anise-almond biscotti with orange glaze

The inspiration for these was, once again, the island of Milos.  We found something sort of similar to this at a store selling traditional and modern Melian delicacies.  However, I had to change it to suit our budget!

The star of this recipe is the aniseed.  Aniseed is a wonderful flavor that adds depth to sweets – not sweet in itself, it balances the sweeter ingredients well.  The original inspiration used dried cranberries, something way out of our budget (dried cranberries are very expensive in Greece, something like €30/kg in our town; fresh cranberries are completely unavailable).  I use raisins and they work well; I use more aniseed to balance out the sweeter raisins.  You can use cranberries if you like.  Zante currants, however, are the best here, or champagne grape raisins if you can get them.

You can either use slivered almonds like I do or you can just put some whole almonds in a food processor and use the bits.

The word ‘biscotti,’ from which obviously we get the English ‘biscuit,’ means ‘twice-cooked.’  That’s pretty much all you need to know about the technique of making these.  So let’s see how we do it:

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, one egg, and the olive oil.  Stir in the vanilla and orange extracts.

Stir the dry ingredients into the sugar-egg mixture with a wooden spoon in batches.  When about half of the flour is incorporated, stir in the raisins, almonds, and aniseed.

Then stir in the remaining flour.  The dough is very dry and you probably won’t be able to use the spoon toward the end; use your hands to press it all together into a single ball of dough.

Cut the dough in half.  Put a piece of wax paper on a baking sheet and oil the wax paper well.

Form each half of the dough into a rectangle directly on the wax paper.

‘Real’ biscotti usually have an egg-white glaze.  I can’t stomach the thought of wasting an entire egg just to glaze some biscotti.  I brush them with milk and that is completely adequate.

Pop them in the oven for half an hour.

Let them cool on a rack for about ten minutes; leave the oven on.  Slice them on the diagonal into 1/4″ strips.  Arrange them on the baking sheet (you don’t need paper or to oil it this time, they won’t stick) on one side and bake for 5 minutes.  Take them out, turn them over, and put back in for another 5 minutes.

Don’t worry that they’re not ‘crispy.’  They crisp up outside the oven while they cool.  Cool them on a rack.

You can stop at this point; store them in a plastic box and dip in coffee to your heart’s content.  Or you can make a simple glaze to bump up the luxury quotient.

This is basically a cheap royal icing that will dry hard, allowing you to store them stacked (i.e., the glaze won’t rub off one piece onto another).

Stir the powdered sugar into the milk.  Add milk in one teaspoon increments (seriously) until it is all incorporated.  Put the glucose syrup (light corn syrup) and the orange extract into the bowl.

Beat with an electric mixer for a few minutes until incorporated.  Slowly add in milk if needed to achieve desired consistency (you want to be able to drizzle it).

Wait until the biscotti are cool before you glaze them.  Put a piece of wax paper on the counter.  Put the cooling rack (with the biscotti still on it) on the wax paper.  Push the biscotti together so there are no gaps between them.  Using a teaspoon, drizzle the icing over the biscotti.  Allow to set for an hour or two uncovered.  Before you put them away, test with a fingertip to see that the glaze is not sticky.

For another take on anise-almond biscotti, check out Bellacorea’s recipe!

Anise-Almond Biscotti with Orange Glaze

For Biscotti:
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
scant 1/4 tsp salt
1 small or medium egg
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
5 tbsp (i.e., 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp) olive oil
1/4 cup raisins, currants, dried cranberries, champagne grape raisins, or chopped dates
1/4 cup slivered or chopped almonds
1.5 tbsp anise seed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange extract
1/4 cup milk (lowfat is fine)

For Orange Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar, icing sugar)
4 tsp milk (lowfat is fine)
2 tsp glucose syrup (light corn syrup)
1/2 tsp orange extract

To make biscotti:

1.  Line a baking sheet with wax paper; oil the wax paper generously.  Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius / 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix flour, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, egg, oil, and extracts.

3.  Stir flour into sugar mixture in batches.  When half of flour has been combined, stir in raisins, almonds, and aniseed.  Continue adding flour until all is incorporated; use hands if needed to incorporate.

4.  Cut dough into two equal pieces.  Transfer one half to the wax paper and form with hands into a rectangle.  Repeat with other piece of dough.  Brush top and sides with milk.

5.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven to cooling rack.  Leave oven on.

6.  When cool enough to handle, cut on the diagonal into 1/4″ slices.  Arrange on baking sheet with cut side up.  Bake 5 minutes; take out, turn the pieces over exposing the other cut side, and bake another 5 minutes.

7. Transfer to a rack for at least 1 hour.  If not glazing, store in a plastic container.

To make Orange Glaze:

1.  Mix the sugar into the milk in a mixing bowl.  Add more milk in 1 tsp increments if necessary.

2.  Put the glucose and orange extract in the bowl.  Beat together with an electric mixer for a few minutes, adding milk in 1 tsp increments if necessary to achieve desired drizzling consistency.

3.  Put a piece of wax paper on counter; put the rack with the biscotti over it.  Move the biscotti together so there are few gaps between them.  With a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the biscotti.  Allow to set for 1-2 hours uncovered on rack; test with fingertip that the glaze is not sticky, and transfer to a plastic box or bag for storage.

Nutritional Information
per piece, assuming you get 24 pieces out of the recipe
for each piece without glaze:

131 calories
4g fat (1g saturated, 3g unsaturated)
16g carbohydrate
1g protein
0g dietary fiber
7mg cholesterol (2% DV)
25mg sodium (1% DV)
91mg potassium (3% DV)
Does not contain a significant amount (+10% DV) of any micronutrients.

If you glaze the biscotti, for each piece, add the following:

34 calories
0g fat
9g carbohydrate
0g protein
0g dietary fiber
0mg cholesterol
1mg sodium (0% DV)
2mg potassium (0% DV)
Does not contain any micronutrients.

Note about the ceramics:  these ceramics are handmade by the pottery artist Ilias Maroulis from the village of Margarites in the region of Mylopotamos near the city of Rethymno in Crete.

You might also like:
Dark chocolate mousse
Vanilla extract
Creamy Melian lazania & a tour of Milos

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pillowy pita bread

After living and traveling in the Eastern Mediterranean for over a decade, I’ve seen a lot of pita bread cross my plate.  None of them have ever come close to this one – except the one made by an Israeli friend when she was teaching me how to make this one.  So thank you to Sarit for the lesson!  But don’t be intimidated – it’s not difficult.

Because the goal is the ultimate in pillowy softness (as I write this, I imagine myself as the star in a fabric softener commercial, you know the ones where the pretty lady with the spring in her step and the twirly dress has flower petals rain down on her from Heaven), I use all purpose flour; but you can use half all purpose and half whole wheat if you like.  I would not recommend using 100% whole wheat flour for this particular recipe.

These pitas will create a pocket, so you can open the pocket and stuff them.  We usually use them for dipping rather than stuffing, but it’s your pita so you can do whatever you want with it!

The ingredients are extremely simple and very, very frugal.  The only things you need are all purpose flour, yeast, warm water, salt, sugar, and olive oil.  You also need a cookie sheet or baking sheet.

Start by proofing the yeast.   Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over warm water in a large bowl.  Allow it to sit for a few minutes until it foams.

Meanwhile, weigh out the flour.

When the yeast is ready, stir in the flour, salt, and olive oil.

Turn out the dough on a floured surface and knead with floured hands for about ten minutes. I have a tutorial on kneading dough just like this one here.

Whenever I knead this dough, I always get drowsy.  The dough is so soft, that I want to curl up and take a nap on it.

Put it back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.  Let it rise for 90 minutes at room temperature.

After 90 minutes, turn on the oven to its maximum heat.  Place a baking sheet in the oven upside down.  It’s important that your baking sheet preheat together with the oven.  Check the dough; it should have doubled in size.  Turn it out onto the counter.  Press out the air from the dough and divide into the number of pitas that you want.  For this recipe, you can either make 8 regular pitas or 6 large ones.  I made 8 regular ones.

Form them into balls and place on a plate or two.  Soak the kitchen towel in water, ring it out, and drape it over the balls.  Let them rest like this for 20 minutes.

Roll out two balls at a time with a rolling pin, leaving the others under the wet towel.  Roll them to a thickness of about 1/8″.  When you have two ready to go, put them on the hot baking sheet.  Close the oven door and wait about 1.5 to 3 minutes.  They should puff up.  Take them out (be careful not to burn your fingers too badly!) and roll out the next two.  You want to keep your eye on these so they don’t burn.   The puffiness is a good indicator of when they’re ready.  I tend to take mine out after about 2 minutes; most recipes say to bake for 3.  It will depend on your oven.

Pillowy Pita Bread
Makes 8 pitas

300g all purpose flour
180 mL warm water (or more or less depending on your flour)
1.5 tsp active dry yeast or instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil

1.  Proof the yeast:  put the water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast and sugar on top.  Set aside for 10 minutes, until it foams.  If it doesn’t foam, throw it out and start over with new yeast.

2.  Stir the flour, salt, and olive oil into the water and yeast mixture.  When it is fully combined, turn out onto a floured surface and knead with floured hands for 10 minutes.

3.  Oil bowl and top of dough.  Place in oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and kitchen towel and allow to rise for 90 minutes.

4. Press air out of dough and divide into 8 pieces (6 for large pitas).  Form each piece into a ball.  Cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest 20 minutes.  Preheat oven to maximum heat with a baking sheet upside down on a middle rack.

5.  Roll two balls into 1/8″ thick (1/3 cm) circles.  Place on the very hot baking sheet.  Allow to bake 1.5-3 minutes until puffy but not brown.  Remove and continue with the rest of the balls.

Nutritional Information
per pita, i.e., 1/8 of the total recipe

161 calories
3g fat (0g saturated, 3g unsaturated)
29g carbohydrate
4g protein
1g dietary fiber
0mg cholesterol (0% DV)
583mg sodium (24% DV)
55mg potassium (2% DV)
Contains a significant amount (+10% DV) of the following:
thiamin, niacin, selenium, iron, riboflavin, folic acid, and manganese.

You might also like:
Classic French baguette
Olive bread
Raisin walnut whole wheat bread

breadbasket thank you gift

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When the temperature dropped to the lowest in 30-odd years, and we were out of town, predictably our water pipes froze. I talked about the joys of living without running water here.

Our next-door neighbors helped us out a great deal, by giving us water whenever we asked.

In appreciation for their kindness in our time of need, as soon as we had water again, I baked them some homemade bread to thank them.

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I think homemade bread makes a great gift. Who doesn’t love bread? Home bread making isn’t that common here in Greece anymore, at least not in the city. Most people have forgotten how good it is, I think! It’s also a very frugal thing to make, so you can make a lot of it and really show your thanks.

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I made them a classic French baguette, a French baguette with sesame seeds, two large poppy seed rolls, and three hand-milled whole wheat olive breads, one with white sesame, one with black sesame, and one with both.

I hope they enjoy their bread! I enjoyed baking them!

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If you missed any of them, you can see all the recipes here:
Classic French Baguette
Poppy Seed Rolls
Olive Bread
Tutorial: how to knead bread dough

olive bread

Olive bread is a favorite here in Greece.  After all, we have the best olives in the world!  (Or so they tell me – to be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’ve ever tried non-Greek olives!)

This bread uses two kinds of flour:  bread flour and hand-milled whole wheat flour.  You can of course use regular storebought whole wheat flour.  I also use all purpose flour for dusting my kneading surface and cornmeal for dusting my baking sheet.

It’s a pretty small recipe, using only 400g flour.  You can absolutely double the recipe.  Just remember to double the olives too!

First, grind your wheat to make flour.  I ground 200g of wheat in only six minutes – I’m getting faster!

Get out your bread flour.

See those bay leaves peeking out? They protect stored flour from bugs. I recommend you try it!

Proof your yeast to make sure it works.  Sprinkle yeast and sugar over hot water in a big bowl and wait for it to foam.  When it foams,  move on to the next step.  If it doesn’t foam, throw away the water and yeast and start over with fresh yeast.  I like to give it about ten minutes to foam.

During the time when the yeast is proofing, prepare the olives.

I used Kalamata olives from here in Greece, but any black olive will work.  The pre-sliced canned kind are not worth your trouble:  stick with whole olives.

Always rinse olives.  They’re coated in brine.

Make a cut around the olive through it’s widest part.

Twist!

Remove the pits.

Slice the halves in half again to make quarters. Have we foamed?

We have!

Stir in half of each kind of flour into your water and yeast mixture.

When it’s well combined, add the salt and the olive pieces.

Stir well to combine.

Add the rest of the flour.  Stir it all in well.

Turn out your dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes. If you need a refresher on kneading, I have a tutorial here.

Put it in an oiled bowl (I use the same bowl that I mixed the dough in, without washing it), and oil the top of the dough as well. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise for 90 minutes at room temperature. In a hot place it can rise for less time. You want it to double in volume.

When 90 minutes have passed, put your dough on a baking sheet or a piece of wax paper.

Gently press the air out with your fingers, and divide the dough into as many loaves or rolls as you’d like. I like to do three with this recipe.

Form the loaves.

Dust a baking sheet liberally with cornmeal and place the loaves on the baking sheet. Let them sit uncovered for 45 minutes. Preheat your oven (air if a convection oven) to 250 degrees Celsius, with an ovensafe bowl of water on the floor of the oven. (The water bowl is optional – it will give you a crispier crust.)

After 45 minutes, brush the loaves with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. I did one with white sesame, one with black sesame, and one with both.

At this point, they’re ready to go in the oven.  Aren’t they sweet?

And after a few minutes in the oven:

Handmilled Whole Wheat Olive Bread

200g whole wheat, milled to a fine flour
200g bread flour
250mL hot water (+/- depending on your flour!)
all purpose flour for dusting
cornmeal for dusting
12-15 black olives
2 tsp yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
1.5 tsp table salt
1 tsp olive oil for oiling bowl
1 egg
2 tsp white sesame seeds
2 tsp black sesame seeds

1. Proof yeast: put hot water in a mixing bowl, sprinkle with yeast and sugar. Let sit 10 minutes til foamy. If it doesn’t foam, throw it all out and start over with fresh yeast.

2. Pit and quarter the olives.

3. Stir half the whole wheat flour and half the bread flour into the yeast mixture. When fully combined, add the salt and olive pieces; stir to combine. Add the remaining whole wheat and bread flours, combine well.

4. Dust your surface and hands with all purpose flour. Turn out dough and knead 8 minutes until smooth and elastic. Oil mixing bowl. Place dough in bowl and oil top of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and kitchen towel and let rise 90 minutes at room temperature.

5. Turn dough onto surface. Press air out with fingers. Cut into three equal pieces. Form loaves. Dust baking sheet with cornmeal. Place loaves on baking sheet. Allow to rise uncovered 45 minutes.

6. Preheat oven (convection if available). [Optional: place an ovensafe bowl full of water on the floor of the oven when you turn it on.]

7. When 45 minutes have elapsed, beat the egg and brush over loaves. Sprinkle sesame seeds.

8. Bake for 5 minutes at 250 C. Remove baking sheet; move loaves on the sheet so they don’t stick. Replace baking sheet in oven. Lower heat to 220 C. Bake another 15 minutes or until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom.

9. Cool on rack for one hour before serving.

You might also like:
Classic French baguette
Caraway rolls
Poppyseed rolls

poppyseed rolls

Poppy seeds have always been among my favorite bagel flavors. When I started making my own bread, they quickly became among my favorite bread toppings as well. Poppy seeds are so pretty and add a very mild flavor and pleasant crunch to breads.

This is a very simple recipe: it uses my Classic French baguette recipe. Follow that recipe as far as pressing out the air from your risen dough.

After pressing out the air, divide your dough into as many equal pieces as loaves. I like to make large round rolls with this recipe; it will make four large rolls. You can certainly double the recipe if you want more!

Form the rolls into round balls. Place onto a baking sheet that you have dusted liberally with cornmeal. Set the balls of dough on the baking sheet and allow to rest, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven, on the convection (air) setting if you have it, to 250 degrees Celsius. Place an ovensafe bowl filled with water on the floor of your oven. This will make the crust crisp.

After the 45 minute second rise, beat an egg and gently brush the tops of the rolls with egg. I use a pastry brush but you can use your finger if you don’t have a brush. Whatever you use, be careful not to press down; you don’t want to deflate them.

Sprinkle poppy seeds liberally on top of the rolls.

Bake at 250 C for 5 minutes. Then remove the baking sheet, gently move the rolls around a little to be sure they aren’t sticking, replace the baking sheet in the oven, reduce the heat to 220 C, and continue baking for another 12-15 minutes.

When they are ready, they will be golden and when tapped, they will sound hollow.

Poppy Seed Rolls
Makes 4 large rolls

500g all purpose flour
300 mL warm water (or more, or less, depending on your flour)
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
2.5 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil (for oiling bowl and dough)
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp poppy seeds

1. Proof yeast: put warm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over water and allow to sit 10 minutes until foamy. If yeast does not foam, throw it out and start over with new yeast.

2. Put 250g flour in water-yeast mixture and stir. When combined, sprinkle salt over the mixture and stir to combine. Stir in remaining flour.

3. Flour your surface and hands. Turn out dough onto surface and knead 5 minutes til elastic.

4. Oil mixing bowl. Place dough in bowl and oil the top of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Allow to rest for 90 minutes.

5. Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal. Press out air; divide into four equal pieces. Form into round balls. Place balls on baking sheet. Allow to rest uncovered for 45 minutes. Preheat oven (convection) with steam to 250 degrees Celsius.

6. Glaze with beaten egg and sprinkle poppy seeds. Bake 5 minutes at 250 C. Remove from oven; move rolls from original position to prevent sticking. Replace in oven and reduce heat to 220 C. Bake another 15 minutes or until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom.

7. Set on rack for an hour before serving.

You might also like:
Caraway rolls
Olive bread