As the autumn leaves give way to bare limbs and colder skies, the air is tense with anticipation and longing. The sleepy Holiday Spirit is reawakened in each of us. It leaps and bounds within us – calling us to put up the tree, string the garlands, light the candles, and play a constant stream of Holiday music (96.5 KOIT). Several rounds of Christmas in Canon D later, and we are brimming with Holiday Cheer.
And once the lawn decorations are out, the ornaments up, and the fragrance of freshly cut pine boughs mingles with the scent of peppermint, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the twinkling lights, the mellow haze of the flickering candles, and each others’ company. Cuddling up under a warm quilted blanket, with a hot, foamy mug of white chocolate mocha in hand, as we rest our heads on a soft pillow (someoneiknow’s chest), just taking in the sights and sounds, enjoying the ambiance that is the Holiday Season. And we realize that the Holiday Spirit is alive, no longer dormant, no longer weighed down by our other worries and fears. And for that moment – it seems that all is right in the world.
The combined effect of all this is magical and instantly puts even the grumpiest Scrooge in good spirits. I’m in the midst of finals and yet one look at my Christmas trees and the ornaments, and my frown is turned upside down. I am suddenly a 3-year old kid again, in complete wonder and awe of the glowing lights on those evergreen boughs. And the shiny ornaments, and the intricate bows. And it all wouldn’t be complete without some holiday cookies. To dunk in a delicious mug of hot chocolate or deep, dark espresso, these Peanut Butter and Chocolate Biscotti are perfect. My roommates and I went a little crazy, and we ended up starting the Holiday Season by festively decorating these biscotti as well – dipping them in melted chocolate, then topping each one – some with crushed candy canes, others with Scharffen Berger cacao nibs, bright red Craisins, sweeten shredded coconut, and an assortment of other nuts. It’s a fun activity to awaken your sleepy Holiday Spirit.
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Biscotti
Source: Food Network
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup smooth natural peanut butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups dry roasted peanuts
1 1/4 cups chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chunks (about 6 ounces)
Preheat oven to 350*F. Roast peanuts in oven while preheating.
Melt butter in saucepan, swirling occasionally, until the butter browns, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.
Beat the eggs in a medium bowl with an electric mixer [or by hand] until light and pale yellow. Gradually add the sugar while beating. Slowly add melted butter and vanilla until evenly mixed. Add the peanut butter and mix until combined.
Slowly incorporate dry ingredients to the wet, mixing just until absorbed.
Fold in the peanuts and chocolate pieces. Divide the dough evenly into thirds, and put each portion in the center of a baking sheet. Shape the dough with slightly wet hands into logs about 2-inches wide and 15 inches long.
Bake until set and brown around the edges, about 25 to 30 minutes. (For even baking take care to rotate the pans– top to bottom and front to back–about half way though.) Cool logs on the baking sheets for about 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Carefully transfer the logs to a cutting board. Cut logs crosswise, with a long serrated knife at about a 45 degree angle, into 1/2-inch thick cookies. Place cookies cut side down on the baking sheets.
Bake until crisp, about 8 minutes. Flip the cookies over and bake until golden brown, about 8 minutes more. Cool biscotti on the baking sheets. Decorate as desired and serve.
So not only does this entry mark the beginning of the Holiday Season, it also marks the start of baking season – where my oven is perpetually set on “pre-heat at 350* mode. It is the season for high PG&E bills and expensive credit card debt. But no worries, food lovers. Because in the end, we know that the smiles, the friends, the family – it’s all worth it. So until soon friends.
Peace. Love. Hope. Joy.