Orange Pistachio Date Biscotti

OK, wow. With the hopes of not sounding too high on myself here, I have to say that I think these are the best biscotti that I’ve ever made. The taste, the texture, and the combination of flavors really make these great.

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The texture was not exactly what you’d expect from a traditionally hard cookie. These biscotti are softer, and don’t need to be dipped in coffee/milk to eat.

Here’s what you need:

6 tbls butter (softened from sitting out on the counter)

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

3 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 eggs

2 cups flour

1 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
zest of 1 orange

raw turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the butter, sugar, salt, extracts, and baking powder.

 Beat in the eggs and then add the flour in, a little at a time, until the mixture is fully incorporated.

Gently fold in the dates, pistachios, and zest and only mix the batter up a little bit.

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Form the dough into 2 logs on a baking sheet prepared with parchment paper. Make sure the tops of the logs are flat and sprinkle the raw sugar on top. Bake the logs for 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes, remove the logs from the oven, and turn the heat down to 325 degrees.

Then, even though it seems strange and certainly isn’t the usual way I make biscotti, spray the logs with a spray bottle full of water. Don’t drench the logs, but do make sure to fully cover them with the water.

Wait 5 minutes, then cut the logs into biscotti. Lay them with a cut side down on the pan, and bake another 15 minutes. Then, flip each cookie and bake for a final 15 minutes. When they are a little golden, they are done.

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Remove the biscotti from the oven and place them on a baking rack to cool. Once cooled, immediately put them in an airtight container so they won’t get stale.

The date-orange-pistachio combination really is wonderful. I invite you to give this recipe a try, substituting your favorite dried fruits for the dates. I will definitely be using this base recipe and changing out the mixed in fruit, nuts, and even types of extract.

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Flower Power

These cookies look straight out of the seventies.

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But their bright colors were just the pick me up needed on a drab, rainy, flood-filled day like today.

Baking these were a breeze. In the same way I made these red carpet star cookies for the Oscars Party I attended, I made windowpane cookies in a flower shape.

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It didn’t make the rain go away, but they were really good to eat. If you’re stuck inside, give these a try.

Nutella Sea Salt Cookies

Dan’s turning the big 2-9 this week. I know, he’s old.

This past weekend, we went out with some friends to celebrate. I asked Dan what he wanted me to make for desert, and he specifically told me no cakes or cupcakes. No cakes or cupcakes? It’s a birthday party, isn’t it? What was I supposed to make?

In the end, I came up with Nutella cookies topped with sea salt, which came out perfectly.

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These could not have been easier to make. I followed this recipe, forming cookies that were a bit smaller than directed.

I wanted something bite sized, since the cookies would be eaten on the go. In hindsight, cupcakes probably would have been more difficult to eat, but I still stand by the thought that everyone needs some cake on their birthday.

As the cookies were smaller, their cooking time was 8 minutes exactly. They came out chewy and sort of brownie like in their consistency.

These are quite a treat for anyone who likes chocolate, not just Nutella-lovers. And the big grains of sea sale really add to the cookies – eating something salty makes sweets seem sweeter.

Go ahead and give these a try!

Marshmallow Bark Bars

These were another Easter treat, but you can easily make them for any occasion, or no occasion at all!
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Ingredients:

3 cups miniature marshmallows

1 tablespoon shortening

1 bag white chocolate chips

Sprinkles (optional)

To start, get your pan ready. I used a 9×13 inch baker for the job. A regular  cookie sheet will be too big, and your bars will be really flat. Use a smaller pan. Line it with parchment paper so the bars don’t stick to the pan.

Next, measure out 3 cups of the mini marshmallows. You can use the plain white kind, but the pastel- colored ones are more fun and add some great colors to the bars. I actually used the Easter bunny shaped colored marshmallows, which are a bit bigger, but worked fine. You can probably find them at the store for pretty cheap right about now.

Put the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl, add the shortening, and melt the chips in the microwave. Remember, less is more when microwaving white chocolate chips. I would recommend starting off with a minute of heat, then take the bowl out and stir. You should only need a couple more 30 second increments at the most. Even if the chips don’t look completely melted, stir and they will become more melty. My chips only took about 1:30 until they were ready.

Now, you have to move quickly. Pour the marshmallows into the melted chocolate chips and stir thoroughly. Once combined well, spread the mixture out in the parchment paper lined pan. Add the sprinkles before the bars start getting hard, or else they won’t stick.

Put the pan in the freezer for no less than 30 minutes. The chocolate needs to fully harden before you can cut into bars. Once the mixture is set, remove the pan from the freezer and cut into bars (or use cookie cutter to make shapes, if you prefer).

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I stored them covered at room temperature until the next day.

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Beware: These bars are super sweet. Kids will probably love them, but adults might find them to be a little too much.

Coconut Lime Tart

I wish Spring would get here, pronto.

Again, in my desire to make believe that spring has finally sprung, I whipped up a truly refreshing spring-time dessert that I brought to Easter.

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Using this recipe as my base, I went ahead and made some modifications to use ingredients I either had on hand, or knew I would use again. For example, I just could not see my future need for coconut flour, so regular old bleached flour it was for me.

My substitutions:

Crust – I used whole wheat flour instead of spelt flour. Side note: What is spelt flour?

Filling – Plain bleached flour instead of coconut flour

Garnish – I added chopped pistachios right on top of the whole tart

I also didn’t have a rectangular tart pan. I didn’t have an 8 inch springform pan either. So, I used what I did have – a 9 inch springform pan. I’m not sure I’d use it again, as it made the tart filling be a really thin layer.

Finally, I have no idea what the heck the parchment paper was all about. All it seemed to do was mess up the edges of the tart. I’d go without the paper next time around.

I found this dessert to be subtle-y sweet, an not over the top. My favorite part was definitely the nut-based crust, as opposed to a standard graham cracker crust. It really gave the tart a wonderful flavor.

Orange Rosemary Cornmeal Cake

Over the weekend, I went to my parents’ house for dinner.

Offering to bring dessert, I thought I’d go for something spring-y in the hopes that maybe spring will arrive in Chicago sometime soon. Yeah right.

I also wanted something with a bit of an Italian element to it, as we’d be eating a Sunday night staple growing up – Dad’s homemade pizza.

I decided to try out this cake.

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Though I followed the directions perfectly, and my baking powder was new, I was sad to see that the cake didn’t rise nearly as much as I thought it would.

Even with its general flat-ness, the cake was a hit. The combination of the orange and rosemary was delicious. And chopping the rosemary into the sugar made the kitchen smell amazing.

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The batter was very thick, so I thought the cake would come out heavy. Not at all – it was super light.

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I definitely recommend making this. I’ll be giving it another try to see if my second attempt rises more. If not, I’d still make this cake to use as a part of some other dessert, like perhaps an ice cream or yogurt parfait drizzled with limoncello. Hmmm…maybe I’ll make that parfait anyways!

Stars Abound

My friend, Liz, hosted a small viewing party to watch the Oscars last night. I thought about what to bring for a dessert, and I decided on these cute star cookies.

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Making them was actually quite easy.

Start with your favorite sugar cookie dough. Store-bought or homemade works the same.

Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut out star-shaped cookies.

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Use a smaller cookie cutter, ad cut another star shaped cookie out of the larger one.

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Put the cookies on a silicone baking mat (this is super important!) and bake at 350 for about 8-10 minutes.

In the mean time, take some jolly ranchers and hit them once with a meat tenderizer.

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You don’t need to completely smash the candy – larger pieces will work fine.

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Once your timer goes off, take the cookies out of the oven and remove the smaller cookies from the pan. They should be done.

Fill the inside part of the stars with the crushed jolly ranchers.

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Be careful not to over fill, or you’ll end up with cookies like this:

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That one didn’t make it to the party.

Put the cookies back in the oven for only another minute or so. When they come out, they should look like this.

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Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for a few minutes. You want to make sure the candy hardens.

Use a spatula to remove the cookies from the pan, and let them cool on a baking rack.

I love the way the candy is sort of see through and creates a pop of color in the cookie without adding icing. The red was a great way to add the red carpet into the cookie itself. Also, because the candy is really thin, you can bite into the cookie without breaking your teeth.

These were a big hit at the party – none were left!