My friend Maura is far from a cook. She'll tell you so herself. But a baker? Damn straight. So what if she's a one-hit wonder -- Maura makes some mean cranberry-pistachio biscotti.
These dried fruit and nut-studded biscuits earned her approval (and ultimately, love) by a group of people she now calls her in-laws. That was two holiday seasons ago, when Miss Catholic Girl fell in love with Jewish Boy Wonder and was asked to bring a baked treat to what perhaps was her first Hanukkah gathering. Reindeer cookies wouldn't exactly make a good first impression, so she asked me for input. A sucker for love, particularly if the lure is culinary, I told her even a beginning baker can't go wrong with biscotti.
Apparently, she rocked the house with her decidedly rock-hard treats (that's why you dip them in coffee, silly), because soon she was invited to Passover Seder and then -- whaddya know -- Hanukkah rolled around again, with a request for those biscotti.
A few weeks ago, Maura and Matthew got married. This year, it's their turn to host the family Hanukkah shindig. Want to bet what's on the menu?
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 eggs, plus an additional beaten egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 to 2 cups unsalted pistachios, shelled and chopped
• Preheat oven to 350. With a food processor or electric mixer, cream sugar and butter until lighter in color and a bit fluffy. Add 4 eggs and vanilla until blended.
• Add flour, baking powder and salt. Pulse until mixture is just combined. Transfer dough to a large mixing bowl. Add dried cranberries and pistachios and mix with your hands to integrate.
• Shape dough into logs at least 12 inches long and at least 2 inches wide; think rectangle, not round, but it's up to you. Place on baking sheets that are lined with parchment paper. With a pastry brush or a rubber spatula, lightly coat the top with beaten egg.
• Bake until half-done, about 25 minutes. If the center is still doughy, return to oven. Cool slightly and then cut logs on a diagonal, using a serrated knife, into approximately 1/2-inch slices. Turn slices so that they are lying down and spread evenly on your baking sheets. Return to oven to finish baking for about 15 minutes.
• Cool completely before storing. If stored in an airtight container, biscotti can keep for a few weeks.
Holiday cooking questions? Check out Kim's blog at blogs.washingtonpost.com/seasonedgreetings.
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