Almond Biscotti

Biscotti are the ideal holiday cookies because they can be made well-ahead of time and freeze beautifully. I have been making these almond biscotti for years; they are crunchy, filled with roasted almonds and not too sweet. What’s great about this recipe is that you can easily change-up the flavour by replacing the almonds with your own preferred add-ins. Pistachios and grated orange rind as well as hazelnuts and mini chocolate chips are two of my favourites.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted almonds, chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, olive oil and sugar.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully combined. Add vanilla.
  5. Reduce mixer to low and slowly add the flour mixture. Mix until fully combined.
  6. Mix in the chopped almonds.
  7.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a log, approximately 12 inches long and 4 inches wide.
  8. Place log on prepared baking sheet.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the edges are golden.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least ten minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300F.
  11. Once the loaf is cool enough to handle, use a sharp knife to slice into 1/2 inch thick slices.
  12. Transfer biscotti back to the baking sheet and bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning over once.
  13. The cooled biscotti can be stored in an air tight container at room temperature. These biscotti also freeze extremely well. They can be stored in the freezer for up to three months.

*Yield: Approximately 15 biscotti

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Glazed Almond Ricotta Cookies

I love almond flavoured desserts. When I was a little girl, I was always fascinated by the perfectly-shaped and decorated marzipan fruit at the local Italian bakery.  I would glue my forehead to the glass window, just delighted by how closely the miniature marzipan fruit resembled the real thing. My dad would always buy me one…and I loved every almond-flavoured bite. When I last visited Sicily, I saw the most life-like frutta martorana — traditional hand-painted marzipan sweets — in the window of a bakery in Taormina. The artistry of these bakers is incredible. These soft, cake-like cookies have a very delicate almond and orange flavour. The orange glaze adds a nice citrusy pop, but you can also serve them with just a light dusting of powdered sugar.

 Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds or almond flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp juice and zest from 1 orange
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • one 300g container of ricotta (about 2 cups)

For the glaze:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp orange juice
  • slivered almonds, for decorating (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and grease baking sheets with non stick spray.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs and mix until fully incorporated.
  5. Add the ricotta, orange juice, zest and almond extract.  Mix well.
  6. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients.
  7. Roll the dough into balls and bake for 15 minutes. Cool cookies completely before glazing.
  8. To make the glaze: whisk together the powdered sugar and the orange juice. The glaze should be fairly thick so it doesn’t just run off the cookies. If your glaze is too thin, you can thicken it up by adding a little extra powdered sugar. Use the back of a spoon or a small off-set spatula to spread the glaze over the cookies. Allow the glaze to set for at least 3 hours before storing cookies in an air-tight container.

*Yield: Approximately 30 cookies 

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Peach & Almond Coffee Cake

One of the first cakes I ever made was a coffee cake.  A few girlfriends and I were getting together to watch the much-anticipated season premiere of Beverly Hills 90210, and I decided we needed cake!  I’m still pissed that Brenda and Dylan broke up, but the cake was delicious and made everything ok. Coffee cake is perfect for beginners because it’s pretty foolproof and forgiving. What’s great about this recipe is that it’s very versatile — you can use almost any combination of fruit and nuts you like.  I love the combination of peaches and almonds, but pecans would also be great in this streusel topping.  You can also replace the peaches with apples, cherries or mixed berries.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream or plain Greek yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup canned sliced peaches, well-drained

Streusel topping:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds

Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-4 tbsp milk

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9 inch tube pan with non-stick spray.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  3. Make the streusel: In a small bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and almonds.  Using a pastry cutter — or your fingertips — cut in the butter until the mixture resembles large, coarse crumbs.  Set aside.
  4. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated.
  6. Next, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the sour cream.  Mix until just combined.
  7. Spoon half the batter into the prepared pan.
  8. Arrange the peach slices on top of the batter.
  9. Spoon the remaining batter on top of the peach slices in an even layer, making sure the peaches are entirely covered.
  10. Sprinkle the streusel over the top of the batter.
  11. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in centre of cake comes out clean.
  12. Allow cake to cool completely before removing from pan and drizzling with glaze.
  13. For the glaze: whisk together the powdered sugar and the milk.  Drizzle over the cooled coffee cake.

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Italian Almond Cookies

These are my father’s favourite cookies.  Like a lot of Italians, he is a big fan of anything almond flavoured.  This is my take on a recipe I cut out of an Italian magazine many years ago.  That recipe consisted of a list of ingredients and very few instructions.  In my experience, most of  the Italian mammas, zias and nonnas I know do not write any recipes down — everything is done from memory and instinct.  I had several disastrous batches before I got these just right.  The original recipe called for all-purpose flour, but I like to use a combination of all-purpose and almond flour.  The almond flour adds moisture and tenderness. The end result is a cookie that is still quite crunchy – with a chewy centre – and a pretty pronounced almond flavour.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 tbsp almond extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • slivered almonds, for garnish

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease baking sheets with non stick spray.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the flour, almond flour and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the sugars and oil.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.  Next, add the almond extract.
  5. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the dry ingredients. Mix until fully combined.  This is a relatively soft cookie dough.
  6. Form the dough into balls and roll balls into the powdered sugar.  Place about two inches apart on prepared baking sheets.  Press a few slivered almonds into the centre of each cookie.
  7. Bake for 15-17 minutes.  Store completely cooled cookies in an airtight container for up to one week   These almond cookies freeze extremely well.  They can be kept in an airtight container in the freezer for up to three months.

*Yield: Approximately 30 cookies