Mini Gingerbread Chai Biscotti

‘Tis the season for all things gingerbread and a whole lot of cookies. For some reason though this year I’ve been putting off devising my Christmas cookie game plan. I’m not quite sure why, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with The Voice being on twice weekly, another season of White Collar hitting Netflix, and the urge to binge-watch anything with Aubrey Plaza in it. Couple having something on the TV with a cozy blanket and Pinterest, and in a flash my “Oh I’ll start planning after this episode” turns into a “WHEN DID IT BECOME 10:45 PM!?” – in which case it’s Go directly to bed. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

As we’re already hurtling into mid-December I realized I better get myself in gear, and what better way to do so than with the aroma of baking gingerbread wafting through the house? Only one near hiccup happened when the supermarket appeared to be out of molasses, which really would have been game over on the gingerbread that night, but I reached a hopeful hand up on the top shelf and found one jar pushed towards the back. Whew. Let there be biscotti.

Gingerbread Chai Biscotti
Some notes on these cookies: They certainly are crispy, but they’re not rock-hard-break-your-teeth crispy. In other words, you won’t need to dunk them in coffee in order to chew through (but I bet that would taste delicious). They require a little extra baking time, as they take two shifts in the oven (as biscotti do), and the dough is sticky. You’ll see in the pictures that follow, but please flour your hands, work surface, and spatulas judiciously or else you’ll be more Bah humbug than Christmas cheer.

Mini Gingerbread Chai Biscotti

Yields 52 mini cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tbsp chai tea latte mix (dry), plus more for pressing onto outsides
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup molasses

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, mix together your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, spices, and 2 tbsp of the chai tea latte mix.
3. In a medium bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add canola oil, vanilla extract, and molasses. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until well-integrated.

Batter
4. The batter will be very sticky, so flour your hands, spatula, and work surface before removing the dough to work with. Lightly knead dough on floured surface, adding more flour as you need. I worked about 2-3 tbsp of flour into the dough during this process.

Dough Before

Before: The Blob vs. The Flour

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After: The tamed beast

5. Once dough is workable, separate into four equal sections. Working one section at a time, roll into a cylinder. Depending on the stickiness of your dough, you still may need to roll in more flour. Place on baking sheet and lightly pat down so that thickness is even throughout the cylinder. Repeat for 3 remaining sections.

6. Rub some more of the chai tea latte mix onto outside of four sections and lightly press to adhere.

Dough Cylinders
7. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove. Cut each log into 3/4-inch strips, then place each cookie onto its side. Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes so that the edges crisp up.

After first bake
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8. Once edges are toasty brown, remove from oven and let cool.

I almost forgot to mention – the great thing about mini biscotti is that there’s no need to fret over having multiple in one sitting. They just add up to one regular-sized cookie, anyway. 🙂

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Death by Chocolate Cupcakes…and it’s December?!

December 3rd. Whaaat?

I just got back from an amazing-but-way-too-short trip to the East Coast to be with B’s family for Thanksgiving, and I must admit that this silly 75°F San Diego weather is not my BFF right now. Sure, it was nice to unpack my winter clothes and head out to the gym in a t-shirt and leggings without giving outerwear so much as a second thought. I also paused for a moment of appreciation that my hands didn’t instafreeze when I grabbed my car’s steering wheel. But there’s something about this time of year that has me feeling all kinds of nostalgic, and having grown up in an area where December was cold and you wore your PJs inside-out on weeknights (to increase your chances of a snow day from school), this weather just isn’t doing it for me.

So, even if I can’t have the weather that gets me all holly jolly, I can still have the food. Love that 🙂

Cupcakes

Cupcake halves

My mom’s death by chocolate was one of my favorite desserts growing up. I don’t think the recipe was anything overly-complicated, and the presentation certainly wasn’t (everything layered in a trifle bowl), but a scoop of the finished product would have you thinking differently. Unlike the original, this recipe calls for individual portions, so you get to skip the step where you justify using a soup bowl for your serving. Everything else about these cupcakes stays true to the non-fussy inspiration, so I used a boxed cake mix and a package of instant pudding mix (two ingredients there’s a good chance you already have in your pantry). Nostalgia on the fly!

Before you start, you may want to chop up the chocolate bar and taste a piece or two (or three…), especially if you had come across this baby while just “stopping by” the supermarket for milk and eggs. Yum.

Nutcracker Brittle

Chopped chocolate

Death by Chocolate Cupcakes
Yields 10-12 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups milk
1 pkg instant chocolate pudding (I used sugar-free, fat-free Chocolate Fudge)
1/2 box Devil’s Food cake mix
4 1/2 tbsp egg whites (equivalent to 1 1/2 eggs)
3/4 cup brewed coffee, room temperature
1/4 cup yogurt (I used vanilla Greek)
chopped up chocolate bar
chocolate syrup
whipped cream to garnish

1. Mix milk and chocolate pudding mix until smooth and refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the recipe. (I used less of a milk to pudding mix ratio than the instructions on the back of the box call for because I wanted a thicker pudding.)
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix the 1/2 box of cake mix with egg whites, coffee, and yogurt and mix until all ingredients are well-integrated and no clumps remain. Note: this too is a departure from the traditional cake mix instructions on the box. No oil, no water, no problems – these modifications produce a pillowy-soft cupcake.
3. Grease 10-12 wells of a cupcake pan with cooking spray (depending on how much batter you have – I wasn’t precise with halving the cake mix box so I ended up with ten cupcakes and not twelve). Fill each well 3/4 full. Bake for 18-21 minutes or until tester inserted into tallest part comes out clean. Let cool to room temperature.
4. Once cupcakes have cooled, hollow out inside of each. I totally used this recipe as an excuse to go and buy a cupcake corer, but I’m sure a knife and a spoon will do the trick.Cored cupcakes
5. To fill the cupcake, layer 1-2 tbsp of chocolate pudding, a sprinkling (or more) of chopped chocolate, a drizzle of chocolate syrup, more chocolate pudding, etc. until filling is flush with cupcake edges. This isn’t an exact science – the best part is that you get to call the shots and add whichever ingredients you want, in the quantities you want, as you see fit. Layering in progress:
Cupcakes in progress
6. Right before serving, place a dollop of whipped cream atop each cupcake and drizzle with chocolate syrup and remaining chopped chocolate.

Whole cupcakes