Christmas Cookies: Cranberry Rosemary and White Chocolate

Christmas Cookies
Every year since who knows when, I’ve been making these lovely little biscotti that have a wonderful marriage of sweet, tangy and savory all packed into one crumbly bite.  This year I decided to turn my biscotti into a soft sugar cookie and I absolutely loved the results.  I took the batch to my knitting group and it got rave reviews – and those ladies are hard to please!  I just love this combination – it’s so Christmassy in color and taste.  A bit of pine essence from the rosemary and the in-season cranberries with a little snow-capped action from the white chocolate.  If you wanted a more festive presentation you could skip adding the white chocolate chips and drizzle the tops with melted white chocolate!  These are easy and bake up beautifully – perfect for your Christmas cookie exchange and more unique!

Christmas Cookies - soft sugar cookies with cranberries, rosemary and white chocolate

Christmas Cookies*
makes 2 dozen give or take

2 cups (10 oz) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 TBS light brown sugar
1 large egg
1.5 tsp vanilla
2 TBS chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray.  Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and rosemary in a medium bowl.

Cream the butter, sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds.  Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined.  Add the cranberries and white chocolate chips and fold in until just combined.  Scoop out onto baking sheets into about a 2 tablespoon sized ball and lightly press down with your fingers to flatten out the top.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar and bake 15 to 18 minutes, rotating halfway through.  Cool the cookies for a few minutes after they come out of the oven and then transfer to a cooling rack.  Serve with coffee and enjoy!

*base sugar cookie recipe from The New Best Recipe

Cranberry Rosemary White Chocolate Cookies

 

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Cranberry Rosemary Biscotti

rosemary cranberry biscotti
As I type, I’m eating one of these merry little cookies.  The tart bite of the cranberry and the floral spring of the rosemary, combined with the sugary sweetness of white chocolate just tastes and looks like Christmas to me. More than the joy of eating these cookies is the tradition of making them.  I think holiday traditions are as comforting as coming in to a warm house from the cold.  Traditions are the glue that holds the holiday season together, no matter how hectic and scared we may get that Amazon Prime really won’t come in two days…

I’ve been doing too much, lately.  I got in over my head with a few embroidery projects because 1. I’m still new to the craft, but 2. I enjoy it so much that, 3. I think I am better than I really am, so 4. It takes me much longer to complete a project in real life than it does in my head.  I also feel that with a baby in the mix and a couple precious hours in the day to get things done, that I should have scaled back.  Baked less, bought fewer presents, gotten take-out a little more often.  But I felt compelled to keep the ship afloat and do everything I wanted to do, even if there was no time.

Amidst this feeling of being on a slowly sinking ship, I still hauled my tail into the kitchen yesterday morning and got the dough for this biscotti mixed up.  I don’t think I’ve ever made the same version of this recipe twice, but that stops this year.  I’ve finally found a combination of recipes that works and that tastes good.  I’ve tried everything you can imagine from a no-butter, all egg white recipe (sad) to a recipe that called for oil (weird) and switching between fresh cranberries or dried.  I don’t know why I tried so many variants when I knew in my heart that cookies need and deserve to be made with butter.  And after using dried cranberries every year, I tried fresh this year and I really love it.  It distinguishes the cranberry from what could have been any ol’ dried fruit.  Fresh cranberries tint the dough slightly swirly pink and with the flecks of green rosemary, these cookies just make me feel the season that much more.  Baking brings me closer to peace.  Being in the kitchen is a calm that I don’t feel anywhere else.  And so, even though Christmas seemed to come exactly 5.5 seconds after Thanksgiving this year, I found a pocket of time to keep the tradition going and bake my holiday anchor, also known as: Cranberry Rosemary Bisotti.

cranberry rosemary

Cranberry Rosemary Biscotti
makes about 2 dozen cookies

2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup  unsalted butter, room temp
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, cut in half
6 ounces white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or use a silpat.  Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl till fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in the rosemary and cranberries with a rubber spatula gently, until well incorporated.

Form the dough into two logs, side by side on a baking sheet.  Shape into long, flat strips, about 10″x 3″ by about 1/2″ high.  Bake for 30 minutes until firm and then let cool about 20 minutes before cutting.

Cut the logs into 1/2″ strips and arrange the slices on the baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes, flipping over once during baking.  Let the cookies cool completely on a rack before drizzling with white chocolate.

Melt the white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl at 30 second increments, stirring after each time, until just melted.  With a spatula, dunk into the chocolate and fling it around the kitchen with wild abandon.  Or, just drizzle it over the biscotti until completely used up and everything is a huge mess.  Let it dry before storing in an air tight container for about 2 weeks.  These cookies keep a while, so they’re great for gifts!

Ollie and her biscotti

A First Birthday Cake

olive-00171

Exactly one year ago, this pic was taken.  Olive was just 6 days old and we were home, out on our porch, having a glass of wine and marveling at this red headed little girl in our arms.  Matt made a birth DAY cake that we had when we got home from the hospital with friends and family to celebrate her actual birth and the only thing that changed this year was the cake and the size of the red head.

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We’ve had such a wonderful year with Olive.  It’s been amazing to watch her discover things, develop likes and dislikes (kitties, peas – respectively) and one of the most enjoyable activities in my life this year has been showing her food.  It’s crazy to realize that these little creatures don’t know what ANYTHING is.  They don’t know a peach from a mango from a pear from a plate of spaghetti.  They don’t know how garlic smells while roasting or the magic that is mire poix sizzling away in butter.  It’s our JOY to get to show them!  For

“…no matter what they think, we know: We are the ones who have tasted and seen how gracious it all is.” 

In this spirit of education, Matt and I contemplated what we wanted Olive to try for her first birthday.  She’d had many fruits so I considered a lemon layer cake, strawberry shortcake, something with banana cream.  Matt really wanted her to have chocolate for the first time and REALLY GOOD chocolate, at that.  So we combined forces and created a Neapolitan-esque cake with a flourless chocolate cake as the base, a white chocolate mousse in the middle and topped with a thick, strawberry whipped cream.  The chocolate cake is by far the best chocolate “cake” I’ve ever had.  Taken from the brilliant Dave Lebovitz, it’s nearly like a truffle center, or the best fudge of your life.  The white chocolate mousse was taken from Annie’s Eats, which I’d used on a cake for Matt for Valentine’s day this year, which he was crazy about.  And then the strawberry whipped cream was just a last minute sort of creation by me for Olive.  Because she loves strawberries and I figured if she didn’t like the rest, she’d at least like a third of her cake and we wouldn’t look like complete fools when it came show time.

Olive's Birthday Cake

For the bottom layer, Matt baked it in a 9″ round cake pan.  We had a hard time getting the cake out (panic moment) and so I crumbled it all up and pressed it tightly into a spring form pan.  Then I lined the pan with a couple layers of acetate strips, stacked on top of each other and taped on the outside, to get that tall form for piping in the other two layers.  All you do is pipe in the white chocolate mousse on top of the chocolate cake, let it sit in the fridge while you make the whipped cream, and then pipe in the whipped cream and wrap plastic wrap across the top of the tube so it doesn’t dry out and let it sit in the fridge over night, or for an hour in the freezer.  This makes it much easier to cut.

Chocolate Cake (Orbit Cake)

14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ cubes, plus more for the pan
10 ounces 62% semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (our FAVORITE dark chocolate, which we exclusively used for this cake, is Lindt’s 70% dark chocolate bars.  Heaven.)
5 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar

Position rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. Lightly butter a 9×2″ round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper (if you do this easy step, you won’t have to mush it all into a spring-form pan like I did.)
Place the butter and chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave at 30 second increments, stirring after each, until the chocolate is completely  melted, glassy, and incorporated with the butter.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar.  Gradually whisk in the melted chocolate mixture and continue whisking until thoroughly combined.
Pour batter into the prepared pan.  Place the pan in a larger roasting pan, and cover the top of the cake pan with foil.  Add enough hot water to the baking pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes until the cake has set.  To test, touch the center of the cake lightly with your finger: the surface will be slightly tacky, but your fingers should come away clean.
Carefully remove the cake pan from the water bath and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours – up to 3 days.
To assemble with the mousse, run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen the sides.  Invert onto a serving plate, wrap in the acetate strips (or wax paper – tape doesn’t stick to parchment) and get on with making the next step.

White Chocolate Mousse

1 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin
2 tbs water
12 oz white chocolate chips (don’t use almond bark – it won’t taste right)
3 cups heavy cream

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and let stand at least 5 minutes to soften.  Place the white chocolate in a medium bowl.  Bring 1 cup of the cream to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove the pan from the heat, add the gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved.  Pour the hot cream mixture over the white chocolate and let stand about 1 minute.  Whisk until the mixture is smooth.  Cool to room temperature, about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining 2 cups of cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken.  Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted.  Using a whisk, mix one-third of the whipped cream to the white chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Fold in the remaining whipped cream gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  Spoon the white chocolate mousse into the pan over the chocolate cake.  Smooth the top with an offset spatula.

Strawberry Whipped Cream

1 jar of strawberry jam – the fancier the better
3 cups heavy cream

Scrap the jar of jam into a small saucepan over low heat and add about 1/4 cup of water.  Heat it just enough so that it incorporates with the water and you break up any lumps with a whisk and the jam is smooth.  Transfer it to a bowl and let it cool about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to help it cool.
In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, stir the cream on medium for a while until it starts to thicken.  Then whip on medium high while you gently let the jam stream into the edge of the bowl, careful to not hit the whisk in the middle, until completely incorporated.  Whip until a little firmer than soft peaks.  At this point, I added a little red food coloring (just a few drops) to make it more pink and folded it in with a spatula until fully incorporated. Do what you will with that.  I just wanted it to be pink to truly look Neapolitan. Transfer cream to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe, pipe, pipe until you can’t pipe any more.  Have fun with it.  Make zigzags and peaks and star flowers – whatever you want.  Just fill in all the gaps and sprinkle the top with extra crunchy sugar for effect.

serves at least 20