Tuesday, December 14, 2010

'Tis the Season

My first round of holiday baking this Christmas season was not full of snowflakes, jingle bells, and angels getting their wings. It was a little more “Bad Santa” than “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Well, maybe not fully Bad Santa, but it left me wanting a drink.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a baking failure. I mean, sure, sometimes I bake stuff that isn’t ahhhmazing, but generally it’s pretty good, or at the very least, edible. My first batch of holiday cookies this year, however, was a different story. And my second batch.

I whipped up my chocolate chai biscotti—generally a no brainer. That is, until my flour canister came up empty, and I used the end of the flour bag that had been in my cupboard. My spice cupboard. I didn’t even think twice about it, until I tasted the biscotti...chocolate with a faint undertone of onion, garlic, and curry does NOT scream Christmas. But, not to be deterred, I opened a new bag of four, and started over. I mixed my butter and eggs, measured out my fresh flour, cocoa powder, and…sugar? I was out of sugar! I decided to move forward anyway, with only half the amount of sugar. I figured the chai mix, cocoa, and vanilla would make up for it. I even added a little extra cinnamon, sure that it would help.

Can you imagine what a mouth full of cardboard with a heaping spoonful of cinnamon would be like? Well, I think it would be pretty similar to my second batch of biscotti. It was dry and hard to swallow, it tasted bitter… it was almost worse than the first! For some reason, at that point, I thought that making the icing extra cinnamonie would add something to the biscotti. It did…it added more moisture-sucking cinnamon. Another batch of biscotti… in the trash. A couple of hours, 2 sticks of butter, a bag of chocolate chips, 6 eggs, a destroyed kitchen, and a frazzled Amber later…and I had no baked goods to show for it.

I’m not a Grinch, or a Scrooge, or even that magician that constantly tries to foil ol’ Frosty the Snowman, so I stared over the next day…without biscotti. This time I made Dori Greenspan’s insanely chocolaty World Peace Cookies with crushed candy cane bits, buttery Almond Brown Sugar Cookies from Gourmet, and soft, slightly chewy spice cookies.

It was a holiday baking miracle on 24th street, after all.

Better Than Biscotti Spice Cookies

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons molasses
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 2 large baking sheets, or use parchment.

Whisk together flour, spices, and salt- set aside. Stir baking soda into warm water in a cup until dissolved, then stir in molasses. In stand mixer (or with handheld) beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in baking soda/molasses mixture until combined well, then beat in flour mixture until just combined.

 Roll teaspoon size balls of dough and arrange them about 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Flatten balls into 1 1/4-inch rounds with tines of a fork. Bake cookies until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Enjoy while watching White Christmas and NOT making Biscotti.
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