LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF BISCOTTI

When in the course of blogging events, it becomes necessary to create a holiday dish, it’s fun to try to come up with something creative in order to form a more perfect celebration.  For this year’s 4th of July festivities, I’ll be making Red, White and Blue Biscotti, which hit all the high notes with my family.  (I’ve seen it suggested that Chicken Catch-a-Tory would be a good Independence Day party dish, but these colorful biscotti are so much more fun.)  There’s a few steps involved, but the end result is worth the extra time.

Begin with your favorite biscotti recipe, or use the one I’ve provided below.  Divide the dough into thirds, placing each third in a separate bowl.

To color the dough, it’s best to use gel food color, as opposed to liquid food color, for deeper colors:

IMG_6328

Be careful when using the food color, however, as it will stain your clothes, countertops, wooden spoons, fingers, dogs, etc.  Add enough food color to get the depth of color you desire, and mix it thoroughly into the dough (I find a metal fork works best for mixing the food color in):

IMG_6331

To shape the biscotti, cover your workspace with a sheet of waxed paper or parchment, and lightly flour the surface.  Place one portion of dough on the waxed paper, and using your bare arms (which is your right), knead the dough a few times and then roll into a log about 14 inches long.  Repeat with the remaining two portions of dough.  Lay the three logs side by side, and gently twist them to form a single log:

IMG_6332

Cut the log into two pieces and transfer to a baking sheet that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray.  Shape logs into fat rectangles:

IMG_6334

Bake according to recipe directions, then remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet.  The dough will have puffed up considerably.

IMG_6335

When cool enough to handle comfortably, slice on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices using a serrated knife.  Stand the slices up on the baking sheet.  (For some recipes, you lay the slices on their side and bake, then turn over and bake longer, but for this recipe, in order for the colors to stay sharp, you don’t want to brown the sides.)

IMG_6336

If you really want to gild the liberty bell, you can spread a little white chocolate on the tops of the biscotti and sprinkle with red, white and blue nonpareils:

IMG_6327

Peaceably assemble (which is your right) the biscotti in a decorative container, and stand back and receive full faith and credit for these crowd-pleasing treats.   If you bring these to a 4th of July picnic, it should be a self-evident truth that they will be a surefire hit.

IMG_6337

I tried to find a knock knock joke to post for the 4th of July, but apparently there aren’t any, because freedom rings.  Happy 4th of July!

PLAIN BISCOTTI
Print
Recipe type: Cookie
Author:
The beauty of this recipe is that it's a blank canvas -- you can doctor it up as you desire with nuts, flavorings, chocolate, etc. The butter keeps it from being tooth-breaking hard, but still crunchy enough for dunking.
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Place eggs, melted butter, and extracts in a large bowl, and beat together using an electric beater. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and stir until well combined, and a sticky dough is formed.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently 5 or 6 times. (If making red, white, and blue biscotti, divide dough into thirds and color one third with red gel food color, one third with blue gel food color, and leave the last third uncolored. Form each third into a rope approximately 14 inches long. Lay the ropes side by side and gently twist to form a single rope.) Divide the log into two equal portions.
  5. Transfer the logs to a baking sheet, and using your hands, pat into fat rectangles. Bake until lightly browned and firm to the touch, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the logs from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle.
  6. Reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees. Transfer the cooled logs to a cutting board and slice them on the diagonal into ½-inch thick slices using a serrated knife. Stand the cookies up on the cookie sheet and bake again until the biscotti are dry, approximately 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

 

 

GIANT M&M COOKIES

It’s a sleepy 4th of July here, which is OK by me.  The morning began with our community’s annual 4th of July parade, with a couple of boy scouts from our troop leading the festivities.  I love seeing the families turn out with their kids, wagons, pets, and bicycles decked out in red, white, and blue.  It’s a small town celebration right smack in the middle of the fourth largest city in the U.S.

parade2

parade1

My daughter and I spent some time together this afternoon making Giant M&M Cookies for her to bring to a cookout.  We used a recipe from joyofbaking.com (this is probably the first cooking video I have ever watched all the way through, and I found it helpful — boring, but helpful), decorated them with red, white, and blue M&Ms, and they came out great.  The introduction to the recipe included a little history of M&Ms that I found interesting.  They were invented by Forrest Mars, Sr., who traveled to Spain during the Spanish Civil War and noticed the soldiers eating small rounds of chocolate with a hard sugar coating that prevented the chocolate from melting.  Back home, he paired up with Bruce Murrie, the son of the president of the Hershey company, to invent a similar candy.  The M&M name came from the partners’ names — Mars and Murrie.  Production began in 1940, and the candies were immediately popular.  They were even included in the U.S. soldiers’ rations during WWII.  It’s hard to beat eating them out of hand, but this recipe puts them to good use.

GIANT M&M COOKIES
Print
Recipe type: Cookies
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ⅔ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup M&Ms
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Place butter and sugars in a large bowl, and using an electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, and beat to combine. Stir in the flour mixture, mixing thoroughly.
  4. Using a ¼ cup ice cream scoop, scoop out dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Do not put more than 6 cookies on a sheet, as they spread a lot. Flatten balls slightly with palm of hand. Cover top of cookies completely with M&Ms, gently pressing the candies into the dough. Bake for 13-17 minutes, until cookies are golden brown and set around the edges (they will firm up as they cool). Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on cookie sheets, then, using a metal spatula, transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
  5. Makes approximately 12 giant cookies.

 

001

Cover the top of the cookie completely with M&Ms

002

Wow — they really spread!

003

I think my daughter will be quite popular at the cookout, don’t you?

Oh, and here’s a little something for the daddies on this 4th of July:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIsfwztXIb0

 

PATRIOTIC RED AND BLUE CHERRY SPRITZ COOKIES

First post.  So nervous!  Is there anything in my teeth?  Deep breath — here goes.

 

This vintage platter, with its cheery blue cherries, was made in Manchester, England by the EIT English Ironstone Tableware Co., in the EIT20-Blue pattern.  Seems like the manufacturer must have just given up when it came to naming this pattern.  I mean, really — EIT20 Blue?  What’s wrong with, oh say, the Blue Cherries pattern?  EIT operated from 1982 until 2000, and the EIT20-Blue pattern was discontinued in 1999.

This platter reminded me of the Wild Berry blue maraschino cherries by Roland that I’ve been curious about for some time now.  Roland also makes maraschino cherries in lime, passion fruit, lemon, and chocolate flavors, but it’s the blue ones that intrigue me the most.

I’ve seen them at the grocery store in the baking section, the mixed drink section, and the ice cream topping section.  It’s like they have an identity crisis.  Maybe they should be located next to the self-help books.  They’re a little creepy, like some kind of cryogenic experiment.  The blue cherry platter inspired me to finally use them in a recipe.

With the 4th of July just around the corner, these Patriotic Red and Blue Cherry Spritz Cookies would be perfect as part of a patriotic celebration.

Making them requires a cookie press.  I don’t remember who I inherited this cookie press from, or even if I ever used it.  Spritz cookies typically appear on cookie trays at Christmas, but the cookie press was so fun and easy to use that I’ll have to remember to dust it off more often.

082

PATRIOTIC RED AND BLUE CHERRY SPRITZ COOKIES
Print
Recipe type: Cookies
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2-1/4 cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Red maraschino cherries, cut in half (approximately 20)
  • Blue maraschino cherries, cut in half (approximately 20)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and cream cheese, using an electric mixer. Add sugar, egg yolk, and extracts and beat until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour and salt, mixing until thoroughly combined.
  3. Fill a cookie press with dough, and press cookies out on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press a half of a maraschino cherry into the center of each cookie.
  4. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until cookies are lightly golden brown on the peaks and on the bottoms. Allow to cool on sheets for 1-2 minutes, then use a spatula to transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

 

Patriotic jewels ready to go in the oven 

 Ta da — Christmas in July!