates coconut oil… you might want to try it.   The ingredients are nourishing and filling.  I made it this weekend for lunch with some fresh fruit.  Easy, and delicious!!

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COCONUT-OAT SMOOTHIE

Yield:   Makes 1 servingIMG_8557

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats ( or quick oats)
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt, plain
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup ice

Directions:

1.  In a blender container, combine banana, oats, yogurt, coconut oil, honey, orange juice, and ice.   Puree until smooth.  Transfer to a tall glass and drink immediately.

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SOURCE:   M.Stewart Living

 

Sweet Potato Spice Bread

Sweet Potato Spice Breads

Sweet Potato Spice Breads

I’ve been spending some of my time weeding out my closets, getting rid of those oldies that I no longer wear.  Every few years I “bite the bullet’ and make some hard decisions about letting go of some favorite clothes.  Even though I loved them once, some things are no longer right because of changing fashions, changing fit, or no longer appropriate.  Ba-bye, mini skirt!

In doing this, I’ve reacquainted myself with some of my fall clothes, but strangely my jeans seem to have somehow shrunken in the closet since the last time I wore them.  Do jeans shrink from neglect?  I think so!   I’ve also rediscovered my collection of scarves.  Scarves are neck warmers and are perfectly acceptable to wear in public or at home.  Once your neck gets used to the comfort of a scarf, it feels cold without one.   I think I need a few more 🙂

Speaking of comfort and wanting to feel warm,  I’m really getting into the color orange in a big way.  Orange is such a HOT color whether you wear it or eat it.  So orange colored foods are on my wanna-eat list.  There’s no use fighting it, so let’s rediscover some old things and make them new again. Like this recipe for Sweet Potato Spice bread.  It offers a familiar comfort that I’m looking for these days.  While I’ve made this recipe many times in the past, I don’t think I’ve gotten around to sharing it with you.  This time I’ve replaced the canola oil with coconut oil, swapped out the granulated sugar for honey and some molasses and for a tad of extra spiciness I added the slightest dash of black pepper for a little mystery.  I like to layer flavors in everything I make.  Little things can make a big difference.

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An added feature of this recipe is that it makes 2 mini loaves, or 1 small loaf.  Perfect for a single person or a couple.  And its also great for gift-giving.  With the holidays not too far away, this is a recipe to save for future reference.

These sweet potatoes are the first of the season, and we love them roasted, so if I’m roasting a few sweet potatoes I roast a lot.

Roast Sweet Potatoes

Roast Sweet Potatoes

They’re great for dinner with lots of butter and a bit of broccoli, they are wonderful in Sweet potato and pecan waffles, and don’t get me started on sweet potato pie.  This recipe uses only 1/3 cup mashed sweet potato, so you can easily make these loaves with just a small amount of leftover sweet potato.

What are we waiting for?   Let’s get going…..

SWEET POTATO SPICE BREAD

Yield:   2 mini loaves:  5 3/4″ x 3″

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flourIMG_8269
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. each,  cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice
  • dash freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten  ( vegans, use egg substitute)
  • 1/3 cup mashed sweet potato
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 3 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp. molasses
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350*F.   Grease two mini loaf pans,  5 3/4″ x 3″ x 2″.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, spices, salt and pepper.

Don't forget that dash of black pepper!

Don’t forget that dash of black pepper!

3.  In a small bowl, combine the egg and mashed sweet potato, stirring well.  Add the honey, coconut oil, and molasses.   Whisk to incorporate.

Whisk together all the wet ingredients to blend.

Whisk together all the wet ingredients to blend.

4.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring just to moisten.

Wet meets day.

Wet meets day.

Fold in the walnuts.

5.  Divide batter between two mini loaf pans, and bake at 350*F. for 25 – 30 minutes.

Divide batter between two small loaf pans.

Divide batter between two small loaf pans.

Test with a toothpick for doneness.  Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack.

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SOURCE:    This recipe is of unknown origin,  It’s an adaptation of one I’ve had forever.