Michael and I would like to celebrate our new budgeting system by baking a coffee-lover’s favorite, Brownie Biscotti!
One of the main reasons I ended up making these was to find a way to use what I had on hand. Michael and I are trying out a new budget over the next few weeks and meal planning is one of our big changes. Ideally, we want to schedule all of our meals ahead of time to last over the course of two weeks. The goal being to prevent those little trips to the store (not even for the tiniest thing, like… mini chocolate chips) thereby reducing our grocery costs.
Well, since I like keeping sweet snacks on hand for Michael to take to work, I decided on making biscotti. I scanned the recipe to check off ingredients and found I had everything I needed to make them – except those pesky “mini” chocolate chips. Which really in the scheme of things, is like a negative eight on my crisis scale. So I made an executive decision and used regular-sized chocolate chips.
|Mini chocolate chips are for lightweights
The result came out even more yummy than usual. In fact, I’m not even going to bother using the minis in this recipe anymore. It’s just one less thing for me to keep on hand. I buy those big bags of Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips at Costco anyways, so it’s not like we’re experiencing a chocolate chip famine over here.
In the past I’ve had problems with the biscotti sticking, so I always spay the cookie sheet with Pam, use a couple sheets of wax paper, then I spray more Pam. Spraying the cookie sheet helps the wax paper from moving, and spraying after helps the loaves from sticking. I formed the “loaves” on the sheet and baked them for 20 minutes.
Cocoa is notorious for making desserts drier, so I also have trouble with this recipe being on the brittle side when I’m slicing the loaves. To help with the breakage and crumb problem, I used a pizza cutter instead of my bread knife. Worked like a charm. I kept the baking temperature at 375°F when I put the biscotti back in to harden. Each side baked for eight minutes, rather than the ten to fifteen the recipe calls for.
|Fresh baked loaves, waiting to be “biscottied”
They came out perfectly firm and crunchy. I went ahead and melted some Lindt 85% cocoa with vanilla almond bark and drizzled it over the biscotti. I always reserve the corners for “taste-testing” and hands-down, this ended up being one of my best batches.
Who knew budgeting could taste so good?
|Where’s a hot cup of coffee when you need one?
Is budgeting easy or difficult for you? Can you think of ways to reward yourself for your good budgeting habits?
Each Wednesday I make, bake (and sometimes decorate) a special something for our pot luck meal at house church. This past one was no different, except for this one small little detail: we didn’t end up going.
These turned out great. I used a white sugar-flour topping combo from another recipe to give them a little crunchy texture. I didn’t have any blueberries on hand, and even if I had, I still would have used strawberry since I’ve been getting my blueberry fix from Mrs. R’s scones. I used our BlendTec to chop up the whole frozen strawberries and I increased the amount of sugar the recipe called for. I also used a combination of half brown-half white sugar and added cinnamon for more flavor. The result made for soft, moist and moderately sweet muffins.
Other changes I would like to make in the future include increasing the amount of fruit by another cup at least, and using a brown sugar and crushed almond topping rather than the sugar-flour combination. I also wouldn’t mind toying around with a healthier alternative by substituting yogurt for the sour cream, coconut oil for the vegetable, and using all brown sugar instead of only half and half.
So my muffins were baked, packaged and ready to go. All was going according to the usual plan… until Michael came home about an hour and a half later than normal. He has recently transitioned onto a new process team at work and the hours have taken some getting used to. Instead of working eight hour days, the new normal will be for him to work a minimum of nine to ten hour days. But, as the old proverb says: “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.” (Ecc. 7:14) So he strikes while the iron is hot and while there is work to be had.
When Michael eventually got home he was exhausted, so we decided to stay in. But that left me with sixty muffins to deal with… So, I kept some out (for taste-testing of course!) and froze the rest. I plan on pulling what’s in the freezer out for next Wednesday and bringing them to our house church potluck meal. Crisis averted.
When have you’ve spent a long time preparing for something only for plans to change or cancel at the last minute? How do you handle unexpected changes in scheduling?
Monday I had the pleasure of joining a friend of mine for a tea and bake date at her home. Mrs. R is a part of the house church I fellowship with in Kansas City. And since she also shares my love of baking and good conversation, it basically makes her a woman after my own heart. The recipe on the agenda for the day? A trusted family favorite: Blueberry Scones.
Typically assumed to be Scottish in origin, scones are identified by their buttery and flaky qualities. They are similar to American biscuits and can be classified as a “quick bread” since they do not require yeast to rise. Scones are so popular in the UK however that, according to a study released in 2005 by the market research firm, Mintel, the 500 year old pastry brings in a total of £64 million pounds a year – that’s roughly over $90 million USD! 
I confess I did absolutely nothing to contribute baking-wise during our tea and bake date at Mrs. R’s. Unless you count sitting on a barstool, sipping Earl Grey and keeping her distracted by talking about education, politics and rearing children. The recipe she used comes from “The Pie and Pastry Bible” by Rose Levy Bernabaum. And true to their reputation, these scones were perfectly firmed on the outside while flaky and soft on the inside. They delivered a buttery and mildly sweet flavor, with the dried blueberries adding a nice tang. I enjoyed them so much, in fact, that I immediately searched for the recipe on the internet after I got home. I eventually found this blog
, which had the Orange-Cranberry variation of the recipe Mrs. R used.
When I decided to make these myself this weekend I felt a little intimidated by the whole rolling out and folding technique, as I am notoriously clumsy with a rolling pin. But it proved to be a simple enough task and I was able to use my cake lifter as a way to keep my edges straight. Before rolling out the dough, I separated it into halves using chocolate chips in one bowl (for the DH) and dried blueberries again in the other. I was more than pleased to find results were consistent with Mrs. R’s. I was also happy to report the chocolate chip scones passed the famed “Michael-safe” test. I think after the forth one he determined they were compatible with coffee and so worthy of our dessert rotation.
In baking, I’m extremely partial to recipes with culturally-specific tradition and history. There’s just something about preparing a pastry, bread or dessert that you know has been passed down generation after generation after generation. I especially feel this way when I know it’s a personal family recipe, like my family’s Norwegian kringla or their German egg noodles. And even though this particular scone recipe was no family secret, I still found myself imagining that in some way I was helping to preserve a small piece of Scottish tradition. (I say imagine, because to my knowledge I have no known Scottish ancestors – but I do love Braveheart & bagpipes!)
I’m looking forward to trying these scones with the original dried cranberry and orange zest ingredients (referenced in the blog link above). I’d also like to look into how well these freeze because I think they’d make a perfect dessert for the meals I take to Veronica’s Voice.
What is one of your favorite desserts to make and why? Do you ever try a different recipe for that dessert, or do you stick to the same one every time?
1. Macphie Launches New Ultra Scone | Macphie. High Quality Bakery and Food Ingredients Suppliers and Manufacturers, UK. | Macphie. Macphie, 13 June 2005. Web. 15 May 2011. .