Candied Pecan Biscotti

Baking is for experimenting and expressing, for sharing and enjoying. Baking generates delight and satisfaction, happiness and connection. That’s why I love to bake.

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I’m usually inspired by a recipe, a craving, or an occasion. Sometimes I wish to cheer up a friend, show appreciation to a colleague, or attempt to combat my own stress. In this instance, I hoped to create a delicious gift for my boyfriend’s mom.

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There were a few stipulations though, as this baked good needed to survive the journey across Pennsylvania and then pass TSA inspection on its way to California. It also needed to include pecans. But with a little inspiration from one of my favorite food blogs, and my dad’s tried and true biscotti recipe base, these scrumptious cookies were born.

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I’m pleased to report that the biscotti survived the trip unscathed… but didn’t last very long after arriving on the west coast. They were enjoyed with espresso and lattes, savored in the morning and munched on in the afternoon. I even made a second batch to replace the dwindling supply.

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Baking really is all about cherishing and making memories.

 

Candied Pecans

inspiration from Joy the Baker

Warning: The candied pecans are perfect on their own and truly sing as the lead player in these biscotti. You actually might want to make more nuts.. once these little guys come out of the oven, they are insanely irresistible. Plus, you have to perform some quality control tests before you add them to the biscotti dough, right?

  • 2 cups pecans, halves and pieces
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 300F. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy. Add the sugars, spices, salt. Whisk everything together until it becomes thick and opaque. Add the pecans and toss to thoroughly coat. Spoon pecans onto prepared baking sheet, spreading them out as much as possible.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the nuts are golden brown and fragrant. After removing from the oven and allowing them to cool slightly, break the nuts apart.

Candied Pecan Biscotti
  • 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups candied pecans

Preheat your oven to 350F. Cream the butter and sugar. Add in the eggs one at a time until you have a nice yellow batter. Add the vanilla extract. Add in one cup of flour, along with the baking powder and salt and mix thoroughly. Then, add in the remaining flour. The mixture will be fairly thick. Add in your candied pecans or stir by hand.

Place two equal globs of the dough on your baking sheets lined with parchment paper. With wet hands (to prevent the sticky dough from sticking to your hands!), form each of the blobs into a flat log about 14″ long, 4″ wide, and 3/4″ thick.  Bake in a 350F oven for about 30 to 35 minutes until the logs are a nice golden brown.

Let the logs cool on the tray for about 10 minutes and then transfer to cooling racks to cool for another 20 to 30 minutes.  Once the logs are almost completely cooled, use a sharp serrated knife to saw the logs into slices.  I like to cut them at an angle. Use a back and forth sawing motion so you don’t rip the whole almonds out of the soft loaf. Once sliced, place the biscotti back on the cookie sheet.

For the second bake, transfer back to the parchment covered baking sheet with bottom side down and bake for about 7-10 minutes. Bake for more time if you like them crispy or less time if you prefer them softer.

Finally, place your biscotti on a cooling rack for 30 to 60 minutes.  They will keep in an airtight container for 1 – 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

New Year’s Pretzel

Growing up, we would make New Year’s Pretzels and give them to friends and neighbors to celebrate the new year. The dough is straight forward and easy to make. The fun comes when rolling the dough and making a pretzel. We had one of our nephews helping to make them this year. Its a great activity for the family as everyone can make their pretzel a little different.

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New Years Pretzel Dough

1 package (2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 deg F)
2/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup melter butter
2 eggs
1 cup lukewarm mashed potatoes
7 to 7/12 cups flour

Icing

1 cup confection sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk

To start, zap the water for about a minute in the microwave so that it is warm to the touch, about 110 degrees F.  Add in the yeast and whisk slightly to dissolve the yeast.  Add the water/yeast mixture to your mixing bowl and add the next 5 ingredients mixing as you go. Using mashed potatoes helps to make the dough firm and moist. Then, add in about 5 cups of flour. Switch to a dough hook and add the remaining flour and knead with the dough hook or by hand for about 5 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover tightly and refrigerate for 4 to 12 hours.

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When you are ready to make the pretzels, cut the dough into 4 to 6 pieces depending on how big you want each pretzel. I did 6 for this one and was able to make each about 12″ in diameter. You will need a wide space to start rolling out the dough. You need only a little flour as too much flour will cause the dough to slide on your work surface and it will be hard to roll.

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Roll one piece until it is 36″ to 48″ long and abut 3/4 to 1″ in diameter.

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I’ve discovered you always have to make it longer than you think and don’t forget the dough will increase in diameter by 2 to 3 times, so if it looks thin, that’s OK.

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Place the center portion on a greased tray

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and then flip the two ends once twice and then attach the ends on the sides of the big loop.

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Next we have to let the pretzel rise in a warm space with lots of humidity.  I like to warm the oven slightly (around 100 deg F) and place a jelly roll pan in the bottom with a cup or two of boiling water to keep the humidity nice and high in the oven. Perfect! Let the pretzels rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  You can see in the photo above how much the diameter increased.  Then bake at 400 degrees (375 convection) for 9 to 11 minutes, just until the crust is a golden brown.

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Cool on wire racks.

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Mix up the icing so that it is firm and not too runny. I like to use a pastry bag or zip lock bag with a corner cut off,  to decorate the pretzel with the year and what ever else you want to write – this is your pretzel! The ones you get in the stores typically coat the entire top with icing, if you like icing, that’s a good way to go.  Me- I like to eat them with a little butter. Ymmm…

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There is nothing like some tasty New Year Pretzel to start the new year.

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Beats the cold outside every time.

Christmas Eve Confection

Happy holidays to all! I love creating a special dessert to bring to my aunt’s annual Christmas Eve feast of the seven fishes. This vanilla and raspberry cake with mascarpone frosting was my contribution to the party this year.

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Last year, I had a so much fun assembling a croquembouche, which was actually our very first post on the blog. (Happy birthday to you Baking Genes!) I’ve made quite a few Christmas Eve Buche de Noels in the past, but I decided to mix it up a little bit this time. The flavors in this cake are simple but blend magically together. I promise it tastes even better than it looks!

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Inspired by the gift of a beautiful antique cake knife, I actually made a version of this cake a  few months ago. But other than being shared via Instragram, that beauty pretty much stayed in my apartment, with no opportunity to be devoured by family and friends at a party. When my family saw the photographs, they not so secretly hinted that I should bake it for them in the near future. Looks like their wish came true! I thought the festive colors and sparkle of this cake would be perfect for the holidays:) It may just become a new tradition… I hope you and your loved ones enjoy it, too!

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Vanilla cake with raspberry preserves and mascarpone frosting

(adapted from Molly Yeh’s Pony Cake)

Vanilla cake

2  1/2 + 1/8 cups cake flour*
3/4 teaspoon salt
2  1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 Tablespoons butter, softened
1  1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1  1/2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3/8 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk

*I didn’t have cake flour, so I substituted the above with 2 1/4 + 1/8 cups all-purpose flour plus 4 Tablespoons of corn starch. Make sure you sift it well!

Frosting

8 oz. mascarpone cheese, softened
18 oz. butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon milk

For assembly

~3/4 cup raspberry preserves
fresh raspberries for garnish
turbinado sugar for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease three 8″ round cake pans with butter. Cut out a circle of parchment paper to line the bottom of the pan and grease again with butter.

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Sift together the cake flour (or your substitute mixture), salt, baking powder, and baking soda into a bowl. In a stand mixer or separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar for a few minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time; mix until pale and fluffy. Then, add in the vanilla extract, yogurt, and oil. Alternate adding in some of the dry ingredient mixture and pouring in the milk. Beat until smooth.

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Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. Bake the cakes, rotating halfway through for about 18-24 minutes. When done, a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean or if you lightly press down in the center, it should easily bounce back up. Let the cakes cool in their pans for 5 minutes then allow to cool completely on racks.

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For the frosting, beat the butter, mascarpone, and vanilla in a stand mixer bowl until well combined. Add in the powdered sugar and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. Add in a little bit of milk until you achieve the desired consistency. I made my frosting on the thicker side so it would be more pliable for decorating the outside of the cake.

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For assembly, place one cake layer on a cake plate. Spread a thick layer of frosting on top and a thin layer of the raspberry preserves on top of that. I spread the frosting to the edge but left a little 1/2 inch margin when I spread the preserves so that the red color wouldn’t leak out the sides. Repeat the same procedure with the second layer cake and then place the third layer on top.

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To frost it, first cover the cake with a very thin layer of frosting to create your crumb coat. Refrigerate it for a few hours to let it set. Then, frost the top and sides with the remaining frosting. Decorate and cover with garnishes as desired.

 

Texas Sheet Cake

I don’t know where my mom acquired this recipe, but it is definitely a family favorite. The sheet cake is not as dense as a brownie but when combined with the decadent chocolate glaze, it delivers a solid chocolate hit. Plus, no mixer or bowls required. All you need is a 3 quart pot and a jelly roll pan to create this fast, simple, and delectable dessert!

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Cake

8 oz (2 sticks) butter
1 cup water
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat your oven to 375F. Combine the butter, water, and cocoa in a 3 quart sauce pan and bring to a boil.

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Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.

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Pour the batter into a 11″ x 17″ jelly roll pan.  You’ll bake the cake at 375 F for 22 minutes, but start making the glaze when there are about 5-10 minutes left on the timer. We want to pour our icing on a HOT cake:)

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After 22 minutes, the cake should be finished baking. To make sure it’s done, press gently on the surface, and it should easily bounce back.

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Glaze

4 oz (1 stick) cup butter
6 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Combine the butter, milk, and cocoa in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. (I don’t always use nuts because of friends/family nut allergies, but they do add a little crunch to the icing.)

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The cake should now be out of the oven. Pour the glaze on the cake while both the cake and glaze are hot. Spread the glaze quickly and evenly. Let it cool.

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You can cut the Texas sheet cake into bars about 1.5″ by 2.5″. Sometimes I will use a pizza cutter- put a little butter on the wheel and cut away to make swift and smooth cuts. Enjoy!

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Cranberry Orange Pecan Biscotti

Biscotti get a bad rap for being dry and hard. It’s almost like you’re forced to dunk them in your coffee or tea so you don’t break a tooth.  This recipe is oh so different.  It must be the magical combination of the cranberries and pecans… creating a much softer and more delicate cookie. Now you can choose whether you want to dunk or not:) Of course, I still eat them with my coffee for breakfast. Coffee makes everything better, amiright?

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Orange Pecan Cranberry Biscotti
  • 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • zest of 2 oranges, chopped
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

In a stand mixer, beat the room temperature butter and sugar until light and creamy.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat at medium speed for a couple of minutes.  Now, add in the orange zest. (I like to zest my orange to obtain long zest strips and then cut them up into nice small (1/8 inch or so) pieces.)

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Now, mix in one cup of flour along with the baking powder and salt. Once combined, add the remaining flour. It will be fairly think at this point. Finally, add in the pecans and dried cranberries. You can either mix for just a few seconds with the mixer or give a quick stir by hand.

Place the dough in two piles on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  One very simple trick is to wet your hands, which will make it much easier to form the logs.  It really keeps your hands from sticking to the dough!

This batter will become wider as it bakes. I like to shape them into about 4″ wide logs, anticipating that I will end up with about a 6″ wide final loaf.  Bake at 350F for 30 to 35 minutes, until they turn a light golden brown.

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Let the logs cool on the tray for about 10 minutes and then transfer to cooling racks to rest for another 20 to 30 minutes.  Once the logs are almost completely cooled, use a sharp serrated knife to saw the logs into slices.  I like to cut them at an angle. Use a back and forth sawing motion so you don’t rip the big pieces of pecans out of the soft loaf. Once sliced, place the biscotti back on the cookie sheet.

Lay them on one side and bake for about 6 to 8 minutes, then flip them over and bake another 4 to 6 minutes on the other side, depending on how you like them. (I like to re-bake these slightly less than my other varieties of biscotti to keep them soft, for a different texture.  If they are all the same, what fun is that?)

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Finally, place your biscotti on a cooling rack for 30 to 60 minutes.  They will keep in an airtight container for 1 – 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months.