Smell My Olive Pits

A blog dedicated to my love affair with all things food

Pistachio, fig and lemon biscotti May 27, 2009

Filed under: Cookies,Nuts — smop @ 9:45 am

Baking isn’t something that is automatically considered to be healthy, and generally speaking, it isn’t.  I mean, who are we kidding when we know exactly how much butter, sugar, flour went into making that cake.  But over the last couple of years where people have become more health conscious, I think baking has become healthier — there are recipes that have less sugar, less fat, use whole wheat flour or try substitute ingredients to deliver the cake, muffin or cookie as we know it but healthier.   I think it’s amazing — not only in the ‘progression’ of baking sense but the fact that everyone can still enjoy baked treats a bit more freely.

I was trying to find something to bake for someone who was diabetic, and there are certainly a lot of desserts out there.  However, a lot of them suggested using Splenda in replace of normal sugar.  After researching a few reviews for these recipes, I was a bit skeptical of how it would turn out as most of them talked about an odd aftertaste with Splenda and I had never cooked with Splenda before.  In the end, I went to my trusty recipe source (Taste.com) and found this recipe under a diabetic friendly recipe collection — a pistachio, fig and lemon biscotti.   The bonus with this is that I didn’t have to use butter!

Shelling the pistachios was awfully tedious, but worth it for the bright green colours dotted in the biscotti.  They didn’t turn out as crisp as I like my biscotti, but they still tasted pretty nice, and the natural sugar of the figs gave the biscotti enough sweetness.  Having it with a nice pot of herbal tea made it a great afternoon snack.

fig&pistachio biscotti

Pistachio, fig and lemon biscotti
Makes about 30

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup pistachio kernels
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tbs finely grated lemon rind
  • 3/4 cup plain flour, sifted
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped dried figs

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.  Brush a 7 x 25cm (base measurement) bar pan with melted butter to lightly grease.  Line the base and 2 long sides with non-stick baking paper, allowing it to overhang.
  2. Place pistachios in a heatproof bowl.  Cover with boiling water and set aside for 5 minutes or until skins soften. Drain.  Peel off skins and dry on paper towel.
  3. Meanwhile, use an electric beater to whisk the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until soft peaks form.  Add the sugar, one spoonful at a time, whisking well after each addition, until sugar dissolves.  Add the lemon rind and whisk until combined.
  4. Combine flour and figs in a bowl. Use your fingers to separate figs and coat in flour. Fold fig mixture and pistachios into egg-white mixture until just combined.
  5. Spoon mixture into prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Turn onto a wire rack and set aside for 1 hour or until cooled to room temperature.
  6. Preheat oven to 160°C. Use a serrated knife to cut loaf crossways into 5mm-thick slices. Place in a single layer on a baking tray. Bake in oven for 10 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool on tray.
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One bowl chocolate chip cookies April 15, 2009

Filed under: Chocolate,Cookies — smop @ 7:47 am

While every chocolate chip recipe that I come across, it is always prefaced with ‘perfect‘, or ‘the best‘, regardless whether it’s the Toll House , the NY Times, The Neiman Marcus, The Martha Stewart, David Lebowitz’s, the ones on the back of packets of choc-chip pieces, America’s Test Kitchen, Alton Brown’s, and the list goes on.  It seems, therefore, that every chocolate chip recipe is the perfect one.  I can’t disagree, after all, everyone has their own preferences when it comes to their perfect choc-chip cookie.  I, for instance, like mine soft, chewy, not too flat nor too thick, without an overpowering sweetness, and with discernible chocolate chunks or chips in them.  I’ve tried many recipes from cookbooks, magazine cutouts, allrecipes.com … and some of the aforementioned places.  Soon, when I can remember to make the cookie dough 36 hours before I want to bake, I might try the NY times cookie.

On my hunt to find my perfect chocolate-chip cookie, I came across this one.  I’ve made them twice already and both times I have made them (for other people), I have returned with an empty box.  So I guess it is also a (very) good chocolate-chip cookie.  It fits everything that I want as I have listed above — my only gripe with it is that it’s slightly a bit too sweet for my Asian tastebuds (but nothing that can’t be solved).  What’s more, there’s only one bowl (and a wooden spoon) to wash afterwards.  I don’t know whether it can get any better than this.

choc-chip-cookies2

A one-bowl chocolate chip cookie

Ingredients

  • 12 (117g) tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups good quality chocolate chunks (I would suggest nothing more than 70% cocoa)

Method

  1. Melt butter in a large mixing bowl.  Beat both sugars into melted butter.  Let the mixture cool to room temp and then beat in vanilla, egg and egg yolk.
  2. When mixture is well blended, beat in baking soda and salt making sure that the baking soda is evenly distributed.
  3. Add flour and stir just until it is mixed in. Add chocolate chips.
  4. Chill dough for 1 hour or until pretty firm.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment.
  6. Scoop up tablespoonfuls of dough and drop onto a lined baking tray or cookie sheets spacing them about 5cm apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cookies appear done and lightly browned around edges.
  7. Cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to finish cooling

Makes 25-30 depending on how big the cookies are.

choc-chip-cookies4

To get that chewy cookie, do not overbake!  I tend to leave mine a bit underbaked when I take them out of the oven and let them stand on the tray for a couple of minutes to finish off the cooking process.  It’s hard to say how long they should be in the oven for, it depends on the oven — in one oven, these were done in 10 minutes, in another it was 13.  My general rule of thumb is that they are ‘done’ when they get a bit golden brown on the outside.

 

Slice & Bake cookies January 26, 2009

Filed under: Cookies — smop @ 12:01 pm

A couple of weeks ago I had this urge to make slice and bake (or refrigerator) cookies so that I could freeze the dough and slice off some whenever I feel like something sweet.  Usually I don’t eat the stuff I make (usually only having a taste to decide whether the recipe is a keeper), but living alone means that I ‘have to’ finish it, to avoid it being a waste.  That said, a slice of cake or a couple of cookies in the afternoon after getting back from the hospital can be heavenly.  So slice and bake cookies are perfect.  It gets shaped into a log, put in the freezer and taken out on a rainy day.  After baking, they are supposed to last 5 days (if they do last that long).

The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen (one of my favourite food blogs) is perfect.  It can be adapted in many ways.  I decided on poppyseeds and lemon zest.

s&b poppyseed2

s&b poppyseed

Slice & Bake cookies
Makes 40-50 cookies

Ingredients

  • 230 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract
  • 2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
  • Grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds

Method

  1. Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until it is smooth.  Add the sifted confectioners’ sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth and silky.
  2. Beat in the egg yolks, followed by the salt and any dried fruits, zest, nuts or seeds.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, beating just until it disappears (better to underbeat than overbeat – just blend in whatever remaining flour needs blending with a spoon).
  3. Turn the dough out onto a counter, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  4. Working on a smooth surface, form each piece of dough into a log that is about 2.5 to 3.5 cm thick (no need to worry about the length).  Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for 2 hours.  (The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days or stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.)
  5. Preheat the oven 180oC.  Line cookie trays.
  6. While the oven is preheating, slice each log into cookies about 1cm thick (though up to you) with a sharp knife).  Place the cookies on the lined baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) space between them.
  7. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are set but not browned.  Cool on wire racks.

I’ve tried putting Earl Grey tea leaves in (quite nice!), and swapping some of the flour for almond meal (makes the cookies a bit more crumbly but nutty) and dessicated coconut, added chopped pistachios / walnuts … and they turn out well.  They really are a versatile type of cookie!

 

Linzer Biscuits December 28, 2008

Filed under: Cookies — smop @ 12:10 pm
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I went through 5 years worth of my Super Food Ideas magazine collection and ripped out the recipes I wanted to keep, organised and filed them; and while doing so came across a recipe for Linzer biscuits, which I found out is an adaptation of the Austrian Linzertorte.  Given that I had a) lots of time, b) had no inspiration to make anything else and c) love sandwiched goodies … melting moments, macaroons, oreos and the humble sandwich itself, I decided to give these a go.

Mum goes to me as I was rolling out dough for the 3rd time, “Don’t you find it time consuming … having to knead, then roll, chill the dough, cut out the cookies, chill it again before you actually bake it?”.
“That’s why I’m doing these!”
And Mum looked at me strangely.  (When she bakes, she prefers things that are quick, easy and require minimal fuss).   These roll-chill-and-then-bake cookies however need time and patience, which is absolutely perfect for taking my mind off things for an hour or two.

The dough rolled out beautifully without cracking and after freezing it for a bit, was lovely to work with — as all the offcuts would come off without a hassle.

cookie cutter.jpg

cooling cookies.jpg

I made a couple of them with holes for it to actually look like the real thing — but Ray having a particular palate, I left most of them as they were as they came out of the oven.  Of course, one could substitute anything for jam .. nutella, peanut butter, frosting even.

linzer star.jpg

heart linzer.jpg

And having some dough left over, I made some gingerbread man shaped ones, and stuck chocolate chips for buttons.  Would’ve been lovely had I been bothered to make some icing for the eyes … another time 🙂

linzer gingerbread 1.jpg

I had a taste test of them and they turned out really good!  They were crisp and the biscuits themselves weren’t too sweet so to allow for the jam to make up for it.  Will definitely make them again!  And invest in a proper Linzer cutter (I spent a while hunting around the kitchen for something just the right size for that hold in the middle).

Linzer Biscuits
(Recipe adapted from Super Food Ideas)

The amount varies depending on how big your cutters are.  I used 4cm cutters and got a good 30-odd prior to being sandwiched.

Ingredients

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional) – I didn’t add any and it tasted fine
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 2/3 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Jam or spread of your liking

Method

  1. Beat butter, vanilla & sugar with electric mixer until well combined.  Add egg and mix well.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon over butter mixture.  Stir until mixture forms a dough (may take a bit of time).  Knead gently to bring together
  3. Divide dough into 2 and place between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll out until 3-5 mm thick (but really just so long it’s not a centimeter, anything will do)
  4. Place in freezer for a few minutes or until firm.
  5. Preheat oven to 180oC
  6. Using a biscuit cutter, cut as many as you can and arrange them on lined trays.
  7. With a couple of them, find a smaller cutter and cut out holes — the original recipe said to freeze them first before cutting the holes but I found that this caused the actual biscuit to crack so it’s best to do it all in 1 hit
  8. Freeze for another few minutes until firm to cut
  9. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until lightly golden.  Allow biscuits to cool on tray for 5 minutes before transferring them onto a wirerack.
  10. Before serviing, spread jam over whole biscuits and pop sandwich cut-out biscuits on top.

I had to choose a recipe that didn’t require using ground almonds, given Ray’s allergic to it .. but scour the web and there’ll be a ‘traditional’ recipe!