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Biscotti di Amaretto

December 16, 2015 Dessert, Menu No Comments

It’s Christmas time! The season of giving, family traditions, good will towards others…and cookies! Lots and lots of cookies! If your family is anything like mine, there will be generous plates of home made cookies and baked good at every house that you visit this season. While I am more than happy to sample every variety that I possibly can, I always find myself drifting back to the classic, old fashioned Italian-style cookies…the ones that are a perfect complement to a nice, hot cup of coffee. I refer to these as the ‘dunkers’.

The cookie recipe that I’m sharing with you today is the perfect example of an old fashioned dunker. It was originally inspired by an Italian biscotti recipe by Father Giuseppe Orsini, that used whiskey and anisette in the ingredients, and would be served with a glass of wine. I modified the recipe to have a sweeter taste by replacing the whiskey and anisette with amaretto and vanilla extract. I also shaped the dough into individual knots instead of the traditional biscotti loaf. You can shape them into knots or rings, or prepare it as a biscotti. Either method would work well with this cookie.

 

Biscotti di Amaretto

Inspired by a recipe by Father Giuseppi Orsini,
author of Italian Baking Secrets

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 large eggs
2 tbspn amaretto
2 tbspn vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted almonds
2-3/4 cup all-purpose flour, unsifted
1/2 tspn baking powder

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, until absorbed. Add amaretto, vanilla extract, and almonds. In another bowl, mix the flour and baking powder and blend thoroughly into the sugar mixture. Cover and chill for 2 to 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 375˚. Divide the mixture into four pieces. On a lightly floured surface, flatten each piece to approximately a 2″ x 6″ rectangle. Continue to keep the surface lightly coated with flour to avoid sticking. Cut each piece into 1/2″ strips, and shape the strips into knots or circles (your choice). Place on slightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges start to brown. Remove from oven, let cool on a wire rack.

Drizzle with powdered sugar icing.

Powdered Sugar Icing

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoons milk
Mix powdered sugar, vanilla and milk, until spreadable (mixture will thicken slightly as it sets). You can add more milk to make it thinner, or more sugar to make it thicker.

*To use the dough for biscotti, shape the dough into flat loaves, 1/2 inch thick, 2 inches wide, and as long as your cookie sheet. Place no more than two loaves parallel and well apart per sheet. Bake in 375˚ oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool enough to handle. Cut in diagonal slices 1/2 inch thick. Return to sheets and bake at 375˚ for 15 minutes or until lightly toasted. Cool on a wire rack.

Flatten out the chilled dough on a floured surface.

Flatten out the chilled dough on a floured surface.

 

Cut the dough into 1/2" strips.

Cut the dough into 1/2″ strips.

 

Shape the dough into knots or rings.

Shape the dough into knots or rings.

 

Serve with a nice cup of hot coffee!

Serve with a nice cup of hot coffee!

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Amaretto Mascarpone Rice Pudding

February 10, 2015 Dessert, Menu No Comments

There are few desserts that come to mind that are as rich, creamy and elegant as a classic home-made rice pudding. This past weekend, I decided that I would make my own version of rice pudding by adding two of my favorite decadent dessert ingredients – mascarpone cheese and Amaretto liqueur. Since I have never made rice pudding, I put a little extra time into researching recipes online, to determine which method would work best with my additional ingredients. I came across a bunch of variations, including recipes made with egg yolks, whipping cream (heavy and light), milk and butter. One ingredient that was always consistent with the highly rated recipes was arborio rice.

Arborio is a short-grain Italian rice with a high starch content that is used when making risotto. When cooked, it plumps up and makes a creamy texture that blends well with other flavors. Creamy is definitely a texture that I wanted to go for with the pudding, so arborio rice was the way to go.

Because I wanted to add mascarpone cheese (an Italian cream cheese) to the recipe, I thought it would be best to use a recipe that did not incorporate other dairy ingredients high in fat. The first recipe that I attempted to make called for 4 cups of 2% milk, and 1/2 cup of pre-cooked arborio rice. Because I was adding the mascarpone, the idea of only using 2% milk seemed appealing. I was wrong. Whether it was the lack of fat in the 2% milk, or that the rice was pre-cooked in water and no additional starch was released in the milk, the pudding never thickened for me, even after adding the mascarpone. Even after letting it sit for a good two hours, the texture never got beyond a soupy consistency. It tasted great, but was way too thin to serve.

Back to drawing board, I decided to cut the liquid measurement down to three cups, but this time using two cups of 2% milk and 1 cup of light cream. The mascarpone would have added some thickness and fat to the dessert, so I didn’t see the need to use heavy cream. I also cooked the arborio rice directly in the milk/cream mixture, so that the released starch would help thicken the pudding.The results were much better and looked beautiful when I removed it from the stove. But once cooled, it thickened a bit too much. To help thin it out, I stirred in a bit of cream before serving and the taste and texture were perfect. But I came to the conclusion that 4 cups of liquid are indeed needed when using 1/2 cup arborio, using a 3-1 ratio of 2% milk and light cream (3 cups milk/1 cup cream). If you want to make a slightly smaller serving, stick with the 2/1 ratio of milk and light cream as I did, but reduce the amount of arborio rice to 1/3 cup.

If you’re adding Amaretto, you can simmer it in a sauce pan on low heat for about 5 minutes to burn off the alcohol to make it kid-friendly. Make sure to keep an eye on the simmering Amaretto, to make sure that it doesn’t evaporate.

Amaretto Mascarpone Rice Pudding
Serves 4

1/3 cup arborio rice
2 cups 2% milk
1 cup light cream
1/4 cup sugar
4 oz mascarpone cheese
1 tspn vanilla extract
*1/4 cup Amaretto (alcohol can be cooked off)
cinnamon

(To make a serving for 6, increase milk measurements to 3 cups and increase arborio rice measurements to 1/2 cup).

In a large sauce pan, place arborio rice, milk, cream and sugar. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 35-40 minutes, or until milk and cream start to thicken and the rice is soft and plump. Remove from heat, fold in mascarpone cheese, Amaretto, vanilla and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Place the rice pudding in a covered bowl, refrigerate for 4 hours.

Serve and enjoy with an additional sprinkle of cinnamon!

* To cook off the alcohol in the Amaretto, place the Amaretto in a small sauce pan. Simmer for 5-7 minutes. You will be able to smell the alcohol cooking off. Be sure to keep an eye on the Amaretto so that it doesn’t burn or evaporate.

rice pudding

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Toasted Panettone with Amaretto-Mascarpone Whipped Cream

December 13, 2014 Dessert, Menu No Comments

The Christmas season in an Italian household would not be complete without having a loaf of panettone on hand. Whether it was given as a gift or purchased as a personal holiday indulgence, the cylindrical loaf of sweet Italian bread, loaded with dried fruits and raisins, is a seasonal treat that is as unique and enjoyable as its decorative cardboard packaging. There are a number of ways to enjoy panettone. Sliced fresh out of the box or lightly toasted with a pat of butter are both favorites of mine. There are also a number of trendy recipes popping up these days, such as panettone bread pudding and panettone French toast… and each one makes my mouth water just thinking about them.

Just last week, after putting up our Christmas tree, I had planned to serve up a panettone-inspired dessert. Not having enough time to assemble a bread pudding, I decided to go a simple yet elegant route. Knowing that the sweet taste of the bread would work well with the creaminess of mascarpone cheese, I decided to put together a quick mascarpone whipped cream. To add a little extra flavor to the cream, I simmered some amaretto to cook off the alcohol (to keep it kid-friendly), and folded the amaretto syrup into the whipped cream. I served it with slightly toasted panettone, and the combination was spectacular. The sweet, flavorful whipped cream served along side the toasted sweet bread made for a terrific, quick and easy holiday-inspired dessert. Be sure to keep this one in mind for your holiday get-togethers….and you can look forward to left-overs for breakfast the following day!

Toasted Panettone with Amaretto-Mascarpone Whipped Cream

1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbspn sugar
1 tspn vanilla
1/4 cup amaretto
1 loaf panettone bread, sliced and lightly toasted
(using a toaster oven is preferred…if you don’t have a toaster oven, you can place the slices on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes at 350˚)

Simmer the amaretto over medium heat in a sauce pan for about 5-7 minutes, making sure that the liquid doesn’t evaporate. You will be able to smell the alcohol burning off (be careful when doing this, the smell of the simmering alcohol will be very strong). Once the alcohol is cooked off, set aside to cool. The liquid will thicken a bit to a light syrupy consistency.

Place the mascarpone cheese, cream, sugar, vanilla and amaretto into a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer until the cream thickens and is smooth.

When the panettone is toasted, place a slice on a plate and add a dollop of the whipped cream on the side. Lightly sprinkle the whipped cream with cinnamon. Serve and enjoy!

panettone2

 

panettone1

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Torrone Cocktail

December 15, 2013 Menu No Comments

Last year, I posted about my ill-fated attempt at making home made torrone (the Italian nougat candy that is popular during the Christmas season). Long story short, no matter how precise I was with the ingredients, measurements and timing, all I ended up with was a liquidy mess. Now that we are just 10 days away from Christmas Day, and multiple snowstorms have kept us inside just this past week alone, I’ve spent some quality time trying once again to master the art of torrone-making…with one difference. I’ve decided to EMBRACE the liquid factor.

After a few fun and interesting test rounds, I came up with a cream-based cocktail version of torrone. The main challenge was to find the proper nut flavor. Almonds are traditionally used in torrone, so my first go-to was Amaretto, which is an almond-based liqueur. There is a bit of a sweetness to Amaretto, and I wasn’t getting the full nutty taste. I then gave Frangelico, which is a hazelnut-based liqueur, a try. Much better on the nutty taste, but lacking in the sweetness. My solution? Frangelico with just a dash of Amaretto. Perfect! I mixed it with Pinnacle vanilla whipped cream flavored vodka and a little half and half, and nailed it!

You can serve this over ice or shaken. For extra flavor, rim your glass with some crushed almonds.

Torrone Cocktail

1 oz Frangelico
1 oz Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka
1.5 oz half and half
A few drops of Amaretto

In a glass or shaker, mix the Frangelico, vodka and Amaretto. Add the half and half. Serve over ice in a glass rimmed with crushed almonds.

Cheers to you and yours!

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