Remember the old Steve McQueen horror/sci-fi movie "The Blob?" The one where this teeny thing from that lands on Earth from outer space just grows and grows and grows, taking over everything its path, until it's the size of Texas and threatens the very existence of life on Earth? Well, that Blob is pretty much me when I get an idea in my head. A few years ago, I had the notion that it would be a nice to bake a few cookies to give as gifts for the holidays. Of course, in typical fashion, my little idea quickly morphed from baking a few dozen cookies from a single recipe to an enormous Blobby monster involving the purchase of numerous cookie books and magazines, specialized cookie baking equipment, multiple trips to the grocery store, endless searches for exotic ingredients (Mr. Dough has accepted this as his lot in life. I send him out with a detailed list, a fully charged phone, a full tank of gas and a hope that he'll be home before midnight because there will be that ONE ingredient that will send him on a fruitless quest to every specialty store on Long Island), strategy sessions that rivaled the planning for D-Day, and marathon bakes that lasted well into the night and required a day off from work. In the end, if I recall correctly, I had baked something like 15 different varieties and over 600 cookies. And then naturally, I couldn't just BUY your standard issue holiday gift bags. Noooooo. I had to make CUSTOM bags and design spiffy little gift tags and stickers and pack them Just So with color coordinated ribbon and tissue and…in the end, I was so over the whole holiday cookie thing that I was really hoping the Blob would get me too.
And yet, here I am baking cookies. I'm baking cookies because I'm participating for the first time in the Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, the brainchild of Lindsay at Love and Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen. The idea is this: You sign up for the Swap, receive the names of three other bloggers from all over the country, bake and ship your cookies to your three recipients, and in return, receive cookies from three other bloggers who received your name. But it's not only about the cookies. When you sign up for the Swap, you're also making a donation to a great cause: Cookies for Kids' Cancer. It's a double win. You're giving the gift of cookies to your fellow bloggers and the gift of love and hope to children everywhere. I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate this season, whatever your holiday may be.
On to the cookies. This time of year is all about the cranberry for me–in every form (I'm all over the Body Shop's seasonal cranberry stuff)–so I knew that my cookies would be a cranberry something. And because I needed a cookie that would ship well, that something would be a biscotti. These cranberry orange biscotti are faves of mine and have gotten raves from friends and family as well–by request, I've baked six batches in the past two weeks–so I thought they'd be the perfect cookie to share. They're tart and tangy, with just the right amount of sweetness (not too, which is surprising given the amount of sugar so don't let that scare you) and a perfect crunch that's just right with a hot cup of coffee. So, Mary at Sifting Focus, Nicole at Simmer and Shoot, and Shreya at The Sassy Life, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
And while I'm at it, shout-outs and MAJOR thanks to Kelsey at A Taste for Trouble, Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla, and Sonya at Ginger and Toasted Sesame for the cookies you sent. (Bet you were just THRILLED to find out that one of your recipients hates nuts and peanut butter and isn't wild about chocolate either.) They were wonderful, fabulous, scrumptious, imaginative and delightful and none of them lasted more than a day. I can't wait make them for myself.
Thanks to all, especially Lindsay and Julie and my swappers, for such a fun experience. It's my pleasure and honor to be part of this great community of food bloggers. Happy holidays everyone!
P.S. If you'd like to participate in next year's Food Blogger Cookie Swap–and I hope you do–you can sign up here for updates and information.
cranberry orange biscotti with white chocolate drizzle
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or orange extract
- 1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) dried cranberries
- 2 tsp. dried orange peel (or to taste)
- 6 ounces white chocolate or vanilla chips or vanilla candy coating
- Prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat and preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a medium bowl, stir together 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, orange peel and cranberries.
- Beat together sugar, butter, 2 eggs and vanilla or orange extract in large bowl until well blended. Add in dry ingredients and blend completely.
- Divide dough in half. Shape each piece into a log approximately 3” wide x 9” long, flouring hands if needed. Transfer logs to baking sheet, spacing evenly.
- Bake logs (they will spread a bit) about 35 minutes, turning trays about halfway through for even baking. Cool completely on sheet on rack, about 1 hour. Leave oven on as logs cool.
- Transfer cooled logs to work surface and discard parchment. Using serrated knife, cut logs into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Arrange slices so they’re standing upright on baking sheet. Bake for approximately 15–20 minutes, until just beginning to color. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Stir chocolate or vanilla chips in top of double boiler over simmering water until smooth. Remove from over water. If using candy coating, follow package directions for melting. Using fork or piping bag, drizzle chocolate or candy coating over biscotti. Let stand until set, about 30 minutes.
Makes approximately 3 dozen biscotti
After making these so many times over the years with endless tweaking, I definitely think that the type of dried cranberries you use are key. I started out using the typical sweetened variety you can find in any grocery store, but I always thought the sugar muted the tang of the cranberries. Fruit juice infused cranberries are far superior, in my humble opinion. And the best of those come from nuts.com. Their prices are very good, their shipping is super quick and their packaging is so flippin' cute you could just about fall over. I'm not sponsored by them or anything; I just love their products (check out their other dried fruits, especially the gooseberries. And the nuts too … says the nut hater).
I've made these with whole dried cranberries but a few batches ago, I thought I'd try chopping them up so they'd be better distributed throughout the dough. It's now my preferred method. I give them a whirl (or blitz them, as the Brits say) in my Vitamix for a few seconds, then stir the bits into the flour.
Any dried orange peel will do but used some blood orange peel I'd bought a while ago from Williams Sonoma. Very nice flavor. A lot of peel or a little–it's up to you. I goofed with my last batch and added two TABLESPOONS instead of two teaspoons and it wasn't overpowering at all. I may actually stick with that.
I like to use vanilla bean paste instead of extract. Could just be my imagination but I think it has a fuller, more vanilla-y flavor.