Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gingerbread Biscotti

How do you cope with cold winter weather? I have a ritual of making a cup of hot tea in the afternoon.  Sometimes I'll light up the gas fireplace and read, or crank up the oven to make some delicious biscotti or tea cookie (so I can dip it into my tea, of course). It's my way of creating Hygge - the Scandinavian idea of crafting coziness from little pleasures.

Don't these just beckoned to be dipped? 

So Old Man Winter - bring it on - because I'm armed and ready (to bake). Just don't stick around too long.

Gingerbread Biscotti
From Southern Living Christmas 2006
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup almonds

Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugars together in a large bowl. Add eggs, one at time, beating well between additions. Add molasses and mix well. In another bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients except the almonds. Add to the egg mixture and beat just until combined. Stir in almonds. Divide the dough in half. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment or Silpat liner, make two flattened logs approximately 2 inches wide and 1 inch high. Use water-dampened or floured hands if dough is too sticky to form the logs. Bake for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300. Transfer the logs to a cutting board (don't slice on the Silpat) and slice the logs on a diagonal at 1 inch intervals with a large serrated knife. Place the slices, cut side down, back onto the cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes on each side. The biscotti will become more crispy as they cool. Store in an airtight container.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Homemade Yogurt

Homemade yogurt is delicious, healthy, easy, and environmentally friendly (no plastic containers to throw away!).  And if you use milk in returnable glass bottles, there will be no waste at all.  It's a win-win!

You will need:
1 quart of whole milk
small container of organic full-fat yogurt to use as a starter
a yogurt maker or instant pot with yogurt setting
a thermometer

First, measure out the milk and place it in a pot over med-low heat. Heat the mixture to 180 degrees F. Stir constantly and check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer every few minutes.  Try not to get distracted because milk will boil over as soon as you turn your back (that seems to be my experience anyway).

After the milk has reached 180 degrees, I pour it into a quart-sized pyrex measuring cup and wait for it to cool down to between 110 and 115 degrees. It helps to set a timer for 10-15 minutes and check the temp each time. Skim off and discard any film that forms on top of the milk as it's cooling. Place 2 T of yogurt into a small bowl and whisk with a small whisk to remove any lumps. When the milk reaches 115 degrees, gradually add about 1/2 cup warm milk to the yogurt and stir until smooth. Add the yogurt mixture back into the rest of the milk and stir to combine. Pour the milk into your yogurt maker and let it ferment for 6 hours or until thick.  The longer you let it ferment, the more tart the yogurt will be because more sugar is being consumed by the beneficial bacteria in the yogurt.   Refrigerate the yogurt for several hours before stirring or eating.  This helps to keep it thick. 

After the yogurt has chilled, you may choose to strain it to make Greek-style yogurt.  Set the yogurt in a strainer lined with a coffee filter or two layers of cheesecloth and set the strainer over a bowl. Cover it and place it in the refrigerator overnight. The whey will collect in the bottom of the bowl.  If the yogurt is too thick, you can add some of the whey back in to get the desired consistency.  Any extra whey can be saved and added to smoothies or other recipes for an probiotic boost.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Scandinavian Apple Cake

Apple Cake
from Country Home March/April 1997

4 cups peeled, cored, and finely chopped cooking apples
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp salt
powdered sugar for top

In a large mixing bowl combine apples, sugar, walnuts, and melted butter. Stir in eggs and vanilla. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, soda, allspice, and salt. Add dry ingredients to apple mixture, stirring just until combined.

Spread the batter into a greased and floured 13X9 pan or a 10-inch fluted tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees F about 30 minutes for 13X9 pan or 50 minutes for tube pan. Sprinkle warm cake with powdered sugar. Serve warm. Makes 12-16 servings.


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