Tuesday, March 19, 2013

[March] Chocolate-dipped Orange Pistachio Biscotti

Now that I know that biscotti is not at all hard to make and since it disappears very quickly in my house, I have been making it quite frequently. I may even have developed a bit of an obsession.

Anyhow since I've been baking a batch every few days, I thought I might do a biscotti recipe every month for the rest of this year. I feel like I'm jinxing it just by saying it, but hopefully I'll stick with this challenge of sorts I've set for myself.

So here's the recipe for March. It's inspired by Lindt Passion Orange & Pistachio milk chocolate. My mother brought some back from America and I haven't been able to get my hands on any over here since that one bar finished.

After my first bite, I thought this flavour combination would be great to bake with (because that's how my brain works) and I have been trying for a while to find a way to use it somehow; this seemed like the perfect way to do it.

You may not think so, but these flavours work incredibly well together and the result is an irresistibly delicious cookie; fresh orange and rich pistachios set in crunchy biscotti, finished with off with a little dip in your favourite kind of chocolate.

⅓ cup caster sugar
zest of 2 oranges
2 oz butter
1 egg
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 oz pistachio nuts

2 oz chocolate, melted (I used Cadbury Bourneville but use whatever you prefer)

1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
2. Place the pistachios on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 4 to 5 minutes. When the nuts have cooled, chop them up.
3. Zest the oranges, either using a microplane, or by using a vegetable peeler to remove the orange zest. If using a vegetable peeler, then grind the peel together with the sugar first, as I did here.
4. Add the sugar and zest to a large mixing bowl, add the butter and beat with an electric beater for a few minutes until the mixture is light and creamy.
5. Add the egg and beat until well combined.
6. Sift together the flour and baking powder and stir into the butter mixture.
7. Stir in the chopped pistachios.
8. Form the cookie dough into a log shape, about 1 inch high and 10-12 inches long, on a greased baking sheet lined with wax paper.

9. Bake for 20 minutes. Then remove from the oven and turn the oven temperature down to 300F.
10. When the log is cool enough to handle, cut it into ½-inch slices.

11. Place the biscotti back onto a baking tray (greased and lined) and bake for 20 minutes, then turn the bisxotti over onto their other side and bake for another 20 minutes.

12. Remove the biscotti from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
13. When the biscotti has cooled completely, dip them in the melted chocolate and place on a tray lined with foil or wax paper. (When the chocolate starts to run out and is no longer enough to dip the biscotti in, just use a knife to spread remaining chocolate on the rest of the biscotti.)
14. Place the baking tray in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the chocolate to set.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Orange Loaf

This delicious citrus-scented cake is a new favourite of mine. I have made it three times in less than a month and it has been a big hit.

It's simple to look at but packed with orange flavour; there's zest, there's juice and there's marmalade.

Now there is always marmalade at my house but if you don't have any it's totally optional  I've made this loaf with two tablespoons, with one tablespoon and with no marmalade at all and each time it's turned out great.

The glaze icing isn't essential either but it does look pretty. I think an icing with blood orange juice would be quite nice too.

Citrus season is on its way out and I suppose this recipe does come a bit late, but oranges are still around so there's time to make this cake yet.

Orange Loaf
½ cup caster sugar
zest of 2 large oranges
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup brown sugar
4 oz butter, softened
2 eggs
1½ cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1-2 tablespoons marmalade (optional)  
¼ orange juice
⅓ milk

Orange glaze icing (optional)
½ cup icing sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon orange juice
½ teaspoon water

1. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
2. Sift together the flour and baking powder, and set aside.
3. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the orange zest, making sure not to get any of the white pith.
4. Place the zest, 2 tablespoons caster sugar and 1 tablespoon flour in a grinder...

...and grind until you have a grainy paste.
5. Add the remaining caster sugar, brown sugar and orange peel paste to a large mixing bowl. 

6. Add the butter and beat for a few minutes until the mixture is light and creamy.
7. Then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after adding each one.
8. With the mixer on low, or using a large metal spoon or rubber spatula, mix in 2 heaped tablespoons flour and the marmalade (if you are using it). Then add the orange juice, then half the remaining flour mixture, then the milk and then finally the remaining flour.
9. Grease and flour a 8x4 inch loaf pan and line with wax paper. Spoon the cake batter into the prepared pan and place in the oven.
10. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the loaf comes out clean.
11. Remove from the oven and, after 10 minutes, turn the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For the glaze icing:
12. Mix together the icing sugar, orange juice and water. When the loaf has cooled, drizzle the icing over the top.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Creamy Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Mushrooms

I haven't been able to bake as much or post as often as I'd like in recent weeks, what with work and a lack of photography equipment. So for now this simple recipe will have to suffice.

I suppose this doesn't result in the healthiest meal option but there's nothing like a comforting bowl of pasta when you've had a long day.

When I was studying for my Master's degree in England, pasta became much more of a staple of my diet. Quick and easy, sometimes I'd stir in store-bought tomato sauce or occasionally pesto from this amazing local deli. You can always create some kind of pasta dish with what you have lying around.

One afternoon I threw this together with whatever I had on hand at the time and it's become a favourite ever since.

200g/7 oz pasta (I used pennette rigate)
275g/10 oz cherry tomatoes*, halved
150g/5 oz mushrooms, sliced (I used fresh but you can use canned as well)
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or Italian herb seasoning)
150-200ml cream
Cooking oil
Salt and pepper
(*If you don't have cherry tomatoes, use roughly chopped regular tomatoes)

  1. Cook the pasta in boiling water until tender. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a pan, heat a few tablespoons of cooking oil and a knob of butter, then add the mushrooms and saute for a few minutes until they are cooked through. 
  3. Add the cherry tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Stir.
  4. Add the cream and the pasta, mix well and cook until heated through.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and serve.