Friday, December 19, 2008

Chai Biscotti

Has this been the longest week in the history of the universe for anyone else? Just checking. Anyone want more hours in the day for Christmas this year? I'll settle for just two more, I'm not being greedy. Ok, I'll get to the point now.

This is my second batch of chai biscotti, and they are definitely my new favorite holiday cookie. I know I have said this a hundred times, but I'm not into sweet sweets, which seems like an oxymoron, but that is why I love these cookies. They are the perfect balance of bready, crunchy, coffee-dipping goodness. I haven't been having too much luck baking lately (why does every gingerbread I make taste funny? o there is more than one type of molasses, and I'm using the nasty, dark dark dark one? duh.) So when I decided to marry the spices from my favorite quick bread (chai-spiced bread) to my favorite biscotti dough (pecan and brown butter biscotti*), I just crossed my fingers. I had seen other recipes for chai biscotti on other blogs, but they all called for ingredients I didn't have or spice combinations that didn't remind me of chai at all. And so I forged bravely on. After a slight adjustment to the amount of flour, my idea worked! Unlike the gingerbread, these turned out great. The spices are warm but gentle, not overpowering like some spiced-cookies can be. Nic (who told me he doesn't like biscotti last week) loves these and almost ate all of them before I could send them to friends and coworkers. This weekend, I'm going to make another few batches. And leave the gingerbread for more skilled hands.

*Thanks to Poppop who sent me a batch of the pecan and brown butter biscotti, and Aunt Ellen who gave him (and me) the recipe, and Aunt Kristen that gave her the recipe! (whew, they came a long way, as all good recipes do.)

O and I couldn't resist taking a picture of these holiday goodie bags for my co-workers. My mom should be proud of how crafty I got. (Although she would prefer I call it artsy. She doesn't do crafts, she does art.) I am much more creative at 1 AM for some reason, I think the exhaustion frees my mind...or something like that. The cute little packages are hiding the not-so-fabulous gingerbread sticks. On Iron Chef they get points for presentation, so I should too, right? Just so you don't think I'm too on the ball, because I'm not, the greenery was ripped off my centerpiece and the stringy stuff came on a package of fake leaves I bought for Thanksgiving that I saved by wrapping it around a candle.

If you have never cooked with cardamom before, you should give it a try. The whole seeds add a delicious, exotic flavor when added to stews or rice or when you are brewing tea. A lot of Middle Eastern recipes call for cardamom pods. And the ground cardamom can be added to pretty much any baking recipe that calls for cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, all spice, ginger, or some combination of those. If you want a pronounced, chai-like taste, make sure there is more cardamom than any of the other spices. If you want a more subtle flavor, add it in about equal amounts to the other spices. Don't be thrown by the fact that it smells like cleaning solution before it is cooked, it won't taste like cleaning solution, I promise.

Chai Biscotti
Makes about 16 large biscotti or 30 small.

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus another 1/4 cup as needed
1 1/2 tsp. loose chai tea (about one tea bag)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. (You will need two baking sheets if you want to make smaller biscotti.)
-Cook the butter in a small saucepan over moderate heat until brown and fragrant, about 8 to 10 minutes. Pour the butter into a bowl or baking dish to cool and harden. (This is what brown butter should look like.)
-In a medium mixing bowl, wisk together 2 3/4 cups flour, tea, baking powder, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.
-In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a separate bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the sugar and the butter (it doesn't have to be completely re-solidified, but it should at least be completely cool and starting to harden). Add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla.
-Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing on low until combined.
-The dough should be somewhat sticky, but possible to form into a loose ball. Add another 1/4 cup of flour if necessary and mix to combine. If you aren't sure, add the 1/4 cup, it won't hurt.
-Scrape the dough onto the parchment lined cookie sheet. (Divide the dough in half between the two cookie sheets for smaller biscotti.)
-Form the dough into a long, narrow log (about 3 inches across for one log, 2 inches across for two smaller logs). Pat the log down so it is about 1 inch thick.
-Bake for 25-30 minutes (20-25 minutes for two smaller logs). The dough should be slightly browned on top and cracked.
-Remove the log from the oven and use a serrated knife to cut the dough into 1/2 inch thick slices while still hot. (Use an oven mitt on the hand that holds the dough.)
-Arrange the slices on their sides on the cookie sheet, and bake for another 20 minutes or until the biscotti are golden. (The side touching the sheet will brown faster than the side facing up.)
-Transfer the biscotti to a wire rack to cool.


Faith, the Authoress said...

I love the packaging!

Anonymous said...

I love chai anything, so these look great and I LOOOOOOOVE your packages!!!! So cute!!