Sunday, December 23, 2007

When I first discovered the Royal Foodie Joust, a monthly cooking challenge hosted over at The Left Over Queen, I was hooked. Looking for a way to connect with other food and cooking enthusiasts as well as expand my own skills and tastes. The Joust seemed to provide the perfect manner to accomplish both.

What is the Royal Foodie Joust? you ask. Every month, three ingredients are chosen and participants must incorporate said ingredients into a culinary creation. The winner receives the satisfaction of a job well done, the opportunity to select the next month's three ingredients, and, of course, eternal fame and glory.

This month's required ingredients are the subtly holiday themed pom- egranate, pistachios, and mint. I had several ideas percolating regarding my entry. A minty pear, pom, and pistachio crisp, perhaps? Or what about nutty pomegranate and mint bagels? Both sounded good . . . but biscotti sounded better. Not only are the crunchy Italian cookies healthy treats that can be very low in bad fats, but they are also incredibly versatile. It seems to me that it would be very difficult to ruin a biscotti simply by virtue of misguided flavor choices. Nuts of every kind, chocolate, citrus, dried fruit -- so many combinations can go into biscotti, and every one of them can be delicious even if unexpected.

Also, I had been planning a biscotti-making venture for quite some time. They ended up becoming my Christmas gifts for a couple of friends who have long been subjected to the relics of my muffin-baking escapades. They deserve some non-muffin goodies. (Although the respite did not last long -- I am meeting one lovely and long-suffering chic for a Monday morning muffin tomorrow.)

So there you have it -- my very first entry for the Royal Foodie Joust is the crispy and delightfully refreshing Biscotti Feste,a pomegranate and pistachio biscotti with peppermint. ("Feste" means "holiday" in Italian, as in "buone feste," or "happy holidays.") Never having cooked with any of the three ingredients before (as well as never having made biscotti), I'm satisfied with the results. The pomegranates are subtle, and the pistachios are crunchy but not too hard, and both add great texture. My one regret is that I put the peppermint on top of the biscotti before baking them; next time I will leave the candy off until closer to the end of the second round of baking so it doesn't melt. Still, the sweet holiday mint combined with the solid taste and texture of the wheat flour and pistachios is absolutely lovely.

This is also my entry for the lovely Susan's Eat Christmas Cookies extravaganza. Bake on!

Biscotti Feste

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
6 eggs (I used 1.5 cups Egg Beaters)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1.5ish cups pistachios, shelled and coarsely chopped
10ish peppermints
seeds of 1 pomegranate*

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Mix all the dry ingredients excluding the pistachios. In a separate bowl, combine the liquid items. Slowly, stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ones until the dough is stiff. Be careful not to over-mix. Work the nuts and pomegranate seeds in. (I started out planning to use about 2 cups of pistachios, but that seemed like a lot. I ended up with one or one-and-a-half cups. If you want a nuttier cookie, feel free to add more.)

On a greased baking sheet, shape the dough into two separate rectangles that are about three inches across and 15 inches long. They should not touch.

Bake for 20 minutes in your oven. While the logs are baking, crush your peppermints into pieces of your desired size. This will be messy. You may want to try a food processor, but I simply smashed them with a knife handle. As with the pistachios, use as many or few mints as you wish. If you want the mints to melt over your biscotti, sprinkle the pieces over the logs before the first baking. Otherwise, try pressing the sprinkles into the tops of the logs before you slice them (see below).

Remove the baked logs from the oven and let them sit until they feel cool to the touch. With a sharp knife (I've heard serrated blades recommended for this, but I did just fine with a regular butcher's knife), slice the logs into 3/4 inch slices. Arrange the pieces on the baking sheet so the sliced sides are down. Baking for fifteen more minutes, then flip them over so the opposite side faces down and bake for 3-5 more minutes. The biscotti should be a lovely golden brown when they are finished.

Let them cool completely on a wire rack. Then enjoy them with tea or coffee, give them as gifts, or store them for the coming cold and wintry weeks in an air-tight container.

*Never worked with a pomegranate before? Not to fear! Find a guide on seeding pomegranates at Simply Recipes.

2 comments:

  1. Susan from Food BlogDecember 25, 2007 at 5:05 AM

    Betherann,Thank you for a wonderfully Christmas-y biscotti. They sound simply heavenly. Cheers,Susan

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm so happy that you were enthusiastic about the joust! I think your biscotti sound delicious. I think you just might have my vote...

    ReplyDelete

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