Friday, January 21, 2011

The Classic Italian Biscotti

Classic Italian Almond Biscotti
Originally made as a long-shelf-life food  for travelers and carried by the Roman Legions, today’s biscotti are a popular accompaniment to cappuccino .

The modern biscotti however is associated with the Tuscan region of Italy, this I assume is because of the plentiful almond groves you will find in the Prato region where these are still known as Cantucci.
Almond Blossom in Tuscany

This popular Italian cookie traces its origins to Roman times and was the staple diet of the Legions.. The word biscotto derives from “bis,” Latin for twice, and “coctum” or baked (which became “cotto,” or cooked). The Roman biscotti were more about convenience food for travelers rather than a pleasurable treat for diners.

The cooking mechanism of this unleavened, finger-shaped wafers  is first baked and this sliced and toasted is a second time  second time to completely dry them out of their moisture, this increases its shelf life and can be stored for upto a month in an airtight container,

 During the Renaissance European cuisine when through a change, and with it Biscotti re-emerged in Tuscany, where it was once again  served with not only coffee but also with the local sweet wine ( Vin Santo)Centuries later, many still agree that dipping biscotti into Vin Santo is a perfect way to end a meal, or to while away an hour at a cafĂ©.
From the almond receipr of Tuscany, the recipe has today expanded to anisette-, amaretto- and lemon-flavored dough and to other spices; to biscotti with raisins and other dried fruits; to biscotti studded with chocolate morsels , dipped in chocolate and with other varieties of nuts. Today, the flavorings are only limited to your imagination ... and whats more the Biscotti recipe calls for no butter or oil. Its virtually fat free !!!

Ingredients :
225 gms Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Almond extract
1 tsp Vanilla extract
3 eggs
A pinch of salt
400 gms Roasted Almonds (chopped coarsely)
125 gms Sugar

Method :
Bake almonds in oven for 10 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade. Sieve together baking powder, salt and flour. Mix in a bowl the eggs vanilla, almond extract and sugar. Beat well and knead a dough with the eggs. On a lightly floured surface roll dough into a log about 14 inches (35 cm) long and 3 - 4 inches (8 - 10 cm) wide. Transfer log to the prepared baking sheet with butter paper and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until firm to the touch (log will spread during baking). Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.

Transfer log to a cutting board and, using a serrated / bread  knife, cut log into slices 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thick on the diagonal.   Arrange evenly on baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes, turn slices over, and bake another 10 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool. Store in an airtight container.  I like to dip one side of the biscotti with melted dark chocolate. They taste heavenly !!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Fairy Cup Cakes


Origin of Cup Cakes

Cup cakes were originated in Britain. Even though the Americans claim that it was them.. Who ever did, I personally feel that it is the British who invented the cup cakes, because going back to the country's customs and its history of drinking tea during evening ( high tea) with sandwiches, cold meats and cakes. It was definitely them,and since they go well with a cup of tea, it is called a Cup Cake.

Another reason why these cakes are called cup cakes is because they have very simple measurements, its 1cup:1cup:1cup of  butter:sugar::flour.

Fairy Cup Cakes

Cup Cakes are sometimes called baby cakes and fairy cakes, they are small, individual cakes, usually wrapped in paper containers and topped with frostings. They are called fairy cakes because the small and tiny seving is good enough to serve a fairy. Also perhaps these cakes look so dainty and dress up they are calles Fairy Cup Cakes. Cup cakes are perfect for any party especially for kids  party , made with a whole lot of attractive colours, decorations and toppings. Cup cakes are a rage, and a hit even with adults. I've decided , for my next reunion with friends, I'm going to do cup Couture Cupcakes :)

Ingredients :

For ther Cup Cake (makes 12)
100 gms White Unsalted Butter, softened
100 gms Self Raising Flour
100 gms Castor Sugar
2 eggs

For Sugar Frost Icing
200 gms Icing Sugar
2tbsp Warm Water

For Butter Cream Icing
1/2 cup Butter
1/8th Tsp Salt
4 cups Icing Sugar
2 egg yolks (optional)
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
2 tbsp Milk

For Decoration
Few drops of edible food colour
Sugar and chocolate sprinklers/toppings/sugar flowers/glaced cherries

Method (Cake):

Pre heat oven to 190 degrees. Place butter paper cup cases in a shallow cup cake tray /tin

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fulffy. Gradually add the eggs. Beat well. Now fold in the flour lightly with help of a spoon or spatula.

Divide the mixture evenly between the cup cases and bake in the pre-heated oen for 15-20 minutes Cool on wire rack.

For the Icing:

You can either do a simple sugar frosting or a heavy butter cream frosting. For the simple sugar frosting, mix together sifted icing sugar and warm water, stir it add water if desired which is just enough to form a smooth paste and form a coat to cover the cup cake with back of a wooden spoon.

For Heavy Butter Cream Icing :

Cream butter until soft. Add salt and part of sugar gradually, blending after each addition. Add egg yolks and vanilla essence, blend well. Add remaining sugar and milk alternatively, until you get the right consistency.
Your basic butter cream is ready. You can now use this as your vanilla flavoured icing. With this same icing you can build on many flavours such as peanut icing - by adding peanut butter to the butter cream, lemon icing - by adding lemon rind and few drops of lemon to the butter cream, coffee icing- by adding coffee powder to butter cream, and chocolate icing - by adding molten melted dark/milk chocolate to butter cream.

To Decorate :

Chocolate Cup Cake

Cup Cakes with Butter Cream Frosting

Stir in few drops of  food colour in the icing if desired. Spread the icing with the help of spatula, spoon or icing bag, and decorate with choice of topping, sprinkles, chocolate vermicelli, silver balls, glaced cherries or sugar flowers.