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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013

It's been a good yet tough year. In so many ways I'm happy to see it just about over. This was a year filled with challenges, new endeavors, health concerns and the loss of a dear loved one.  I haven't been posting much this month as I've been laid up recovering from surgery. I had to have a hysterectomy - not a surprise to me but certainly a shock to my body and well being. I've also been plagued with a back injury since the summer, curtailing all of my bicycle excursions.  These past two weeks I've been too tired to do much other than fiddle with my iPhone and/or post medicine induced stories and rants in Facebook!  
As I've been almost unable to walkabout or go out, due to being physically incapable and so tired, my photo taking has been drastically reduced. However only one day out this week, on a trip to my doctors, I spotted this funny sign in a deli window. Seems as though I can always spot something fun!  

Christmas Day the troops came to our house, friends and family all rallied at our place, with bags of gifts and platters of delicious foods. So blessed!  
While I should have a New Year card, our Merry Christmas card will have to suffice for my end of the year greeting. May you all be blessed with happier times, an interesting life and a great deal of health!  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Double Chocolate and Cherry Biscotti

Biscotti are an easier to make cookie than I remembered - and surprisingly low fat.  No butter or oil in these so no need to "swap-out" anything fattening for something less-so.  They are quick to make the batter and even though it takes a double baking, they cook up quickly.  So quick that you can make a few batches for your Holiday Cookie Swap.  They store well and long and freeze well too.  Great with coffee, tea, wine, and infinitely adaptable.  All the things that The Bicycle-Chef loves in a recipe!

Miniature Chocolate Cherry Biscotti:

  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Unbleached Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 3/4 Cups Granulated White Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/3 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate - Chips or Roughly Chopped Chunks
  • 1/2 Cup Dried Cherries - Chopped
  • 3 Large Eggs - Beaten
  • 2 Teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.  Set aside.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl -flour through the dried cherries. Stir well to combine.
  4. Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a small bowl, then pour into the flour mixture.  The dough will seem dry at this point but it will come together as it is kneaded.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly  floured work surface and knead, folding the dough over onto itself until it is smooth - about 3 minutes.  Divide the dough into 2 or 3 pieces & shape each portion into a 10-12 inch long log.  Gently press down on the logs to flatten them until they are about 2 inches wide and 1 inch high.  Transfer the biscotti dough to the prepared baking tray.
  6. FIRST BAKING:  Bake the logs for about 30 minutes or until they are slightly risen and firm to the touch.  Slide the logs, parchment paper and all, off the baking sheet and onto a cooling rack.  The logs must be completely cooled before you can continue on with the recipe.  It will take about 30 minutes to cool.  You can either turn the oven off or leave it on for the next step.  You can bake the biscotti up this point and then do the 2nd bake several days later.  If finishing the baking later, wrap the logs in plastic wrap, refrigerate and continue when it’s convenient.
  7. SECOND BAKING: When the logs have cooled completely, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (if necessary).  Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper or Silpats.
  8. Working with a sharp serrated knife, cut the cooled logs diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices.  Place the sliced cookies cut side down onto the baking sheets and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the biscotti are crisp and golden.  Cool on the pans.
  9. STORING: These biscotti will keep for up to a month in an air-tight tin or plastic container.  Makes about 4 dozen mini Biscotti.

Recipe adapted from a Julia Child recipe book: Baking with Julia - contributing author, Nick Malgieri
  • According to the recipe, these biscotti are actually called CANTUCCINI.  They are in the vein of the classic biscotti recipe - using no butter or added fat, except what is contained in the eggs.  They bake up exceptionally light and crunchy. 
  • You may be used to the crunchy texture of most biscotti, which is attained by baking the cookies twice.  What you might be expecting is what isn’t there - the anise.  With so many interpretations of biscotti, and the influence of other culinary flavors and trends, biscotti can be flavored endlessly.  Add nuts, bits of dried fruit, extracts, liqueurs.  
  • The original version of this recipe called for whole unblanched almonds.  Since the clementine cake is nearly all almonds, I omitted them and added in the chocolate and cherries.  
  • To make these biscotti even more enticing, dip the finished biscotti in melted chocolate and then dust with sanding sugars; sprinkles, or chopped nuts.
  • Who says Holiday Desserts have to be fattening or bad for you? NOT ME! Our cake was gluten-free and the only added fat was from the nuts and eggs.  These cookies are lower-fat and lower in sugar.  Yet both desserts are rich, luxurious and wholly satisfying.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Clementine Cake

December 4, 2013: A super update here.  I had a Holiday Baking Class last night at The American Table.  I pulled out soem of my favorite recipes and this was my #1 favorite.  I've been making and blogging this recipe for well-over a decade.  The original post appeard in 2007 on my old blog, then again in 2009 here.   

From December 2007: I've been thinking about how lax I was in November, for not posting any recipes. I went Pumpkin Crazy in October and then, nothing. Today I was thinking about clementines, oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling clementine...And that they are in season now. Which made me think about how cute and tasty they are, good for you and that they make a great snack. Then the next thing, I remembered a great recipe for Clementine Cake that I learned from watching Nigella Lawson, on Nigella Bites. She's the Goddess of TV Chef's. Have you ever seen her? She's incredibly beautiful, fun and her recipes ain't half bad either. Once I get over swooning, I've actually found her books and television show to be amazingly inspiring. She's a woman who doesn't profess to be a trained chef or tv marketing brain-child of the food network. She looks like a real woman who enjoys her food and drink, making no apologies about it. Take that Lollipop head, I mean, Giadia...

This recipe is an old Italian Recipe, found in many good authentic Italian cookbooks. I came across it in other sources once I began to research it's origins. It's flourless and uses no butter. It's good for anyone prone to wheat or gluten allergies. I'm not sure about the fat content - as you use ground almonds and eggs, but, considering how dense, moist and sweet it is, you only need a small piece to satisfy. I recommend baking the cake in miniature or small spring form pans. A whole 9" cake is daunting to finish, unless you have a large crowd to serve.

Adapted from—Nigella Lawson How to Eat: The Pleasure and Principals of Good Food
Clementine Cake Ingredients:
  • 5 small Clementine oranges –(about 1 pound total weight; you want to yield 2 cups of puree)
  • 6 eggs – beaten
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated white table sugar
  • 2 and 1/3 cup finely ground, unblanched unsalted raw almonds – (If using whole almonds and grinding yourself, measure out 2 cups whole almonds, then grind in a food processor. If using pre-ground almonds or almond meal, use the exact measurement given)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
Step 1: Processing the Clementines:
  1. Cover clementines in a pot with cold water and bring to boil. Don't peel or cut them. Put them in the pot whole! Cover the pot and simmer for 2 hours; then drain and cool. When the clementines have cooled enough to handle, cut each in half and remove the seeds (if there are any). Some clementines are seedless, so this step may not be necessary.
  2. Chop the clementines in a food processor or blender – skin, pith, fruit, the whole shebang – until smooth. The mixture won’t be perfectly smooth, but you don’t want big chunks of orange either. This can be done by hand though it will take longer. If you want to make the cake at another time, measure 2 cups of pureed orange for each cake to bake and freeze. When you are ready to make the cake, take the puree out of the freezer and defrost.
Step 2: Preparing the Mixture and Baking:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Butter and line four miniature spring form pans. You can use an 8-inch size spring form pan, but you will need to adjust the baking time to 40-45 minutes of baking, uncovered, and then cook the cake another 15-20 minutes covered with foil to stop the top of cake from turning too brown. Actual baking time will vary, depending on the oven temperature and type of oven. 
  3. Beat the eggs; add the sugar, ground almonds and baking powder. Mix well and add the pureed clementines.
  4. Put the mini spring form pans onto a baking tray, to keep them stable. Pour the cake mixture into each spring form pan and bake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, check to see if the top of the cake is becoming too brown, if so, cover with lightly sprayed aluminum foil (prevents sticking) to prevent further browning. Continue to bake the cakes another 10-15 minutes. If you are using a large size spring form pan, or if you are unsure of your oven’s actual temperature, you may want to check to see if the cake is done. When a skewer will come out clean, the cake is finished. Also, when the cake springs back when you touch it (and your finger indentation doesn't sink into the cake) it's done!
  5. Remove cake from the oven and leave to cool, on a rack, but in the pan. When the cake is cold, you can take it out of the pan. The cake is actually better a day or so after it is made – the flavors bloom and develop more.  Refrigerate, but serve at room temperature, not ice cold.
  • Notes – Serve as is, at room temperature, with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, or as a special treat, with a drizzle of warm, bittersweet chocolate sauce.
  • I use whole, raw, unblanched unsalted almonds that I grind myself in the food processor. The extra crunch and coarser texture of the whole almond with its skin yields a nuttier and more interesting texture to the cake.
  • I’ve made this cake every Christmas for over a decade, and have even given copies of the recipe along with the cakes as gifts. Baking the cakes in the smaller spring form pans allows me to bake many at one time, freezing some for later, or for baking in advance. The cake will hold for about 5 days, but it is best to refrigerate it after one day. Bring the cake to room temperature before serving.