Christmas time. Choosing gifts for friends and family can be a challenge. Gift lists may make it a little easier, but then it might not be as fun and may even seem “thought-less“. December 1st is tomorrow, and after a few trips to Half-Price Books, Tuesday Morning and 2 small, second-hand stores, most of my presents are purchased, wrapped and under our tree.
My next challenge is figuring out Christmas goodies. Should I stock the apartment with candy canes, Andes mints, maple nut goodies, and Brach’s peppermint nougats even though we don’t have many, if any, visitors passing through? Isn’t it past time to start baking for a Christmas cookie exchange?
The main question I have is not “which”; rather, the question is “whether”. People often talk about resisting the temptation to overeat during the holidays. Am I really doing them a favor by presenting friends with a plate of festive Christmas cookies?
While pondering what might be the answer to my dilemma, I came across an article on the “science” of making good biscotti in the most recent issue of Cook’s Illustrated. The Worthington library has a reading area where I can sit in comfort and enjoy flipping through the pages. The writer suggested that some of our favorite biscotti add-ins, such as nuts, can effect the texture of the cookie. If I remember correctly, the solution was to pulverize some of the nuts into a powder and add that to the flour mixture. The remaining roughly-chopped nuts are folded in as usual at the very end.
A new friend at church has an interest in baking cakes and cupcakes. One of her specialties is a pistachio spice cake. Reflecting on her creation, I used the flavor-ingredients to influence my biscotti recipe. My first batch only had cinnamon and ginger, because cloves and nutmeg haven’t made it onto our spice rack yet. Yesterday, I made a second batch with a new bottle of Pensey’s cake spice blend; the anise really kicked it up. A splash of orange juice in the batter wasn’t bad, either.
I have eaten two from each batch, but the rest are bagged and in the freezer for when I decide about the “whether” .