Whole Wheat Almond Biscotti

‘Tis the season for a sugar high. My workplace has been inundated recently by boxes of chocolates and homemade cookies. And of course they’re spread across the table where I eat my lunch! Nothing looks more tempting than a Lindt truffle while eating roasted beet and arugula salad. (Which is delicious, by the way. But it’s not chocolate.)

In the midst of all these snickerdoodles and gingersnaps and See’s candies, I’ve been longing for a dessert that’s a little more virtuous. So when I saw a series of healthier biscotti recipes in the New York Times, I jumped on them. I know I should probably post a whole wheat recipe around, say, January 1st or so, but this blog operates in real-time. For the most part. Aaaaand I added a drizzle of super dark chocolate to this whole wheat treat. It’s still December, after all.

Whole wheat almond biscotti

Whole wheat almond biscotti

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Whole Wheat Almond Biscotti

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 3 oz. dark chocolate (optional)

Preheat oven to 300° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together brown sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Whisk in vanilla extract. Switch to the paddle attachment and stir in whole wheat flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Stir in almonds. Mixture will be sticky.

With moistened hands, place dough on parchment paper and form into a large log, about 2-3 inches thick and 1 to 1 1/2 inches tall. Bake for 50 minutes, or until lightly browned and the top starts to crack. Let cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, cut into slices 1/3-1/2 inch thick. Place back on parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Flip the biscotti and bake for another 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

Optional: Melt dark chocolate in the microwave and drizzle over biscotti. Let cool. Biscotti will keep for several weeks in an airtight container. Makes about 2 dozen.

Source: Very slightly adapted from the New York Times.

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Holiday Baking Ideas

The other night I was sitting on the couch trying to decide what meals to plan this week, when I thought I’d scroll through my phone for inspiration. You see, I keep a running list of recipe names on a digital “Things to Make” list, so hitting the “show completed” button seemed like a good way to draw ideas from recipes I’d already made.

Down the rabbit hole I went.

It was a virtual time capsule filled with hundreds of completed recipes. Sometimes I could recognize a specific event (Halloween party! Valentine’s weekend at Cape Cod!) simply by the recipes that appeared next to each other.

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Since I’m much more likely to pore over cookbooks looking for new recipes than to reflect on all the things I’ve made in the past, it was fun to take a step back and think about all the hits and misses of the past few years. And I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for reading, sharing, and in some cases eating all these foods. You’ve been fantastic guinea pigs as I’ve learned to become a more confident cook.

So that little journey inspired this retrospective post: twelve fantastic recipes to make for yourself or others this holiday season. I specifically picked out fun gift ideas since I’ve been in full-on shopping mode the past two days. Enjoy! And stay tuned for some fun new goodies this week!

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Holiday Baking Ideas

Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas
Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas
Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas
Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas

Swedish Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

I’m part Swedish (along with a dozen or so other nationalities). And I work at a very Swedish place. And my little sisters visited Sweden just last summer. And this blog is named after a Swedish delicacy.

But before this weekend, I had never once in my life baked with cardamom, a spice essential to Swedish baked goods.

Heresy!

Cardamom has a distinct taste that’s difficult to describe. To me it smells almost piney, but with a warm sweetness. It’s equally delightful in Scandinavian baking and Indian curries, demonstrating quite the versatility.

I first tried cardamom bread at a staff meeting a few weeks ago, and I was instantly hooked. I knew I wanted to try my hand at making it, mostly to get in touch with my heritage and/or make my belly happy. The braiding looks complicated, but it’s really quiet simple and turns out an elegant loaf. Gabe was unsure of the cardamom taste at first, but after three bites he proclaimed himself a fan.

So I invite you to add this to your holiday baking repertoire, regardless of national heritage. A warm, sweet bread is a welcome reprieve from the rich food and sugar bombs cookies that seem to be everywhere this time of year.

Swedish Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

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Swedish Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

  • 2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, lukewarm
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • sugar and sliced almonds, for sprinkling (optional)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together yeast, 2 cups flour, and 1/4 cup sugar. Slowly add milk and stir until it’s almost smooth. The dough will be the consistency of a sticky cake batter. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 45-60 minutes.

Stir in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, butter, salt, and cardamom. Switch the paddle attachment for a dough hook and add the remaining 2 cups flour. Knead until smooth. (You might have to finish the kneading on a floured surface for a few minutes.) Place dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise again until doubled, 45-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Now it’s slicing and braiding time! (Scroll to the bottom of this post for detailed pictures.) Turn out dough onto a floured surface and divide into two even pieces. Roll each piece into a rectangle, about 9×12 inches and 1/4-inch thick. Gently cut two score lines– 12 inches long– to divide the dough into three sections. Don’t cut all the way through; these lines will just be a guide. Now cut one-inch thick perpendicular strips from one outside edge of the dough up to the nearest score line. It’ll sort of look like fringe. Repeat on the other side, using the same number of cuts.

Starting at one end, fold a strip diagonally across the middle section of dough until it reaches the other score line. Grab a strip of dough from the other side and fold it over the strip you just folded, again diagonally to the other score line. Continue braiding, alternating sides. Once you’ve reached the end of the braid, tuck the last two strips under each other.

Place dough on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar and almonds, if using. Let rest for another 20 minutes. Bake at 350° F for 30 minutes, covering with foil during the baking period if the top starts to brown too much. Let cool slightly, then slice and serve. It’s even better with a pat of salted butter melting on top.

Source: Slightly adapted from This Week for Dinner.

 Braiding Instructions for Vetebröd

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and divide into two even pieces. Roll each piece into a rectangle, about 9×12 inches and 1/4-inch thick. Gently cut two score lines– 12 inches long– to divide the dough into three sections.

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Now cut one-inch thick perpendicular strips from one outside edge of the dough up to the nearest score line. It’ll sort of look like fringe. Repeat on the other side, using the same number of cuts.

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Starting at one end, fold a strip diagonally across the middle section of dough until it reaches the other score line.

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Grab a strip of dough from the other side and fold it over the strip you just folded, again diagonally to the other score line.

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Continue braiding, alternating sides.

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Once you’ve reached the end of the braid, tuck the last two strips under each other. Voila! Ain’t it purty?

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Thanksgivukkah Recap

Alrighty, I promised you all a recap of our first and last Thanksgivukkah. Despite the fact that my dreidel cookies turned out slightly… lopsided… and my turkey breast took a full 45 minutes longer than I’d planned (more wine!) a good time was had by all. As my third time as Thanksgiving hostess would prove, it’s always better to let go and just relax.

Thanksgivukkah recap- place settings

Like I said before, the color theme was blue and orange, and I had fun pulling different elements of those colors together at the last minute. I made tiny vases for each place setting out of spice jars and blue washi tape. (Yep, I temporarily relocated some dried herbs. All in the name of decorating. Still haven’t put them back yet either…) I also amused myself by designing and printing out place cards and “Thanksgivukkah Fun Facts.” The table was rounded out with blue and orange napkins, a shiny pumpkin, gelt, dreidels, and our hanukkiyah.

Thanksgivukkah recap- table

Despite my plan to have a “pared down” menu, we used all the recipes I posted last week, and at the last minute I decided to make cranberry sauce and roasted garlic. Not together; that would be weird. Dinner was on the table at 4:35 instead of 4:05 like I’d hoped, but we still got to eat more than we wanted with leftovers to spare. And when all was cleaned up at the end of the night, I had a big pot of turkey stock simmering on the stove. That’s success in my book.

Thanksgivukkah recap- menu

I just have to leave you with the silly story of my dreidel cookies. I tried to make homemade slice-n-bake cookies with a dreidel shape in the middle, and they turned out… different. I started by forming a long extrusion of blue cookie dough that would look like a dreidel when cross-sectioned. Then I planned to wrap plain cookie dough around the dreidel log to form a round cookie. (Yes, it required some math and advanced planning.) Unfortunately I wasn’t patient enough to let the dreidel log chill sufficiently, and it got a wee bit squished when I wrapped it with the plain cookie dough.

Thanksgivukkah recap- goofy dreidel cookies

So they kind of looked like blue chili pepper cookies. I found the whole situation hilarious and served them anyway. Luckily they still tasted good! And now it’s Christmas-cookie season, so I have plenty of time to practice my slice-n-bake cookie-making. Unless, of course, I find some holiday to celebrate that includes blue peppers. You never know. :)

Thanksgivukkah recap- goofy dreidel cookies