Saturday, October 8, 2016

2016 NC State Fair Projects: Cookie Fail, Cookie Succeed

As my cookie-eating friends know, I am big on baking biscotti of all kinds. So when I saw at last year's North Carolina State Fair that there was a biscotti category in the baked goods section, I decided to enter a batch in this year's fair.

Although using an original recipe is not a requirement, I thought I would make something that I came up with a few years ago -- Caramel Apple Biscotti (recipe is at the end of this blog post). Below is a photo of the end result: very tasty, but aesthetically lacking something. I call this a "cookie fail" only because of the appearance. They don't slice up neatly because of the apple pieces, and they are soft and moist so the slices don't all stay intact. Of course, for a fair entry the look is going to count for something. Once the cookies are in the display case, fair visitors will only have the appearance to judge by, and, honestly, these biscotti aren't beautiful.

Fortunately, I had plenty of time for a do-over before the entry deadline. I turned to one of my favorite cookie cookbooks, Sweet Maria's Italian Cookie Tray by Maria Bruscino Sanchez (St. Martin's Press, 1997). I've made her Coconut Biscotti recipe before, knew it made a good cookie, and I had all the ingredients on hand. So moving on that night, I made a batch, finished the first baking, and left the cookie logs to cool overnight. Next morning I sliced and completed the second baking. 

Below is a photo of the final results: uniform in size and brownness, crisp and holding their shape. Perhaps not as flavorful as the Caramel Apple, but still a good example of what people expect to see in traditional biscotti. And I'm not knocking their taste. They have a nice coconut flavor with a hint of butter that makes them excellent with tea or coffee. They're one of my favorites for my annual cookie party. I deem them "cookie success" because they not only taste good, but they look good too, which is a goal I wanted to meet for a fair entry. So we'll see how the judges like them. 

So what became of the rejected Caramel Apple Biscotti? When I worked in IT at UNC-Chapel Hill, I never had a problem getting rid of excess goodies. (There's a belief that IT guys are always hungry and will eat just about anything, especially if it's homemade and free.) Now that I'm retired I volunteer at the Ten Thousand Villages store here in Cary. So I boxed up all the "failed" biscotti and took them to the store for the staff and volunteers. I got a nice email from the director today saying they are enjoying them on this dreary day. (Although Cary is far from the NC coast, we are getting a lot of Hurricane Matthew rain and high winds today, and some road flooding is occurring.) So all the biscotti baking turned out to be successful in the end.

Here's the recipe for the "failed cookies":

Carolyn's Caramel Apple Biscotti

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups plain flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1 cup chopped dried apple pieces
1 cup caramel chips

Apple pieces preparation:
Soak pieces 1½ - 2 cups of boiling water mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon until the apple pieces are softened. Set aside.

Preheat oven at 325 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.

Beat butter and sugar until well blended.

Add eggs and vanilla. Beat till all blended.

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until smooth. Dough will be stiff.

Drain the apple pieces, discarding the liquid. Stir in the apple pieces and  the caramel chips into the dough.

Divide the dough in half and shape into 2 logs about 8-10 inches long. Place on the cookie sheet and flatten slightly.

Bake 20-30 minutes or until the logs are done (toothpick inserted in the log center will come out clean).

Remove from oven and let cool cool completely on a wire rack.

Transfer to a cutting board. Using a serrated-edge knife, cut the logs diagonally into ½-inch slices. Slices will be sticky so use a sawing motion to minimize breaking the slices into pieces.

Place slices cut side down on an ungreased cookie sheet or lined with parchment paper. Return to oven and bake 5-6 minutes. Turn slices on other side and bake for an additional 5-8 minutes. Cookies should be lightly browned on each cut side.

WARNING: be careful when handling and turning hot cookies. Melted caramel pieces are very hot and sticky and can cause a painful burn.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

These biscotti are softer and moister than traditional biscotti so handle gently.

For fancier biscotti, you can melt some caramel pieces (¼ cup) with a small amount of shortening (1 tsp) to make a caramel drizzle. 

1 comment:

Madtatter80 said...

Wow this sound great love this post :)