cranberry chocolate chip and candied pecan varieties

One of the things we think is important for personal chefs, as a way to cement client relationships, is to offer a gift of gratitude during the holidays. We clearly consider preparing food a gift of love and what better way to show our clients how we feel about them than to offer them a special treat? This could be baked goods, preserves, pickles, limoncello–whatever happens to be your specialty.

If you’re looking for something that’s a holiday favorite, how about baking biscotti? Now, this isn’t a gluten-free treat, but for those chefs whose clients don’t have special needs, these two recipes are going to make them very happy. And they’re pretty easy to make.

I learned how to make these twice-baked cookies from a San Diego baker, Amber Smith, who owns a business called Darling Gourmet Biscotti. A former occupational therapist with a passion for baking and pastries. She lived in Europe, based in London, and says she spent a disproportionate amount of time in bakeries and cafes.

“It tells you so much about where people are at in different countries,” she told me.

Feeling restless professionally, Smith wanted to spend more time in the kitchen. She didn’t necessarily want to open a bakery, but at some point while baking biscotti, she says she had her aha moment. The recipe she’d been perfecting–a lighter, airier, updated biscotti–wasn’t being done in the States, at least nowhere she’d been.

So, she launched Darling Gourmet Biscotti. And, yes, the cookies she bakes are truly lighter and airer than traditional biscotti with wonderful flavors that change with the seasons.

There is certainly an art to making the biscotti. While the ingredients can all go in your stand mixer for blending, shaping is critical so that the cookies retain a consistent size. Like the mandelbread I grew up with, the dough must have the right feel to it. Unlike mandelbread, a recipe which never changed in my lifetime, Smith has to balance creating new flavor combinations with the alchemy of making dough. Add liquid like Grand Marnier or a flavored extract and you have to adjust the amount flour. Every action has a reaction. That’s why she spends so much time refining her ideas.

The basic idea is to measure and add ingredients into a bowl to blend. On the day I got my lesson for two of her flavors: Vanilla Orange Biscotti with Dark Chocolate and Grand Marnier-Infused Cranberries and Nutmeg Biscotti with Toasted Pecans we started by combining the ingredients in her red Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Then we divided the dough in half, manipulating each piece into a long log that we then flattened into a rectangle.

forming logs2

They go into the oven for the first baking. Once, they’ve cooled just enough the pieces are sliced into individual cookies and go back into the oven for a second baking (Smith says you could enjoy the cookies just fine after the first baking, but it’s the second that gives them a firmer biscotti texture). Cool. Eat.

cranberry chocolate first bake1

That’s it. What a client gift you’ll have!

Vanilla Orange Biscotti with Dark Chocolate and Grand Marnier-Infused Cranberries
From Amber Smith

Makes 35 cookies

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 teaspoon orange extract
zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or any orange liqueur
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dark chocolate chunks or semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350℉ and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Roughly chop the dried cranberries into smaller pieces and put into a microwave-safe bowl. Add the Grand Marnier and warm in the microwave on high for 45 seconds, remove and stir, then let cool. Rehydrating the dried fruit will keep it from dying out too much during baking.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a separate bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, using the paddle attachment for a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer on medium speed. Add eggs and extracts and continue to mix on medium speed until fully incorporated, adding the orange zest and mix until well blended. Slowly add the flour mixture on low speed until fully combined.

Add the chocolate and rehydrated cranberries. The combination of the liqueur and cranberries will form a syrup. Be sure to scrape it all into the dough for maximum flavor. Mix on low just until fully incorporated into the dough.

Divide the dough in half and shape each half into two, 16- to 18-inch loaves on one of the prepared sheet pans. Flatten the logs until the are about 2 1/2 inches wide and a half inch thick. Be sure to leave at least four inches in between the loaves to allow for spreading.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops of the loaves turn a warm brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let loaves sit for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Turn oven temperature down to 300℉.

Slice cookies 1-inch thick. Arrange the biscotti on both sheet pans with at least one inch between each cookie to allow for air circulation and adequate cooking. Bake for an additional 25 minutes and remove from oven.

Note: Bake one sheet a time (unless using a convection oven) to ensure even baking.

Let cool and store in an airtight container for up to three weeks to maintain the crisp and light texture.

plated1

 

Nutmeg Biscotti with Toasted Pecans
From Amber Smith

Makes 35 cookies

Ingredients
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
*1 1/2 cups toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 350℉ and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon in a separate bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, using the paddle attachment for a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer on medium speed. Add eggs and extracts and continue to mix on medium speed until fully incorporated. Slowly add the flour mixture on low speed until fully combined.

Roughly chop the toasted pecans and add them to the dough. Mix on slow just until fully mixed in.

Divide the dough in half and shape each half into two, 16- to 18-inch loaves on one of the prepared sheet pans. Flatten the logs until the are about 2 1/2 inches wide and a half inch thick. Be sure to leave at least four inches in between the loaves to allow for spreading.

pecan nutmeg shaped
Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops of the loaves turn a medium brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let loaves sit for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Turn oven temperature down to 325℉.

Slice cookies 1-inch thick. Arrange the biscotti on both sheet pans with at least one inch between each cookie to allow for air circulation and adequate cooking. Bake for an additional 20 minutes and remove from oven.

Note: Bake one sheet a time (unless using a convection oven) to ensure even baking.

Let cool and store in an airtight container for up to three weeks to maintain the crisp and light texture.

*A simple and fantastic variation is to use candied pecans or caramelized hazelnuts!

 

Do you bake or make other culinary gifts for clients? What’s been a client favorite?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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Caron Golden

About 

Founder of premier organization of personal chefs inspires students to follow their dreams of culinary entrepreneurship.

Candy Wallace, executive director of the American Personal & Private Chef Association (APPCA), today was recognized by Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies as its 33rd Distinguished Guest Chef.

1 Comment »

  1. Avatar

    Peppermint Bark!

    Comment by Kathy Snavely — November 24, 2015 @ 5:05 am

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