Gingerbread Biscotti

Happy 2015 everyone! I spent the first few minutes of the New Year on a beach surrounded by friends, which is also how I spent Christmas, which is the great thing about having December in the summer. To be fair we’ve had a lot of rain, too, but the weather has pulled through on the important days.

Speaking of Christmas, I know I promised you croissants, and they are forthcoming. First, though, something a little simpler. I actually made these purely for the purpose of using up leftover ingredients from my gingersnaps, which makes the recipe perfect for this time of year. They take a bit of time – being biscotti, they do need to be baked twice – but they’re not difficult and they’re very worth your while.

done

I halved the recipe below because my oven is small and again, I was really just making these to use up some leftover ingredients. I would highly recommend making a full batch.

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Peanut Cookie Brittle

When I first moved to Massachusetts for college (or “uni,” as I have now been conditioned to call it) back in 2007, I quickly discovered that many things I’d assumed were American turned out to be just Californian. For example, people in New England ate Twizzlers instead of Red Vines (both are weird – I mean who even eats licorice anymore – but Red Vines are obviously superior). The most obnoxiously inescapable song my senior year of high school never even made airwaves out of state (it was called “I Wear My Stunna Glasses At Night,” I hated it at the time, and now that I’ve looked it up I can’t stop listening to it). The famously cheap $2 wine at Trader Joe’s cost (shock, horror) $3 instead. And there was no See’s Candies.

I don’t spend a lot of money on sweets or baked goods, because generally I know I can make them better and more cheaply in my own kitchen, but See’s will always have a special place in my heart. So many options! So many free samples! And best of all, their peanut brittle, which, enormous peanut butter fiend that I am, I completely adore. My dad used to send me a box during finals every year to help get me through. And while I’m sure that it, too, could be made better (or at least as well) and more cheaply at home, I’m really not set up for candy-making in my current kitchen.

crumble1

Enter this cookie brittle. It’s got that same caramel-y, sweet and salty taste, and that great, satisfying crunchiness, mixed with the buttery texture of a really nice peanut butter cookie. Plus it’s dangerously easy to make. And it’s a nice change from the endless gingerbread and sugar cookies that you get this time of year.

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Crunchy Gingersnaps

Here’s a fun fact: humidity makes baked goods go stale. My part of Northern California is not a very humid place, and neither is Wellington, and most of my baking back in Massachusetts took place during the colder parts of the year, so I only just found this out today. When my lovely, fantastically crunchy gingersnaps, went soft and chewy overnight. Apparently a slice of bread in the container helps? Or I need better containers? Or I should have just frozen them overnight. I’m not sure. Any advice would be welcome. Regardless, these were a bit of a disappointment the morning after. Still tasty! But I like my gingersnaps almost hard enough to crack a tooth on.

snaps

Still, if you are somewhere less humid, or you have a better storage strategy, or you plan on eating these immediately, you should try this recipe. They are (or, in my case, were) just what a gingersnap should be. Very gingery, not too sweet, a touch of salt, and (did I mention this already?) nice and crunchy. Excellent holiday cookies. Which makes sense because I got the recipe from Alton Brown, and that man knows his cookies.

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Mexican Wedding Cakes

As promised, seasonally appropriate cookies. Well, I say “seasonally appropriate” but of course here in Australia it’s 2000 degrees and everyone is more or less running around naked. Not exactly mulled wine and gingerbread weather, but I’ll make do. Starting with a cookie that was one of my favorites growing up.

snowball

I didn’t know anything about this cookie until I looked up how to make it. Apparently it has about six different names (including Russian Tea Cake and Povlorón) and no one knows why, or what its true origin is. All I know is that one of my neighbors back when I lived in Palo Alto used to give us a box every Christmas and I loved them. I’d never eaten them before and I loved the flavor and the unreasonable quantities of powdered sugar. I haven’t had these for years, and since no one here in Australia seems to have ever had them at all, I thought I should share.

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