Cinnamon Hazelnut Biscotti

I’m so excited for Christmas! We decorated our tiny shoebox on Sunday with stringed lights and a tiny rosemary tree. I’ve started to watch a holiday movie a day to get in the spirit. Today’s feature: I’ll Be Home For Christmas starring JTT and Jessica Biel. (Side note: Chris is so happy Netflix lets you have different profiles.)

This week I am trying to find the perfect cookie swap recipe. I’m hosting my third annual cookie swap – I can’t believe I’ve been in California for three years! One of my favorite cookies to make (and eat) are biscotti. I love enjoying them with a cup of coffee while bundling up with a good book. These cinnamon hazelnut biscotti are a definite contender for the swap.

Thanksgiving was a blast. I think I ate turkey four days in a row. While down in Monterey, we celebrated Chris’ birthday. Maegen and Ryan took us on a bar crawl in downtown Monterey. Our last stop was at 1833, a cozy restaurant serving modern comfort food. We ordered the bacon cheddar biscuits, bone marrow, mushroom pizza and Brussels sprouts. All were amazing! Though my absolute favorite were the Brussels sprouts. It was roasted with orange butter, topped with chopped pecans, and sprinkled with pink peppercorn. Chris and Ryan ordered absinthe, Russian style, so there was a little table fire action.

Thanksgiving day // Chris’ birthday cake from Parker Lusseau // absinthe at 1833 // Chris’ second birthday cake made by Lorie!

When we got back to the city, we headed to our friend’s place for a late dinner and another birthday celebration. It was a fun way to start off the holiday season. There are many more parties and festivities already on the calendar. And with all this comes holiday baking of course! Starting with these lovely biscotti – made with ground up hazelnuts, cinnamon, and chocolate. I dipped some in chocolate but that is totally optional. These would make great gifts too if anyone is looking for baked goods to give away.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, JTT does make it home ūüėČ

Cinnamon Hazelnut Biscotti
Makes about 2-3 dozen, depending on size
Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Get

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups finely chopped hazelnuts (with a food processor)

Bake
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together in a medium bowl.
*In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed.
*Slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix in the hazelnuts until just incorporated.
*Press the dough into two 13 by 2-inch loaves on the prepared baking sheet, spaced about 3 inches apart. Bake the loaves until golden and just beginning to crack on top, about 35 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking.
*Let the loaves cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
*Transfer the loaves to a cutting board and slice each on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices with a serrated knife. Lay the slices about 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheet and bake until crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 15 minutes, flipping the slices over halfway through baking. Transfer the biscotti to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving, about 1 hour.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate PB&J Cups

Thanksgiving is almost here! Time to feast on stuffing, yams, and canned cranberry sauce (yes, I prefer that over the fresh stuff)! I was planning on going home for Thanksgiving this year but with all the wedding plans, I felt it was best to stay local. I was bummed at first because Thanksgiving is just not the same without my family. And no matter how gourmet or delectable Thanksgiving somewhere else can be, nothing beats the deep fried turkey and egg rolls we have at my house.

But I realized that Thanksgiving this year will be really fun because I’ll still be with people I love and who knows, maybe Chris and I will start some traditions of our own. I’m excited because we have three turkey celebrations to go to! I might even go running on Thanksgiving day…though who am I kidding. However, these homemade Reese’s peanut butter cups might motivate me to run. I’ve eaten plenty to warrant a good workout!
These might be one of the easiest treats I’ve made excluding the chocolate-covered cereal. I LOVE Reese’s peanut butter cups but recently, I have found the taste to be too processed and chemical-ly. Is this part of getting older? Or becoming a food snob in California? Either way, I was really excited to see this recipe from a cookbook geared towards children nonetheless!¬†
I made half with homemade strawberry preserves, and the other half with homemade apricot jam. I think the touch of fleur de sel elevates the whole thing. It is stupid good. I don’t think I can go back to Reese’s.¬†
You most likely have all these ingredients in your house, so what are you waiting for!? This might be one of the new Amy & Chris Thanksgiving traditions ūüôā
Chocolate PB&J Cups
Makes 20 cups
Recipe from Weelicious Lunches by Catherine McCord
Get
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (*I used crunchy because I like the texture.)
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 10-ounce bag dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup strawberry preserves (or jam of choice)
  • 1 tablespoon fleur de sel
Make
*Place the peanut butter and powdered sugar in a bowl and stir to combine. 
*Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and melt in the microwave for 60 Р90 seconds, stirring halfway through, until smooth. 
*Fill the wells of a paper-lined mini-muffin pan with 1 heaping teaspoon of the melted chocolate. Refrigerate the pan for at least 10 minutes. 
*Meanwhile, roll 1 teaspoon of the peanut butter mixture into a ball and flatten it into a disk the size of a mini-muffin well. Repeat with the rest of the peanut butter to make about 20 disks. 
*When the chocolate has cooled, place a peanut butter disk in each cup. Top each disk with 1/2 teaspoon of the preserves. 
*Top the cups with about 1 teaspoon melted chocolate to cover and furnish with a few flakes of fleur de sel. Refrigerate until set, about 20 minutes. 
Enjoy! 

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cream Scones

For the past two weeks I’ve been in NY spending time with family and friends (hence the lack of posting). NY is surprisingly warm right now. I totally packed for the wrong weather – all the knit sweaters, tall boots, and scarves I brought home have just sat in my suitcase. I’m really enjoying this taste of fall though. I know some people don’t care about the seasons but it really is beautiful when the leaves change colors. I mean, look at that!

My family threw me a bridal shower the first weekend I was home. Chris’ Mom and sisters came too. It was really fun! We had no idea what we were doing (it was only my second bridal shower, and my family’s first) – but it was still really fun and just maybe 5% awkward. You have to admit, its always a little weird opening gifts in front of people – especially when its gifts that you’ve asked for!

Since I have a little down time before heading to Philadelphia for one of my sweetest, and dearest friend’s wedding, I decided to do some baking with the L.A. Burdick (best hot chocolate in Boston!) chocolate chips I got from my shower.

Don’t these scones look scrumptious? The best part is that they literally take minutes to put together.

Here are some of the few photos I have from the bridal shower:

We ended the bridal shower with a trip to the Rockland Bakery. I just had to show all my out-of-town friends where I get my bagels. I’m seriously considering ending the wedding there too…

I am taking advantage of being home and have been crafting like a mad woman. I have been to Michael’s and AC Moore more times than I can count. Its been a sewing-machine-X-acto-knife-modge-podge whirlwind. But things are getting done for our wedding in January! I’m super excited and it’s not that far away (eep!).

I am loving being home with Kara too. She’s the coolest. Here are some pics of her on our walk today:

Kara stopping to smell…the dead flowers?

This picture of Kara makes me giggle. It looks like she’s coming home from a hard day of work with her head down like that.

I could go on and on about Kara. Anyways back to the scones!

These scones are really versatile – you can add in whatever mix-ins you have on hand. And I like making them small as a good snacking size. Because they are so quick and easy to put together, you don’t need to plan ahead – bonus!

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cream Scones
Recipe adapted from Food Librarian

Get

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons organic sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used Burdick’s 68% chocolate chips)
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Bake
*Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
*Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
*Add in butter and using your hands, cut the butter into small pea-sized pieces.
*Stir in the chocolate chips.
*With a spatula or wooden spoon, stir in heavy cream. Pat the dough into a flat disk on a well-floured surface. The dough will be a little sticky.
*Form dough into a square about 3/4 inch thick and cut into 16 or 25 scones. Or you can form the dough into a disk and cut into wedges.
*With a pastry brush, brush each scone with some heavy cream and sprinkle with coarse sanding sugar.
*Bake scones for about 12-15 minutes, or until tops are golden brown.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream

Ice cream? Isn’t it getting cold?

No! It’s freakishly warm in SF. I do miss foliage, and the crisp Autumn air, and eating freshly made apple cider donuts. But I guess this Indian summer thing is kind of cool.

You know what the opposite of cool is? The Giants 0-5 season.

Is it too much to ask for one win? Just one. Maybe in the next game against the Bears? This is too much isn’t? I don’t even know what to say anymore. The Giants kind of, really suck. I want to think it will get better but I’m sinking into a deep depression and the only thing that can pull me out is this beauty of an ice cream – chocolate hazelnut.

Side note: photographing ice cream is not easy. It’s fairly melty in my sauna of an apartment. But this ice cream doesn’t last long once its out – it’s so creamy and delicious!

The past several days have been interesting to say the least. I made a wedding cake for some good friends who got married in Half Moon Bay. I find myself getting less and less stressed out delivering cakes – yay! (It’s still not easy.)¬†My friends from Boston came to visit a few days later and I got to spend quality time with them. It made me realized how much I miss all of them!

From left to right, top to bottom: wedding cake! / “reunited and it feels so good” /baby noah getting all the attention/ a teensy tiny apple cake/ a naked pumpkin cake.¬†

I also took a quick trip down and back from Monterey for a baby shower, organized another wedding cake tasting, and spent a day in the hospital. One of my visiting Boston friends went to the ER on Sunday and had to stay overnight. It turns out sometimes food poisoning is not always the cause of throwing up one’s entire stomach contents. Long story short, he is okay and back to his usual spirit.

Lets talk about this ice cream and what it reminds me of – Ferrero Rochers. When I was growing up, Ferrero Rochers were like a goldmine. We rarely had them in the house, but when we did, we would all scramble for them. What I love about this ice cream is that the chocolate and hazelnut is so incredibly silky and smooth. And the chocolate pieces create a nice chewy texture. What better combination than chocolate and hazelnut! I’m going to eat a bowl while watching the Giants win (this is me practicing the law of attraction).
By the way – this is how the ice cream looked after five minutes in my apartment:
Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart
Recipe from Completely Delicious

Get

  • 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped, divided (I used TCHO Classic Milk Chocolate.)
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the hazelnuts on an even layer on a non-greased sheet pan. Bake the nuts for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Let the nuts cool completely, then rub them in a kitchen towel to remove much of the skins as possible. Finely chop the hazelnuts in a food processor.
*Warm the milk with 1 cup of the cream, sugar, and salt in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture starts steaming, and before it starts to boil, remove it from the heat and stir in the hazelnuts. Cover and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
*Meanwhile put 4 ounces of the milk chocolate pieces in a large bowl. Heat the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until it just begins to boil. Pour it over the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.
*Pour the hazelnut-infused milk through a strainer into a separate bowl squeezing the nuts to extract as much flavor as possible. Discard the hazelnuts and return the mixture to the saucepan and set over medium low heat.
*In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. When the hazelnut mixture is warm, slowly add about 1/4 cup of the mixture to the egg yolks while whisking constantly. Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, while whisking constantly. Pour the custard through a strainer into the bowl with the chocolate mixture. Add vanilla and stir until combined.
*Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. Freeze in an ice cream mixture according to the manufacturer’s instructions, adding the remaining 4 ounces of chocolate during the last 5 minutes of churning.
*Let the ice cream firm up in the freezer before serving.

Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

My favorite combination in the world is chocolate, banana and peanut butter. I call it the yum trifecta. I swoon whenever I see these three things together on a menu.

I had an overripe banana that needed some loving and instead of the usual banana bread (too similar to cake – going on a cake hiatus for now), I had a craving for cookies. These cookies can be prepared in one bowl which is great since that means less clean up!

Chris and I got back from our road trip last week and we’re just getting back into the swing of things. I still have more pictures I want to share but things have been particularly busy. This article¬†from The Bold Italic on why San¬†Franciscans¬†are so busy is really funny. The excuses are true! Not going to lie I’ve used them before…

Anyways, lets talk about these cookies. They are quick to make so it’s good when you’re short on time. I think I had them in the oven in under 20 minutes and then it’s just another 12-15 minutes to bake. Another bonus is that you don’t have to wait for the butter to get to room temperature.

I used chunky peanut butter instead of the creamy peanut butter the recipe originally calls for. I just love the texture from the peanuts. And the banana keeps the cookie really moist. We brought some on our road trip and the cookies tasted great almost a week later.

YUM!

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 2-3 dozen cookies, depending on size
Recipe slightly adapted from How Sweet It Is

Get
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 6 tablespoons chunky peanut butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar¬†
  • 1 egg yolk, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 2 cups flour¬†
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Bake
*Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare two baking pans with parchment paper or silicone liners and set aside. 
*In large bowl, combine sugars, butter, and peanut butter. Whisk in egg yolk and vanilla until smooth.
*Add in mashed banana.  
*Gradually add in flour, baking soda, and salt. 
*Fold in chocolate chips. 
*Form dough into even sized balls and place them into the baking sheet about 2 inches apart. 
*Bake for 12-15 minutes or until center has set. 
*Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before moving them to cool on a baking rack. 
*Store in an airtight container for up to 6 days.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Covered Cereal and My Kitchen Disaster

You know when you see on TV someone getting a drink splashed in their face and you think, “that looks unpleasant.” Well, it is. Technically I did not get a drink thrown in my face, but a pot of ice cold water did “explode” in my face this past weekend. It was indeed a hilarious moment as I stood in my kitchen soaking from head to toe. This was just part of the string of bad luck I’ve had lately while baking. Good thing these chocolate-covered cereal do not require any baking!

I first saw these while Chris and I were on vacation in Spain this past winter. Milka is the brand behind “Crispy Snax” which is essentially cornflakes, ¬†raisins, and chocolate. It is so easy to make!
So why did a pot of ice cold water explode in my face? Well, I guess I never really understood the properties of steam and pressure. I created my own double boiler with two small pots and about half way into the process, I heard a loud thump. I¬†didn’t realize until after I went to pick up the top pot, that the two were stuck together! I inadvertently¬†created a¬†vacuum¬†seal with the two pots. (Thankfully it did not ruin what I was melting in the top pot!) After troubleshooting online (I am not alone!) Chris resolved to fix the situation by filling the top pot with water and ice and placing the stuck pots into the freezer to chill. Then he put the pots back on the burner on low heat, and slowly increased it to high.¬†

Then he sat back down at his computer. 
I went to see if I could pry the top pot off, not realizing there was a darn good reason Chris walked away. Five seconds later –¬†THUMP – SPLASH! The top pot POPPED off the bottom pot and I got drenched. And burned. Did I mention the bottom pot had boiling water in it? My right hand was holding the handle of the top pot and it got a bit scorched.¬†
And that’s just one episode of “Amy’s Kitchen Disasters”…
Now that I’m dry and added a proper double boiler to my amazon¬†wish list, let’s talk about the quickest, and easiest dessert in the world. Inspired by the Milka chocolates, I decided to recreate it at home. Jacques Torres also makes something similar but instead of cornflakes, he has¬†milk chocolate-covered cheerios. This creation is an ode to both with a mixture of cornflakes, cheerios, and raisins. ¬†
There is no formal recipe since I pretty much eyeballed everything and threw things together based on my ‘feelings’ as my friend Jessica likes to say. I took about a cupful of each cereal with a handful of raisins and combined them into a large bowl. Next, I melted some bittersweet and semisweet chocolate in 10 second intervals in the microwave. Then I swirled the melted chocolate onto the cereal mixture until well mixed. Next I lined an 8’x8′ pan with parchment paper and dumped the cereal into the pan. I pressed it evenly down with my fingers and stuck the pan in the freezer for 10 minutes for it to harden. And voila! You can break off pieces to eat as you like.¬†
OK, back to the kitchen. Two more days until my first cake tasting ūüôā Pictures to come.¬†

Chocolate "Crack"

 

To say I made “crack” might be misleading but to be fair, that’s what they’re called! Or at least that is the name from the recipe. And for those who have had these toffee covered saltine crackers with chocolate, I think they would agree it is addicting…just like “crack.”

These treats are so easy to make and only takes about 15 minutes to prepare! Insta-dessert!

I was tasked with making a dessert for the Super Bowl and decided to make chocolate “crack” because I wanted something quick and easy. A big plus was I didn’t have to buy anything since I already had all these items in my pantry. The original recipe does not call for any toppings, but I decided to add some since I like playing with different textures and well, it’s just more fun. Feel free to add your own mix of toppings of whatever you have on hand. The combination of sweet and salty never fails to please.

Chocolate “Crack”
Makes…a lot of people happy
Recipe slightly adapted from Serious Eats

Get

  • 51 saltine crackers (approximately, about a sleeve and a half)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • Optional toppings: sea salt, chopped almonds, coconut flakes, mini marshmallows, and sunflower seeds (or whatever you please!)

Bake
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12″ x 17″ jelly roll baking pan with aluminum foil. Place saltine crackers, salt side up, next to each other as tightly as possible without overlapping. (I had to break several to make them fit in the edges.)
*In a small saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar over medium heat stirring frequently with a spatula until combined. Add in vanilla. Cook for about 5 minutes or until mixture is an even dark brown color and has begun to bubble. Remove from heat and pour over saltine crackers. Use the spatula to spread the mixture and evenly coat the crackers.
*Bake for 5 minutes or until butter mixture begins to bubble.
*Meanwhile, melt chocolate pieces in a double broiler or in a heat proof microwaveable bowl in 10-15 second intervals.
*Spread chocolate evenly over the saltines with a spatula. Sprinkle on toppings if using. (I would highly recommend sprinkling some sea salt on at the very least. It enhances the butter toffee flavor and dark chocolate.)
*Refrigerate pan until chocolate hardens and sets, about 2 hours.
*Use a knife to cut into squares or break apart with your hands and serve.

Enjoy!