Twas three weeks before Christmas and all through the house / Every creature was stirring, yes, even that mouse!
What are we all stirring? Why, cookie dough, of course! Yes, it’s that time of year, the time when I break out the butter and cocoa and chocolate chips and go into my cookie-baking frenzy.
Being Jewish, we don’t celebrate Christmas ourselves, but we have friends and colleagues and family members who do, and we love to help them celebrate. Since this is the time of year when people spend a lot of time visiting, we give baskets of cookies to our Christian friends, so that when the inevitable company drops by for a quick visit, there is something to serve. I don’t know yet exactly what I’ll be making, but I started tonight with biscotti.
Biscotti are wonderful because they are a template waiting for this week’s inspiration. The main recipe is basic and simple, and makes a lovely biscuit, but the simplicity gives the imagination free reign as well. In the past, I’ve made black forest cake biscotti, orange-almond biscotti, lemon curd biscotti and chocolate biscotti. Today I made orange-cranberry biscotti, and they turned out nicely. Not too sweet, they’re just right for dunking in a cup of coffee or hot chocolate at the end of a meal.
What else will I make? Perhaps chocolate chip cookies, or cappuccino cookies or maybe shortbread or ginger snaps. Probably all of the above, plus more. This house is going to smell pretty spectacular for the next week or so!
Here is my basic recipe. Have fun experimenting with your own variations.
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 TBSP baking powder
- 3 1/4 cups flour
In a mixer, beat the eggs, oil and sugar until light and creamy, as well as any flavours you like (vanilla, orange zest, anise essence, etc). Add the baking power and flour and mix until just combined, and then stir in any other additions, such as chocolate chips or pieces of nuts.
Divide the dough evenly into two parts, and on a greased cookie sheet (or ideally, on a silicon sheet), form each half of the dough into a long log, as long as the cookie sheet. Flatten each log to about a half-inch thick, and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for about 25 minutes, until golden.
Remove from oven, and as soon as the logs are cool enough to handle, slice into 1/2-inch thick slices. Stand them up on the cookie sheet(s) and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Drizzle with melted chocolate, if you feel so inclined. Biscotti means “twice-baked”, and this is the second baking, which dries the slices out, and lets them absorb the liquid in tea, coffee, or whatever you’re drinking.